Tag Archives: Digital Portfolios

Student Digital Portfolios: Redefining Assessment with iPads & Google Apps

The first session of day two that I am attending is “Student Digital Portfolios: Redefining Assessment with iPads and Google Apps” by Holly Clark. You can view the slides from her presentation here.

Holly highlights the fact that we have to think forward and progressively, “Are you Blockbuster or are you Netflix?” While people originally thought that mailing movies to you was “crazy,” ten years later Blockbuster is now dead.

Disruptive innovation isn’t just for businesses, it’s something that we can, and in fact should, be doing in education! Traditional models are dinosaurs and leaving students behind in the real world! With digital content and tools, we can learn so much more about our students and their families.

Holly began to implement Digital Portfolios as a means for students to reflect on their work and experiences with their educational material. So often we learn it and move on – you are directed by the curriculum or the textbook. With iPads and digital work, students were able to create at new levels and retain it (well, except when IT would take it and wipe it).

Digital Student Portfolios = Digital Citizenship

When people hear “digital citizenship” then think “cyber-bullying.” We need to change that. Digital citizenship is about understanding how to navigate, interact, and communicate online. When students take their work and curate it, then populate it on the internet, they learn that nothing is private and that their online presence can be incredibly powerful (in positive and negative ways).

Controlling your online presence is important. If you don’t put up content about yourself, someone else will. What do you want online, that documentary you made for class or a silly picture from college that someone tagged you in from Facebook?Online curation also requires that you think about how you present yourself; this includes not only content, but fonts, colors, presence. This is about selling yourself and building your online presence.

Digital Footprints

By encouraging students to populate their online presence through intentionality, we encourage them to think about what they put online and how that can direct their future. Here is a great project that student put online about California Missions:

This is a student that, at a very young age, is learning how to cultivate and foster a positive online presence. We need to ensure that this content is housed somewhere so that not only do students retain ownership, but so that it is enduring.

3 Types of Student Portfolios

There are three categories of student portfolios: process (This records the steps you took in building a project), showcase (This is showing off your final work), and a hybrid model (a combination of the process and final project showcase).

Holly advocates a hybrid model as it records the process and allows students to show off their final projects. Additionally, it allows students to reflect on their learning experience. Holly also highlights that when creating portfolios, you must keep several considerations in mind:

  • Who Owns?
  • Who Curates?
  • Who Organizes?
  • Where Does it Live?

Holly uses Google Drive to collect and store content (text, images, videos, and more). You can store content on the camera roll and then upload it to Google Drive. Then students organized the content and published to a Google Site.

Holly Clark

Holly Clark

If you would like to see a teacher using Explain Everything on the iPad to help students collect, curate, and reflect on work check out this short video by David Malone:

Holly highlights that this type of rich information can demonstrate to teachers and parents a child’s educational growth throughout the year. Capturing a student’s voice is important to record their experience; we need to hear it in order to better assess them. It’s powerful information.


The reflection piece is probably the most important. Holly uses a Google Form that she links to the assignment. Using Google Forms means that all of the content is in one place (not in separate folders). If you use Google Apps, then you know how important workflow is to maintaining sanity!! Holly recommends that you keep the form simple, because if it is too detailed then students can get easily overwhelmed and you won’t get the information that you want.


When students publish their content, they need to ensure that it looks nice. It should be professional, not have outrageous fonts/colors (pink background and green font!!), and attract people to their content. Holly encourages this by providing the student some basic templates to reign in some of their creative tendencies. As students get older and more mature, then they will have the skills for leaning towards a more professional presentation on their own.

Holly’s student portfolios include the child’s reflection, subjects, and a showcase of their work. This not only highlights their growth but allows them to show off some of the content that they are most proud of. Students take ownership of these pieces – they are proud of what they showing off to the world.

With publication, there is also the debate of whether or not content should be public. Schools, parents, and students have a strong opinion in terms of safety and exposure. Holly encourages discussing with parents and sharing with them the importance of Digital Footprints and an online presence.

There are other tools that we can include as they develop. Another great tool to explore is Touch Cast.

The nice thing about digital portfolios and online tools is that they are constantly evolving. We need to ensure that we are adaptable and flexible going forward.

How to Move Forward

Start Small

  • Collect everything you can into Google Drive
  • Then make a goal to do one project a grading period
  • Have students reflect using Google Forms
  • Have students publish using Google Sites

As you improve, you can expand to more sophisticated projects and bigger steps. What’s important is that you build at a comfortable pace with an objective and goal in mind.

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.

Google Sites for ePortfolios

The next session I am attending is the Google Sites for ePortfolios hosted by Molly Schroeder. I am a big fan of students curating their work and presenting it, in an ePortfolio type format (I wrote about it in my article “Digital Portfolios and College Admissions“) so I’m excited to see what Molly will be presenting. You can check out Molly’s slides here.

Before deciding on your tool, you must decide how you would like the students to use it. For instance, do you want them to:

  1. Demonstrate Learning
  2. Demonstrate Mastery
  3. Showcase Published Work
via kyteacher on Flikr

via kyteacher on Flikr

For example, if you would like to demonstrate learning, then you probably do not want to publish it publicly. You will likely be changing content and it will demonstrate different levels of mastery. If you would like to demonstrate mastery, then you will want to highlight skills and abilities on a set of standards; again you may not want this content public but may want more access (perhaps the school community). The showcase of public work would be more public (perhaps just to members of the community and parents, or perhaps a broader audience) – you are showing off your accomplishments! Sharing considerations should also be age appropriate – for example, you may not want elementary students to have their full name available whereas for college applicants, they should consider a more public profile to build their digital footprint.

Next you should consider the structure and content of your portfolios: documents, presentations, videos, forms, etc. However, you need to think about space and content when using media rich material and understand how it will be inputed: link, embedded, uploaded, etc. Considerations for space as well as presentation are key elements here.

When using these tools, you often have to learn as you go. Learn to be creative and solve problems. Google doesn’t share a lot of instructions, it’s about figuring it out. I personally like this a lot – it’s a reflection of the world in which we live. You are given a problem and told to “return with a solution!”

Screenshot of templates from the Google Library

Screenshot of templates from the Google Library

Molly made some suggestions about how to get students started. One of my favorites was having some established templates from which students can draw. Here are some examples of what she has done for her students. You can also draw from the templates in the Google Library.

There are a lot of features that educators and students can use to stay on top of content: naming protocols, tags, etc. Molly is now walking us through how to create a Google Site with an emphasis of Portfolio curation. As she goes step by step she highlights the need to understand your objectives and intent behind creating it. I also like that she discusses “the look” of the sites (using layouts, etc). Like it or not, people do judge by appearance! We like when things look pretty! She also demonstrates the need to organize different pages in terms of topics and need. The flexibility of Google Sites here is great, but I can also see how it would be intimidating for someone not used to this platform. Having used more robust website builders, I like that Google Sites is much simpler and intuitive! Google Sites allows you to dress up your site as well using images, videos, and more.

If you would like some tutorials on using Google Sites, there are a lot of great tutorials on YouTube. Check out Mike Ravenek’s Google Site Tutorial Series (keep in mind that it’s a bit long!).

Another great feature with using Google Sites is that it integrates with Google Drive. For students using their ePortfolio’s for self assessment and learning, this means that they can directly insert an entire folder into their site (e.g. writing projects for the whole year in a class). You can then choose how you would like it to display (a list, a folder, thumbnails, etc). Again be sure that you have your sharing permissions set properly – you do not want everything to be published to everyone! This is a great time saver (no individual linking)!

Another cool tool she features is thinglink that allows you to make your images more interactive! If the interactive features don’t work below just go to thinglink’s website!

Depending on the tools you use to create your portfolio, you may have to decide to embed or link accordingly. I personally like the look of embedding (if you can’t tell), but you cannot embed everything. Your site quickly gets overwhelmed, and not all tools allow embedding. It’s a good way to get students (and teachers) thinking about presentation to a broader audience – how do you best highlight yourself?

You can also embed audio into your Google Site using Google Voice. This is an excellent tool for students working on verbal fluency (speech pathology, foreign language learners, etc).  Keep in mind that you cannot edit Google Voice documents, so it’s not a great podcasting tool or anything that you want students to be able to revise.

There are lots of ways to configure and personalize your Google Site (again, check out tutorials on YouTube). You can play with layout, fonts, color, widgets, and more. The flexibility allows for a great deal of personalization as well as branding – you may want your school’s colors/logo or students to be able to choose their own colors/layout and you are not painted in a corner when it comes to how the material is presented and who gets to view it.