Tag Archives: digital portfolio

Designing the Future of Learning: Personalized Prototypes

The next session I’m attending is “Designing the Future of Learning: Personalized Prototypes” with Payton Hobbs, the Head of the Lower School at Ravenscroft School, and Bryan Setser, from 2Revolutions. This is live blogged, so please excuse typos and poor prose!

One of the statements that is prevalent in schools is “We don’t know what the jobs of tomorrow will look like.” Bryan, however, argues that we do have a view, namely sustainability and technology. Bryan argues that we need to make a shift in designing the learning of our schools and prototyping to build that.

“Design si where you stand with a foot in two worlds – The world of technology and the world of people and human purposes – and you try to bring the two together.” – Kapor

We live in a world where the model of pursuing a college level, elite education leads to careers success. However, the product is very different – kids with 100-200 thousand dollar educations are working as baristas. We need to learn to improve, experiment, and prototype the world of education. This is especially difficult working in an environment with a strong tradition and culture. So how do we approach this? How do we prepare for the next iteration?

Courtesy of Stockmonkeys.com via Flickr

Courtesy of Stockmonkeys.com via Flickr

If you want your school to be innovative, then it has to be a meaningful and objective goal. You have to be prepared to not only accept, but to celebrate failure. Failure is often life’s best teacher.

This is not an easy process! When you get into the nitty gritty and practice, this is difficult! However, there are successes in real life. Google, for example, has its famous 80/20 policy. It also celebrates failure. Check out Google Graveyard to see how many failures they have experienced. Still they remain one of the most successful companies today.

If you look at people’s needs, we can use that information to build a strategy. Crowdsourcing allows us to build objectives and develop a plan.

INdividual Learning Plans (ILP) is a “specific program or a strategy of education or learning that takes into consideration the student’s strengths and weaknesses.” A Digital Learning Plan is an “amalgam of an ILP, student data, and assessment evidence in service of maintaining, adapting, innovating, and producing e-artifacts for an electronic portfolio process.”

At Ravenscroft, they looked at ePortfolios as a way for students to establish a Digital Learning Process that then allows them (students) to brand themselves. Ravenscroft wanted to prototype digital portfolios to increase staff and student engagement. Ideally, this will allow students to own their learning and engage with it more meaningfully. Payton advises that when building a platform for teachers, organization and time are vital. By having the faculty learn by doing, teachers’ became familiar with the ins and outs of digital portfolios and Google Sites. It also allowed the school to streamline their templates. Students shared their Google Site portfolios appropriate, it is right now a private space and not public.

Time, Talent, & Technology

If you focus enrollment structures around time, talent, and technology you will get an innovative structure that works in your environment. Create a culture of innovation and use technology to help solve your tools.

Electronic Portfolios & Making Things Visible

My last session of the day is “Electronic Portfolios & Making Things Visible” by Michelle Cordy. You can check out her website, “Hack the Classroom.” Many of my teachers and administrators have expressed interest in learning more about digital portfolios. I’ve explored it on many platforms (see my posts Google Sites for Digital Portfolios and Digital Portfolios & College Admissions). I’m excited to learn about composing and building portfolios on the iPad.

Courtesy of WIkimedia Commons

Courtesy of WIkimedia Commons

Michelle said that she is an “education hacker” because we all (including students) work on projects that we neither need nor want. She asks, “Can your students take a photo in your classroom every day that shows that they are working on something larger than themselves?” Is it meaningful to them? To us?

When we make thinking and learning visible, we focus on what we believe is important – the learning we want to document for assessment. By taking photos, we put ourself in a “remembering” mode – we want to capture it for later. Taking pictures is also a way that we enhance our performance – if we know we’re being recorded we show our best selves. We also take pictures to remind ourselves of our failures – so that we won’t repeat them. As educators, we take photos to demonstrate learning. We also take photos to record what is beautiful and surprising. We take pictures as “proof.” We also take photos to reinforce relationships. So in our classrooms, we need to make moments that are “photo-worthy.”

New technologies allows students to be the ones doing to the capturing, not just the teacher. However, when we allow the students to guide their own learning do we leave it to chance? Does it allow the child who is the loudest or pushiest to drive education? As teachers, we need to take a primary role in the classroom.

“It doesn’t need to be HD, it just needs to work.”

gdrive_20120427161559_320_240Anyone who has used technology in the classroom knows that is true! So this brings Michelle to iPads – how can we use this device and not leave learning to chance? For constructing ePortfolios, she uses Blogger and Google Drive. She then introduces us to a classroom of Grade 6 students using both of these tools to build digital portfolios. They highlighted that Google Drive allows you to share content with your friends who can help you to edit and revise your work. The students use Blogger to do their weekly reflections (like a journal) as well as a way that they can reflect on their readings and materials.

While students publishing fully to the web will vary based on age and needs, this allows them to begin training to become meaningful contributors to the web. In dealing with younger students, teachers often filter and share their students’ content. This is often how we address issues of privacy. However, that means that the teacher owns that content and students cannot own or curate it. We must ensure that however we present students’ content we ensure that they own their own data. Of course, this means we may need to be creative about publication and privacy (e.g. age 13 restrictions, privacy concerns, etc).

Michelle says “I am okay with hard, but it should be fun hard. It should not be tech hard.” This is a great point – projects should be a challenge. The tech should work to support the learning – easy to apply. Projects may have a lot of ups and downs, but at the end the student should feel accomplished. Electronic portfolios should be about tracking the whole project, not just the finished product. She highlights several “sandbox” apps like iMovie, Book Creator, Explain Everything, and Screen Chomp. These can be stored electronically for future curation as well. It’s not the project that is rich, but the cognitive processing afterwards that provides deeper and more enduring meaning.

Digital Portfolios & College Admissions

This is reposted from my PLP Voices article: “The Truth about Digital Portfolios & College Admission

Button with a portfolioIn my daily readings about educational technology and pedagogy, one term and concept has been popping up more and more frequently: Digital Portfolios.

A digital, or electronic, portfolio is a collection of student work in a digital medium. Educational technology experts are touting them as the future context by which students will be judged for college admission, job applications, scholarships, and more.

Some high schools (public and private) have taken up the mantle and begun developing and building a digital portfolio requirement into their curriculum or graduation mandates. I can certainly see the potential usefulness of a catalog of student work stored electronically, but I also want to know: how useful are digital portfolios, really?

Digital Portfolios are becoming trendy

In my research and readings, there is no doubt that Digital Portfolios are currently on the minds of educational technology specialists, administrators, and software developers. Recently, software companies like CollegeOnTrack have announced compatibility with The Common App and other means by which students submit online college applications.

Portfolios have always been an important part of the resume for students pursuing further schooling in art, music, and writing. Therefore, it makes sense that when college application materials are submitted digitally, there needs to be a system that allows for the submission of creative materials as well. However, will this be the new norm for ‘traditional’ students (outside the creative arts) who are applying to four-year institutions?

I decided to investigate whether or not colleges are currently considering digital portfolios from ‘traditional’ applicants or, if they are not, are they looking to do so in the future. At this point, I extend a special thanks to my friend and colleague Randy Mills, our school’s Director of College Counseling, who helped me procure some college admissions information.

Few colleges want to see digital portfolios

It appears that while schools and software companies are gearing up for students to start creating and curating a digital portfolio, the reality is that colleges and their admissions directors are more conservative on the current and future role of this medium. Right now, few colleges and universities will consider additional application materials and do not see this changing in the near future.

Admissions officers currently spend copious amounts of time evaluating transcripts, letters, test scores and personal essays. The addition of a video or a website is not a feasible option for an already overburdened system. Institutions with heavy application loads, in particular, are simply not capable of introducing more material into the mix.

So, does this mean that Digital Portfolios are a waste of time and have been overly hyped in our fetishized technology-driven lives? Not necessarily. In fact, there are many ways that students and teachers can use Digital Portfolios for assessment, perhaps with an eye to college applications (but not reliant on it).

How Digital Portfolios can be useful now

Edutopia recently highlighted some potential values of online portfolios: peer assessment, curating knowledge, increasing engagement, strengthening organizational skills, to name a few. By their nature, Digital Portfolios are an excellent way for students to track their own learning – providing a broader look at one’s educational journey. They can give students a more coherent way to do some valuable self-assessment of their academic and intellectual development and growth.

Likewise, a single or multi-year digital portfolio can help teachers and administration track and evaluate a student’s progress over the course of time. Educators understand that a true assessment of learning is not what you can produce at the end, but how far you have come in the process. A meaningful catalog of student work is an excellent way to judge and evaluate this effectively.

Creating the Digital Portfolio

Electronic portfolios are relatively simple to put together, and the trend toward creating student projects and assignments with digital tools makes it easier than ever for students and/or teachers to put together. Beth Holland’s article at Edudemic, “How to Use Google Drive and Evernote to Create Digital Portfolios” highlights two of the best web tools for creation and describes a process of virtually seamless and easy integration — all for free.

Plan for the future

Even though most universities are not currently asking for Digital Portfolios, they could become more relevant in the future. Many top tier schools, such as MIT, already allow students to include links to their online work. It is conceivable that student demand for broader consideration of their digital products will push institutions of higher learning to adapt to the expanding world of digital media.

For this to become feasible, I foresee two necessities: first, Digital Portfolios will need to be engaging andconcise — two-hour film epochs are not going to get a student’s foot in the door. And there will need to be a template or model — some type of uniformity in how this content is presented. Currently, there is none.

While Digital Portfolios have seemingly been over-hyped in the past few years, I do believe that they have a place in education and assessment. Additionally, they appear to have a (as yet undetermined) future in application processes for higher education. Curating one’s work seems to have no downside – resources are free and the archives may be useful in ways we cannot yet predict (MOOCs? Job seeking?). At the same time, it benefits students and educators to approach these projects with realistic goals and expectations and some financial caution.


Byrne, Richard. “Free Technology for Teachers: PortfolioGen – Create Teacher Portfolio Pages.” Free Technology for Teachers: PortfolioGen – Create Teacher Portfolio Pages. N.p., 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

Hiles, Heather. “Five Ways to Use Online Portfolios in the Classroom.” Edutopia. Edutopia, 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

Holland, Beth. “How to Use Google Drive and Evernote to Create Digital Portfolios.” Edudemic. Edudemic, 01 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

Kolk, Melinda. “Digital Portfolios.” Creative Educator. Creative Educator, n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://creativeeducator.tech4learning.com/v05/articles/Digital_Portfolios&gt;.

Peterson, Chris. “Opening the Black Box: Analytics and Admissions.” Chronicle of Higher Ed. Chronicle of Higher Ed, 23 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

Roland, Jennifer. “Beyond the Transcript: Digital Portfolios Paint a Complete Pictures.” MindShift/KQED. MindShift/KQED, 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

Smart, Maya P. “Digital Portfolios Pull Double Duty.” Edutopia. Edutopia, 20 May 2009. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

Treuer, Paul, and Jill D. Jenson. “Electronic Portfolios Need Standards to Thrive.” Educause Quarterly(2003): 34-42. Web.