4 things you should know about digital portfolios

Digital portfolios are a great way to help students learn to reflect on their actions and make positive changes

So, it would be logical to expect a student’s digital portfolio to be process oriented. This means that at every critical stage of learning, something is documented. Not everything is published, but there is reflection and context for the work that’s attached to the artifact. Families, peers, and the student themselves come to see that understanding does not come out of thin air. The result is an appreciation for the process of learning itself that is not dependent on an external evaluation.

3. It’s not a digital portfolio unless students are in charge.
We think we are “doing” digital portfolios when we have students post their work for an audience along with a reflection. But students must get to decide what goes in and stays out of their portfolio. That’s the whole point of this practice. If students cannot discern what is high- quality work vs. what is less than expected, then they do not understand the criteria for success.

In Lisa Snider’s high school journalism course in Oklahoma, students publishing their pieces on WordPress blogs. These sites serve to document their writing throughout the year for an authentic audience (peers, parents, community). Snider does not grade their blogs; she asks students to self-assess their body of work and provide a final evaluation. The student and Snider come to an agreement about this summative assessment, with the student leading the conversation.

4. Digital student portfolios are about more than just assessment.
The best digital portfolio processes do more than serve as an evaluation tool. They help the student develop a stronger sense of themselves as a learner and see their growth over time, such as through a series of drafts posted toward a final project and presentation. Students start to identify themselves as capable learners. If the digital portfolio has been maintained over several years, their progress is even more evident. This type of self-observation communicates one’s role as an agent of their own life journey due to the visual nature of assessment.

And isn’t that the ultimate goal of education? To develop individuals who can reflect on their actions and make changes for the betterment of themselves and those around them? I cannot think of a better reason to introduce digital student portfolios into the classroom.

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