By Teachers, For Teachers
Portfolios are an accumulation of materials that reflect one’s beliefs, skills, qualifications, education, training and experiences. As a senior in high school over a decade ago, my portfolio took the form of a three ring binder with a compilation of my best papers, assessments, and photos of me in the sports and clubs I belonged to. Fast forward to today and it would be awfully difficult to find a portfolio such as mine being used in classrooms across the nation. Digital student portfolios (defined nearly the same as physical portfolios but designed and accessed using technology) are changing the way students showcase their work. There are many ways students can utilize digital portfolios, numerous tools that help students share their work both in the classroom and with the outside world, and many benefits to using digital portfolios in our classrooms today.
Students can utilize digital portfolios for a variety of purposes. For some, their digital portfolios start in elementary school. By the time they reach high school, they have continued to shape their portfolio to showcase their best academic work and experiences. By having a digital portfolio that continues to compile a student’s schooling highlights, the portfolio is ready whenever the time is needed to share it. If a job or internship comes up that a student is interested in, the student has their portfolio already prepared. Digital portfolios can also be used for college applications, scholarships, or awards. They are easy to access from different types of devices (desktops, laptops, iPads), making sharing them a smooth process.
Digital portfolios have many tools to make sharing easy with other students in the classroom, as well as with the outside world. Seesaw is a digital portfolio that helps inspire students to do their best work. Students can post pictures, write journal entries, record videos, and complete classwork all in one place. Once teachers approve the pieces, there is the option for making the work visible for families to view, like, and comment on. Other teachers in the building (specialists, title 1 teachers, etc.) can get connected to students’ portfolios, viewing their classwork and establishing a bigger presence in their academic life.
G Suite for Education is another easy way for students to collect their work and store it in one place. G Suite allows the user to create a shared folder that can act like a basic portfolio. It also allows the user to create headings that can be organized into a table of contents. This helps with navigation through the various folders and can even be used for the outline of a document. While not as flashy as other digital portfolio options, G Suite is a great starting place for students to collect and publish their academic work.
Weebly is a third digital portfolio that is easy for students to use to build their portfolios and share them with the world. Known for its drag-and-drop feature, students can easily drag videos, pictures, or maps to their page. Student portfolios can be password protected, and the teacher has control over which are public and which are private. Weebly is a great digital portfolio base that makes sharing amongst classmates and with families outside of school simple and straightforward.
Along with being easy to share, there are many other benefits to using digital portfolios. When students post their work to a place where they know others will be able to view it, students take a sense of ownership and pride in their work. They know their teachers, their fellow students, and their parents will see the work they do. This can cause them to take their time and do their best work. Digital portfolios also improve home and school communication. Parents can see exactly the types of work that their child is completing and then provide their child with praise or feedback. Digital portfolios also demonstrate progress over time and are a good talking guide for student meetings or conferences.
While digital student portfolios have many benefits, it is important to be careful of student privacy. Teachers should be sure that they have parental permission to post student work and photos. It is also important to pay attention to privacy features on each digital portfolio base. For websites like Seesaw, teachers have several options for student privacy. Different settings can allow all classmates to view one another's work, parents to view the work of their child, or other teachers to have access to student portfolios. There is always the option of just the student being able to see the work they post. Similarly, Weebly allows teachers to password protect all their students’ websites. Teachers have full control over which websites on Weebly are public, private, and editable by students. Educators should get to know the ins and outs of privacy controls to ensure they are keeping student privacy in the highest regard.
Digital student portfolios are changing the way students showcase their academic work. The various tools digital portfolios available help students easily share their work both in the classroom and with the outside world.
Michelle is an EdTech teacher and holds an M.A.Ed. in EdTech from Concordia University, St. Paul, MN.