Thing 31: Digital Portfolios for Students


eportfolio features
(image source unknown)

What is a portfolio?

“A student portfolio is a compilation of academic work and other forms of educational evidence assembled for the purpose of (1) evaluating coursework quality, learning progress, and academic achievement; (2) determining whether students have met learning standards or other academic requirements for courses, grade-level promotion, and graduation; (3) helping students reflect on their academic goals and progress as learners; and (4) creating a lasting archive of academic work products, accomplishments, and other documentation.” (Glossary of Education Reform)

Portfolios have been used for a many years in various educational settings and in the past were primarily paper-based, which restricted the types of material that could be included and also limited access. Digital portfolios are common today and can provide access to a far wider range of student created content, including written work, scanned work, photos, videos and audio. And at the same time, provide opportunities for feedback from teachers, other students, parents and if deemed appropriate, the public.

At their simplest level, digital portfolios can be used as a convenient place to store, access and share student work. Building on this, teachers can use portfolios to assess student work and share work with parents. And with careful curation, online portfolios can also help students create showcases of their best work, credentials and and qualifications.

Many of the free web tools that you’ve been exploring in Cool Tools can be used for portfolios. You may also be able to use a learning management system or other commercial tool that your school district provides. With online portfolios, parents can access student work easily and parent-teacher communication is enhanced.

This approach to student learning assessment can be used for individual courses, single projects, senior portfolios focused on college and job applications and multiyear portfolios that follow students through all their years in a school district.


Before implementing digital portfolios, you might consider the following questions from this Edutopia article, Using E-Portfolios in the Classroom.

  • Can student work be made public or is it housed inside a “walled garden?”
  • Can students view and comment on each other’s work?
  • Can the teacher provide feedback for the student privately?
  • Is student work easily organized by date, course or some other category?
  • Are the portfolios transferable from year to year as students move through the school?
  • Can students access their work or export it when they leave the school?
  • Does the platform allow for multiple file types (documents, sound files, video files)?
  • What are the costs for using the tool or platform?
  • Can a teacher create a teacher account and student accounts, or do students sign up on their own? Is there a minimum age to sign up?
  • Can the tool be integrated into an existing SMS or other school-wide database and/or gradebook?
  • From Using E-Portfolios in the Classroom



  • Blogs & Wikis: Fairly easy to create & maintain via free hosted web services like: Edublogs, Blogger, Kidblog, Wikispaces and PBwiki (Be aware of age restrictions) If you have willing tech support, a network of blogs could be set up school servers to support all students throughout all their school years.
  • Google Sites: (NOTE: Google Sites has been totally overhauled – take a look!) With so many schools committing to Google Apps for Education, Google Sites seems like a logical place for students to build e-portfolios. Pages can be organized in many different ways. By individual classes, projects, or by type of material. The site can grow and change as the student progresses through grade levels. All sorts of writing, photos, links to other documents and other media can be included. Neatly integrates with other Google tools like YouTube, Blogger for reflective writing and Google Docs for storing reports, slide presentations and other documents.
  • Notebook Tools: Evernote, Three Ring ($) (review), OneNote.
  • More Tools:
    • Seesaw – Free app to manage student content for up to 10 classes and share content with parents. Easy to set-up, app available for most mobile devices. “Student work can be shared with classmates, parents, or published to a class blog. Seesaw gives students a real audience for their work and offers parents a personalized window into their child’s learning.”
    • Mahara – Open-source eportfolio software to install on your own web server. Looks interesting for anyone looking for a school-wide solution. Try it out on their demo site.
    • BulbApp –  Simple to set up, free service. Use it for digital portfolios, for sharing lessons and more. This looks like a terrific tool! Ideas and tips: Bulb for Teachers
  • Lists with more tools:


  • Explore some of the digital portfolio tools and resources articles.
  • Consider what role you might play in the development of student portfolios.
  • Share your thoughts and reactions in your blog post.


  • Write & publish your blog post.
  • Copy the URL for the post.
  • Return to the lesson page on the CanvasLMS site.
  • Use the SUBMIT ASSIGNMENT button in the CanvasLMS page and paste in your URL.

*Only for students participating in the workshop for PD credit hours through the Canavas LMS system.


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