Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Electronic Portfolios for Students and Educators

This is a review of an online workshop I attended on Wednesday, Nov. 18. for my JRN 411 class. Although I was not overly impressed with the workshop itself, the application might be worth looking into. -- CWR

Adobe’s Acrobat (current version Acrobat 9) is probably one of the most misunderstood and versatile applications available today, according to Steve Adler, an Adobe Acrobat specialist. He conducted an online workshop for students and educators to demonstrate Acrobat’s electronic portfolio module.

Maybe Adler was having a bad day. The sound and visuals did not always cooperate during his presentation. As it turned out, the focus of the workshop was on promotion of the product rather than on building an electronic portfolio.

The seminar was also peppered with such glib tidbits as, “PDF is a desktop revolution,” “Acrobat loves all and serves all,” and “PDF is the DNA of technology.”

Yet, there were some points that at least familiarized the participants with Adobe’s Portfolio Initiative to encourage students and educators to connect with new channels of communication and incorporate creativity. The portfolio module can be used to organize and collaborate on academic research. It can include audio, video, blogs and more.

Adler referred to the digital portfolio as using a “container approach” with PDF files. He explained how PDF acts like a wrapper and Adobe Acrobat supplies the tools to make the project richer while leaving the component files unchanged.

Collaboration is possible by email, live, or through Acrobat.com – “cloud technology that works like a repository and includes robust security features.” What’s unique is that the comments are owned by those who make them.

A valuable feature is the redaction tool that can hide personal or sensitive information within the document.

Adler quickly walked through the steps involved in building an electronic portfolio from scratch. This would have been the most useful part of the program and should have had the most concentration.

Unfortunately, it fell short.

Adler demonstrated how simple it is to set up a portfolio and then drag files and folders into it. (Actually, Acrobat makes copies of the files.) Then, it’s possible to add a welcome screen, basically a digital cover letter, and select a color scheme.

The end result is document that can be easily “repurposed” to show the growth of its creator’s work over a lifetime. It is truly a living document.

The introduction of this package was impressive, but it would have been more beneficial for Adobe to spend more time on instruction and less time on sales.

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