BLOG POST: A Digital “Life Portfolio” – Bhaveet Radia

BhaveetA rainy afternoon on the Internet led to me reading old emails from what felt like a lifetime ago – emails from school friends moaning about how rubbish our parents were; discussions about our geography teachers mysterious absence for the past few weeks and the naïve yet seemingly necessary conspiracy theories derived from this; and of course never-ending reveries about girls.  These emails prompted two thoughts or feelings – firstly the nostalgia of growing up and school life; and secondly, a real sense of a life trajectory and real feeling of distinction between the person I was when writing those emails, to now.

Digital or E-Portfolios are typically used for students to keep track of their learning experiences and outcomes throughout their various endeavors inside and outside of the classroom or workplace – providing the ability to reflect on their experiences, to scaffold future learning, and may also be used to evidence experience and attainment to others.

But, is this the only thing that is worth documenting or reflecting on, perhaps not.

After my ancient email reading outing I began to think about the potential that digital communication and social networking, coupled often with widespread and intense usage, have inadvertently created what I’ll call a “life portfolio”.

A “life portfolio” is not an entirely new concept; we have all reminisced about the “good old days” when returning to visit old friends, all hidden behind sofas when a parent mercilessly shows a video of you singing in a school musical which they insist on sharing with what seems like any willing visitor, that graduation photo on your windowsill – these “life portfolio” artifacts surround us all.

In many cases a rich and naturalistically collected electronic archive of your life is also available to you – without even knowing consciously you’re contributing to it.  An archive that is chronologically marked, well indexed, and which has a genuine and authentic feel to it – social networking site data.   When looking at old messages, photos from what feels like a past life, past wall posts that make you wince – you can’t help but feel sentimental, and also realize how much you and others have changed or perhaps have not.  Both of these facets are important to our development in learning terms – they provide the opportunity to look at a life trajectory and understand where you have come from and an indication where you are going, helping inform you on future pursuits; and it also provides an opportunity to learn from past experiences through reflection and evaluation.

Looking at the fundamental reasons why social networking sites provide an effective digital “life portfolio”, it could be argued that these are important qualities that all good portfolios should aim to encompass.  Their naturalistic and lived-in nature due to the fact these portfolios are not rigidly structured, and when one is using the site and technically contributing to this portfolio – it doesn’t feel forced, most won’t even know they are; the richness of the portfolio can also be very immersive – there are text messages, links, conversations, photos, videos, comments, and so on – which are also vitally linked together in a web of social interaction and discourse.

In conclusion, social networking sites like Facebook which many people now live through, provides a unique opportunity to really look back, reminisce, and reflect. It can quite rightly be argued that this type of portfolio might be incomplete, lack real structure, it maybe not entirely accurate, and so on – but should we really need to strive for this when talking about a life story, which seldom features total cohesion, structure and accuracy.  A “life portfolio” is about capturing what can be easily and naturally captured, leaving you to fill in the gaps, dot the I’s yourself – to personally unlock its true value.

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