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.
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.
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.)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
For English Learners who are developing written English skills, encourage the use of video and audio recordings. Students can record themselves demonstrating mastery by explaining concepts aloud, or by recording their actions as they complete a task.
Students with proficiency in their home language who are developing English proficiency can add to their digital portfolios in their home languages. Digital translation tools can be used to support students to translate portfolio entries into English.
Teachers who serve ELs can create digital portfolios to assess growth in students' speaking and listening skills over time by uploading video and audio clips of both formal and informal oral and auditory language use.
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:
Use structured handouts that help students with task initiation as well as provide clear benchmarks (bolded words, bulleted lists) to assess task completion.
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.
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.
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.
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.)?
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 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 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.
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.
In developing this strategy, the following resources were consulted:
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.