Digital Portfolios

Digital portfolios showcase learning and growth through multiple media, including video and audio recordings
17 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

A digital portfolio is an ongoing document or file that demonstrates a student's learning. Over time, learners add artifacts to portfolios to showcase content mastery or highlight growth. Using a digital tool makes a portfolio more than a record of written work. Digital portfolios can include video recordings, audio files, hyperlinks, and so much more, to showcase students' progress. They also can be shared easily with families and other school community members.

Implementation Steps

  1. Determine a big-picture goal for student portfolios, and a timeline for creation. Consider what you want student portfolios to convey (growth, mastery, creativity, communication skills, etc.). Portfolios can be used for many different purposes such as to show mastery at the end of a unit, to show growth over a period of time, or to reflect on learning.

  2. Choose a digital tool that students will use to create their portfolios. Some suggested tools are ClassDojo, Seesaw, Book Creator, or GoogleDocs. As you choose a tech tool, consider the questions below:

    • What norms or routines need to be established for students to use this tool independently?

    • Who is the intended audience for the portfolio?

    • What types of artifacts and reflections can students include on this platform (video, audio, written, pictures, etc.)

  3. Create a rubric. Even if you do not plan to grade the portfolio, a rubric helps students understand the criteria for success. You can also co-create this rubric with students (see the Involving Students in the Creation of Mastery Levels and Rubrics strategy in the BetterLesson Lab for support).

  4. Create an exemplar. If students will add to their portfolios over time, build your exemplar portfolio along with them. Providing a model supports students to think deeply about their contributions to their own portfolios. As you create your exemplar, think about the questions in the Digital Portfolio Question Guide included below.

  5. Set goals with students. The Digital Portfolio Question Guide below includes visioning questions to support students to set a goal for their learning portfolios. BetterLesson's Goal Setting and Reflection strategy included below contains other goal setting structures to consider.

  6. Give students time to practice using the tool. Set aside a dedicated time to teach them the features of the platform you selected, and allow them to spend some time experimenting.

  7. Frequently provide time for students to upload artifacts and reflections. Check in with students and provide feedback on their progress as they build their portfolios.

Creating a Digital Teaching Portfolio

Digital portfolios are not just for students. A digital teaching portfolio can tell the story of your growth as an educator, and provide evidence of your successes.

Implementation steps:

  1. Start with a goal. Write a statement that explains what you are hoping your portfolio will show, or record yourself speaking your goal aloud with an audio or video recording. Ask yourself these questions to refine your goal:

    • What do you want to accomplish in your classroom this year?

    • What do you hope to see and hear from students that would tell you that this goal has been achieved?

    • What do you hope to see and hear from yourself that would tell you that your goal has been achieved?

    • What do you hope someone will learn about you if they look at your portfolio?

  2. Document your work as you progress toward your goal. Include your plans, as well as evidence of the impact of what you have done. As you determine what to include, ask yourself these questions:

    • What evidence do I have of the outcomes I envisioned in my goal?

    • What does this evidence show that demonstrates progress toward my goals?

  3. Reflect on your progress on a regular basis. Write or record reflections once every few weeks. Don't just reflect on your successes - think about challenges that you have encountered, or things that went wrong, and share what you have learned from these experiences.

  4. Leverage your portfolio. Bring it with you to pre- and post-observation conferences to demonstrate your growth or to show student evidence that was not observable during your evaluative observation.

EL Modifications

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

Portfolios are an excellent way to showcase progress towards mastery for English learners. Learners benefit from guided goal setting and building up a body of work that reflects how they’ve grown. Teachers are supported to make fair and accurate assessments of English learner development. 

English learners may be required to use all four domains of language, reading, writing, speaking and listening while engaging in activities to add to their portfolios. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:


Modifications:

  1. Orient learners to process and tools. Ensure learners at lower levels of proficiency understand the purpose, norms, procedures, digital platforms, rubrics, and schedule of portfolio creation. Consider meeting 1:1 or in a small group to walk through the process from start to finish and answer clarifying questions. Consider using a response protocol to check for understanding and guide question creation. See the "Extending English Language Learners' Classroom Interactions Using the Response Protocol" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  2. Add language objectives to goals. English learners are working to acquire a new language and new content at the same time. Honor that work by setting language goals in addition to content area goals for the portfolio. Ideally, all four domains of language, reading, writing, speaking and listening would have their own goal. See the "Digital Portfolio Question Guide with Language goals" and the "ELD Student-Friendly Rubrics" in the resource section below for more information.
  3. Guide goal setting. English learners at lower levels of proficiency may benefit from completing goal setting questionnaires with guidance from a learning facilitator or language specialist. Consider filling out the Portfolio Question Guide together by reading the questions aloud, simplifying language as necessary, and having learners dictate their response for you to write. Consider employing current language level data to help guide attainable, actionable goal setting. See the following resources in the resource section below for more information: "Digital Portfolio Question Guide with Language goals," "WIDA Can Do Descriptors," and "ELD Student-Friendly Rubrics."
  4. Differentiate lesson materials. English learners require scaffolded learning materials and classroom supports in order to learn English and content at the same time. Learners who are not supported academically may feel frustrated. Ensure that learners are working with materials they can understand in order to avoid academic frustration lack of progress or mastery. See the "12 Ways to Support English Learners in the Mainstream Classroom" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  5. Create comprehensible rubrics and attainable models. Create rubrics with simple, direct language that English learners at lower levels of proficiency can understand. When sharing models, consider English learners who will have differentiated versions of submissions by creating a differentiated model that looks more like what theirs will. See the "WIDA Can Do Descriptors" in the resource section below for more information. 

Special Education Modification

Nedra Massenburg
Special Educaiton Specialist

Using Digital Portfolios as a way to track student progress and mastery in a variety of forms is an excellent tool to help engage students with disabilities.  Utilizing this strategy supports students with disabilities to find a variety of ways to be engaged with their learning.

Using Digital Portfolios requires significant executive functioning (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.), emotional regulation, reading, verbal and/or written expression skills.  In order to support students with disabilities in these areas, consider the following modifications:

Modifications:

  1. Use structured handouts that help students with task initiation as well as provide clear benchmarks (bolded words, bulleted lists) to assess task completion.

  2. Teachers who serve students with disabilities should consider a digital portfolio tool that students can easily use on their own. For students with disabilities affecting fine-motor skills, a tool that allows for video, image, and audio contributions would be most appropriate. Conversely, for students with disabilities impacting verbal expression, a platform that allows for written contributions would be a more appropriate choice.

  3. Consider using the “quality over quantity” approach for students with disabilities affecting writing and reading skills to complete the task.  As an example, a teacher may narrow a student’s focus to show three examples of mastery of skill in their portfolio as opposed to four to give them more time to fully prepare and complete the task.

  4. If multiple teachers are present, careful thought should be put into co-teaching models and how they integrate into a differentiated lesson plan on digital portfolios. See the resources in the resource section below for more information.

Questions to Consider

  • How often will students add to their portfolios?

  • How will students receive feedback on their portfolio submissions?

  • How could digital portfolios be used to show growth beyond traditional academics (social-emotional skills, creative skills, etc.)?

Tech Tools

ClassDojo

  • ClassDojo is a free, simple-to-use platform that supports student-led portfolios.

  • ClassDojo portfolios include images and video, journal entries, file uploads, drawings, and more. Teachers and students can upload to their portfolios, but teachers have final approval over what is shared to students' stories. ClassDojo portfolios can be shared with students' families directly through the app.

 

Seesaw

  • Seesaw allows for the documentation of artifacts, audio, video, and writing that can easily be shared with an entire class or with parents as students build their seesaw portfolio. Seesaw can also be used as a class discussion tool via its blog feature.

  • Students can post their own work, goals, and reflections to their portfolios within the app. Teachers can also add to students' portfolios, and have final approval over what is posted. Seesaw portfolios can follow students year-to-year, if used across a school. Seesaw is easy to use independently for students of all ages.

 

Book Creator

  • Book Creator is a program that allows teachers and students to create digital books with visuals, text, audio, and even embedded video.

  • Book Creator can be used to create digital portfolios that tell a narrative of a students' growth over the year. Students and teachers can collaborate to create portfolios together in Book Creator, using audio recordings and evidence of learning. Students can create demonstrations of learning within their Book Creator portfolio, eliminating the need to upload or transfer work between platforms.

 

Google Slides and Google Docs

  • Google Drawings is a free web-based collaborative drawing tool with a focus on the creation of flowcharts, mind maps, diagrams, pictures, and animations. 

  • Students can build portfolios within Google Slides, or Google Docs, or create artifacts in these programs to link into digital portfolios hosted on other platforms.

 

Adobe Creative Cloud for Education

  • Adobe Creative Cloud is a suite of Adobe software including Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere video creation, and more. The Education suite provides a 60% discount for schools and teachers.

  • Any of the Adobe Creative Cloud apps could be used to create artifacts, or as a creative platform for a digital portfolio. These programs are more complex than the other recommended tech tools.

Related Lessons

Explore the E-Portfolio lesson by 7th grade Science BetterLesson Master Teacher Mariana Garcia Serrato to see how students create an e-portfolio at the end of the school year.

Consulted Resources

In developing this strategy, the following resources were consulted: 

  • Kathy Rogers. How Digital Portfolios Empower Student Ownership of Learning. Getting Smart.
  • Avra Robinson. 3 Tools for Creating Digital Portfolios, Edutopia. 
  • Natalie Milman and Clare Kilbane. Digital teaching portfolios: Catalysts for fostering authentic professional development. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, Canadian Network for Innovation in Education. 

  • Keith Lambert. Get Started with a Digital Teaching Portfolio, Education World.