Welcome back! It’s April (although lately, it has still been feeling like we are stuck in January) which means that the school year is winding down. As you and your students start to prepare for the flurry of end-of-year assignments, projects, and tests, it’s important to recognize the progress and growth that your students have shown throughout the year or term. One way of doing this is through a portfolio of student work.
Unabashedly, I am one of the people who saved some of the artifacts of the important or cool projects that I worked on throughout my years in school. From time to time I look back and reflect upon the experience I had creating these particular projects and the growth in skills and knowledge it took to complete them. Unfortunately, these nostalgic displays of learning can take up a lot of space – and currently occupy their own special spot in my storage closet, only to be brought out on select occasions.
Although these projects served an important purpose earlier in my life, I won’t be able to take them with me everywhere I go. But what if I told you that you there is a way I can keep them with me without the restrictions of physical space? Say what? Yes! Through a digital portfolio, anyone can take their previous work (in digital format) with them anywhere in the world (where there is an internet connection). I’ve been saving this skill for a rainy (snowy?) day, so, in light of the old adage – April showers bring may flowers – let me shower you with information about digital portfolios so your students can end the year smelling like a rose.
What options are out there?
There are a variety of options available for students and educators, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and unique capabilities.
Google Sites allows educators or students to create their own websites that feature the work that they have completed. Users can embed videos, images, and other documents to the website as well as incorporate textboxes as areas for student reflection. A few how-to videos for using Google Sites to create digital portfolios are provided below:
- How to Use the NEW Google Sites for Student Portfolios (Video) – [2:52]
- NEW Google Sites EASY Student Portfolio (Video) – [16:19]
- How to use the New Google Sites – Tutorial (Video) – [16:03]
Evernote, an app designed for taking notes, organizing documents, making task lists, and archiving or saving one’s work, can come in a variety of forms such as formatted text, excerpts or texts from web pages, pictures, voice or audio messages, or even via digital ink notes. Additionally, notes are able to be sorted, tagged, annotated, edited, and provided feedback on. Evernote notebooks may be shared publicly or with specific people (such as the student’s teacher and their parents). A few how-to videos for using Evernote to create digital portfolios are provided below:
- Using Evernote for Student Portfolios (Video) – [3:33]
- Teacher View of a Student’s Evernote Notebook (Video) – [4:22]
OneNote is an application offered by Microsoft that can be used on a tablet, phone, and computer. This application allows users to create digital notes as well as add images, audio, video, and other media to their notes. Users can create separate notebooks as well as have different notes pages or sections within their notebooks. A useful feature of OneNote is the ability to tag or prioritize notes such as “to-do’s” or reminder lists and to be able to search within your notes. Users are also able to share their notebooks with others (such as a teacher or other students).
- Using OneNote for Student ePortfolios (Video) – [25:34]
- How to Use OneNote 2016 (Video) – [15:13] (*Start at 8:40)
Seesaw, an online application for creating student-driven portfolios or learning journals, allows students to create, reflect, share, and collaborate on what they know using pictures, videos, drawings, PDFs, text, and links. Additionally, student portfolios may be shared with parents (with the approval of the teacher). A few how-to videos for using Seesaw are provided below:
- Seesaw: The Learning Journal Overview (Video) – [1:27]
- What is Seesaw? – Johnston Learning Spotlight: Wallace Elementary (Video) – [2:28]
- Get Started with Student Digital Portfolios: Seesaw Teacher Demo (Video) – [12:54]
Similar to Google Sites, Weebly represents another option for students and teachers to create websites to build digital portfolios. Users are able to drag and drop HD video files, upload picture galleries, and PDFs, and there is even a blogging feature. A few how-to videos using Weebly are provided below:
- How to Create a Weebly (ePortfolio Project) (Video) – [9:59]
- How to Create a Portfolio on Weebly (Video) – [9:28]
How are they being used?
Overall, “a portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas.” Portfolios may be used as a medium for representing work completed for learning or as learning. For example, a portfolio for learning may be something such as a capstone project that will be used for summative grading. This would represent a collection of student work that has been completed throughout the year as a snapshot or showcase. A portfolio as learning is typically used throughout the year (long-term) which includes formative elements or assessments where students are able to make reflections on their work. A portfolio as learning places greater emphasis on the process of engaging in and reflecting on skill or knowledge growth over time, as opposed to a summary of the work that has been completed.
Advantage 1: Access to a variety of different artifacts in real-time.
Digital portfolios can pull from documents on the cloud, the internet, and other shared digital media at the click of a button. Additionally, digital portfolios are flexible and adaptable and are not restricted by the physical nature of paper or object-based portfolios. Essentially, students are able to identify different focal points or make connections to different learning standards as time progresses, without having to fully reconstruct or recreate their portfolio.
Advantage 2: Easily used by a large age range.
They are able to be used by students from K-12 and even for students in higher education as well. One thing to keep in mind, however, is the technological capabilities of the students. Not all students may have experience with digital portfolios or have access to digital portfolios at home, so there may be a learning curve to get all students on track when using them.
Advantage 3: Allow students to expand upon a variety of different skills.
Students are able to work with pictures, video, audio, as well as text and image processors. It also provides opportunities for students to work on both oral and written communication, which represent important 21st Century skills. Lastly, digital portfolios provide an alternative means of demonstrating learning (opposed to reading and writing) that may benefit struggling learners.
One specific example of how a math teacher has used OneNote as a means of creating digital portfolios for students was provided by Greg Yale from Milnor High School. He has been using OneNote as a way to correspond with his students regarding the lessons he has taught and for providing feedback on assignments. He stated that “I try to do notes on the Content Library so that the students can refer back to them any time on any device. I also do some quick quiz questions for instant feedback on certain math concepts that I’ve taught for that day. I have them copy the question from the Content Library to their own personal folder. Then they do the problem and calculate the answer there. Later I go in and make comments/corrections and write a comment or two about how it is going for them and assign a grade to the assignment.”
What changes have you seen?
In addition to the advantages highlighted in the previous section, digital portfolios can help foster student ownership over their learning/progress. By being able to access and post several drafts of their work, having opportunities to reflect on strengths and weaknesses, and being able to provide and receive feedback from others, students are able to engage deeper in the learning process and more easily see the growth they are making. Additionally, digital portfolios allow students to brand themselves as they get to decide which artifacts (skills) they want to showcase, and also allows students to explore and embrace their own creativity or style. By using digital portfolios, students also get to practice valuable digital literacy skills and can make connections with other learners throughout the world.
Mr. Yale shared that his students are intrigued by his use of OneNote and that his students appreciate that he is trying to connect with them in a more modern technological way. Overall, he isn’t sure if students are actually spending more time using OneNote to help prepare for tests or other assignments, but he believes this option eliminates some of the excuses he receives from students. Mr. Yale says he is continuing to learn more about OneNote can help serve his classroom, and that one of the features he will be exploring is how to share content from the notebooks with students’ parents. He hopes that this will be a way for them to stay current on what is being taught, and as a way for him to share examples of their child’s work with them.
SHARE your Story with Us!
This article is part of a larger article series focused on Digital Skills for 21st Century teachers discovered through an Infographic from EducatorsTechnology.com. Below is the schedule of digital skills that will be addressed each month. If you, or someone you know, is using technology effectively to engage in any of these skills, we want to connect with you and share your story! Email me at Chris.Thompson@k12.nd.us with the subject line “Digital Skills” and I will reach out and discuss how we can incorporate your learnings, best practices, tips and/or tricks into a future article!
- May: Create Professional Learning Networks, connect, discover new content, and grow professionally.
Links to resources mentioned in the article:
Google Sites: https://sites.google.com/
11 Essentials for Excellent Digital Portfolios – Article
Using Technology | Electronic Portfolios in the K-12 Classroom – Article
5 Reasons to Use Digital Portfolios in Your Classroom – Article
Why paper just can’t compete – the 7 benefits of digital portfolios – Article
How Do Digital Portfolios Help Students? – Article
5 Free Tools for Making Digital Portfolios – Article
12 Educational Apps To Create Digital Portfolios – Article
How to Use the NEW Google Sites for Student Portfolios – 2:52
NEW Google Sites EASY Student Portfolio – 16:19
How to use the New Google Sites – Tutorial – 16:03
How to Use Evernote to Build Student Digital Portfolios – Article
Using Evernote for Student Portfolios – 3:33
Teacher View of a Student’s Evernote Notebook – 4:22
Using OneNote for Student ePortfolios – 25:34
How to Use OneNote 2016 – 15:13
Seesaw: The Learning Journal Overview – 1:27
What is Seesaw? – Johnston Learning Spotlight: Wallace Elementary – 2:28
Get Started with Student Digital Portfolios: Seesaw Teacher Demo – 12:54
How to Create a Weebly (ePortfolio Project) – 9:59
How to Create a Portfolio on Weebly – 9:28