MyPortfolio: A national portfolio service for New Zealand schools

Jon Bowen, Kristina D.C. Hoeppner and Luke Baird.                                                                                     

 The MyPortfolio story is a national portfolio service that is available free to all schools in New Zealand. It is provided by the Ministry of Education. In particular the Managed Learning Environment (MLE) Project Group has invested in this service. Its vision is to allow students and teachers to keep an ePortfolio throughout their school career and thus provide the stepping-stone towards a lifelong ePortfolio. MyPortfolio is powered by the open source ePortfolio web application Mahara[1] that was started in 2006 and is now being developed and used around the world in K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, life-long learning and in the training sector.

 MyPortfolio was established in 2008. In the last quarter of 2010, the Ministry of Education started so called MyPortfolio taster sessions[2], modeled after the WikiEducator taster sessions, giving key stakeholders in schools the opportunity to trial MyPortfolio in a short, two-hour session and take their findings back to their schools for further exploration and implementation. Schools that are interested in MyPortfolio can register for such sessions that are held regularly around the country. This also allows them to learn about different scenarios of ePortfolio use.

 Every school in New Zealand can register for MyPortfolio, but the widest use so far has been in schools that cater to grades 6 to 12. Once a school is registered, its teachers and students have access to it either via single sign-on or by creating a new account. At the time of writing (May 2011), there were 590 schools (out of 2,570) and support organizations registered with 30,800 accounts of which roughly 50% were in use.

The national portfolio service allows its users to continue using it even when they switch schools. They do not have to worry about exporting their ePortfolio and hope that it will being able to be imported into another system, but use one continuously. Students and teachers can export their ePortfolio at all times either as a web site or as a Leap2A-compliant file which can be imported into another ePortfolio system that adheres to this standard.

 MyPortfolio is used by students and teachers. While students use MyPortfolio for their class work, teachers create ePortfolios and can use them for appraisal purposes and for keeping track of their continuing professional development. All users can create groups for collaborating on projects, either within or across school boundaries, in order to discuss questions that interest them. At the beginning of the school year in late February 2011, a support group for the use of MyPortfolio was created with the aim of allowing any user to pose questions, answer questions and discuss possible features of MyPortfolio with other users. Discussion topics do not include the use of MyPortfolio only, but also touch upon ePortfolio use in general, ePortfolios for moderation purposes, and appropriate behavior of students in an online space. Teachers also share templates that they have created for their students to get feedback from other teachers and to share good practices.

 One of the schools where MyPortfolio has been in use for 8 months is St Peter's College in Palmerston North[3]. Jon Bowen, an Assistant Principal at the school, has been instrumental in introducing and fostering ePortfolio usage at his school.

ePortfolios at St Peter's College

St Peter’s College is a Catholic College for students aged 11–18. There are currently around 600 students enrolled. The College has developed a clear vision for e-learning. This vision has been a work-in-progress since December 2009 and has been informed[BLK1]  by student, staff and community involvement in the ‘digital’ life of the school: "We integrate technology in the St Peter's community to enable and enhance empowered, self-managing, lifelong learners."

 There are 3 key pillars to their vision:

  • Integrate digital technology into teaching and learning opportunities within the St Peter's curriculum for all students and staff
  • Enable anytime, anywhere access to relevant digital content and tools for all community members  
  • Enhance teaching, learning and relationships across the whole community

These pillars and the strategic objectives that fall underneath them are the building blocks of the e-learning goals in classrooms, the wider school, and beyond into the community.

The use of ePortfolios, and specifically the MyPortfolio service, fits into each of the three pillars. At St Peter’s, MyPortfolio is used as part of the integration of digital technology. Due to its ‘cloud’ location, it has enabled elements of anytime-anywhere access for students and staff. Without doubt it is enhancing teaching and learning as students, staff and the community continue the journey together.

St Peter's ePortfolio use is centered on student ownership. Students are encouraged to create reflective journals in response to their learning in a number of learning areas. These journals, now as MyPortfolio pages, can be shared with teachers, tutors, mentors, peers and family / whānau[4] – but only if the student chooses to do so. Students gain a sense of empowerment in being able to share their work when they choose to do so. They are also encouraged to manage hand-in deadlines in some subjects as teachers encourage course or project completion.

The experience of teachers creating templates to assist students with their coursework completion has been very positive. Physical Education, Drama, Music and Junior English have all been able to use the group feature of MyPortfolio to gather their classes together in one area of the service and distribute templates accordingly. While this is a relatively new feature that is being experienced, successful student outcomes are beginning to take shape.

The Senior Leadership Team is very involved and supportive of the Assistant Principal in his role of developing, integrating, enabling and enhancing the school’s e-learning vision. This support has been an essential element in the ability of the school to facilitate and progress their vision.

Student comment by Luke Baird

My experience using MyPortfolio this year has been very positive. It has allowed me to organize my work in a way that is simple to use, once you get the hang of it. I can also flick between projects really quickly and everything I have compiled is in one place. One of the best things for me is being able to gain feedback from my teacher outside of school and then being able to work on things out of class, which is great for music because musical inspiration doesn’t always happen in class.

 Image 1: Luke’s Group Performance - Instructions for the assessment, evidence, and reflections

Image 2: Template created by Jon Bowen to introduce students to reviewing their own work. He has shared it with the MyPortfolio community and they are free to use it in accordance with the Creative Commons license.




[4] Māori word for “extended family”