Vicki Suter

Discovering the power of good questions

Is an “artifact” of learning a frozen moment in time?

In thinking about a prior post and a response to it, about a barrier to transparent learning, I started wondering about the concept of an “artifact” in ePortfolios. Luckily, in the technical language of ePortfolios, the meaning of “artifact” is the same as the meaning of artifact in common English – an object made by a human being, usually for some practical purpose (Merriman Webster). In folio thinking, the artifact is an object (a paper, a comment, a drawing, a document, a blog post, a video) created during the process of learning. A more formal context is – as evidence of learning.

When I think about an artifact, I have trouble thinking of learning as a frozen moment in time, I think of multiple layers of meaning that are accretions around an artifact that arise out of our interaction with it. For example, there is probably a seed (an idea) for the artifact, maybe created in the context of a learning activity (first layer). Then, we might get comments from our colleagues or fellow students or instructor, and we may choose, with reflection and our response, to modify the artifact (change it or add the commentary and our reaction to the commentary to the artifact – in any case, the meaning changes for us – second layer). We may re-purpose the artifact, and that act alone modifies our relationship to and understanding of the artifact, and essentially creates another layer of meaning.  And ultimately, we may move beyond the meanings embodied in the artifact – and it comes to represent a path of thinking that came to an end.

I realize that for assessment purposes, some amount of “freezing” is necessary. But I don’t think that should be imposed on the learner’s artifact, only on a copy of it.

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This entry was posted on June 15, 2012 by in Learning and tagged , , .
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