Digital portfolios aren’t new, but they continue to be used in unique and innovative ways.
When students of any age build a digital portfolio, they’re creating a way to both look back at their best work and track progress to see how far their learning and achievement have come.
Digital portfolios also help students take ownership of their learning, because they develop student voice and learn how to assess their work to choose examples that best demonstrate application of knowledge.
As with any edtech tool, the tool itself will not magically transform a classroom, school, or district. A confident teacher who encourages students and knows how to guide learning, however, can.
The best digital portfolios are process-oriented, points out Matt Renwick, an elementary principal in Mineral Point, WI and a former fifth- and sixth-grade teacher.
Because success is built on a series of failures and modifications, “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,” Renwick says.
What’s more, he adds, digital portfolios aren’t even digital portfolios unless students are in charge. “Students must get to decide what goes in and stays out of their portfolio. That’s the whole point of this practice,” Renwick says. “If students cannot discern what is high- quality work vs. what is less than expected, then they do not understand the criteria for success.”
5 tools to create digital portfolios
Here are a handful of digital portfolio tools to help students take control of their learning.
1. bulb Digital Portfolios lets students build work or compile content from anywhere and put it into collections or pages to share, receive feedback, and reflect and refine. Students control who sees their portfolio and school administrators can set sharing permissions.
2. Seesaw intends to meaningfully engage students in their learning through student portfolios, formative insights, and family communication. Students can use tools such as drawing, voice recording, and videos to demonstrate their knowledge in the way that works best for them.
3. Pathbrite is a web-based tool that makes it easy for students to create digital portfolios. Students can showcase work, teachers can manage and assess classes, and institutions can collect data. It also can serve as a stand-alone tool or integrate nicely into existing curriculum, while at the same time encouraging student self-reflection.
4. FreshGrade‘s portfolio tools helps teachers capture students’ authentic learning experiences in order to make learning visible. In Hillsboro High School in Texas, English teacher Gaila Sanders uploads student videos into their FreshGrade portfolios to help them “see” how their writing skills progress over time.
5. ClassDojo‘s Student Stories lets students add photos and videos of their classwork to their own digital portfolio, and share them home. Parents will be able to follow along with their child’s learning, whether it’s a photo of a poem they wrote, a video of a science experiment, or a reflection on finally solving a tough math problem, students can easily record and share their learning with parents.