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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Using E-Portfolios in the Classroom

Mary Beth Hertz

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

For decades, students have been completing assignments in school. Often, these were seen only by the teacher, graded and returned to the student. Sometimes, the work was posted on a classroom wall or in a school hallway. Many teachers kept portfolios of student work for report card conferences, and the rare teacher taught students how to build their own portfolios from their work.

With more and more schools going paperless or migrating to the "cloud" (storing files on the Internet), student work has become more easily shareable, accessible by many, and more easily organized. Many teachers have turned to digital portfolios -- or "e-portfolios" -- for their students. These digital portfolios have caused a huge shift in how teachers assign, collect and assess student classwork and projects.

However, with so many options for collecting and sharing student work, it's hard to know which method or tool to use.

Defining Your Needs

Here are some guiding questions to consider before you commit to a tool or platform:

  • 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?

While some of these questions may not apply to your situation, it is important to do your research before committing to a tool. Once your students begin building their portfolio, it can be time-consuming and often frustrating to transfer student work to another platform.

Some Options

Below is a list of tools that can be used to collect, organize and share student work. Those that are free are marked with an asterisk (*).

Project Foundry

This tool organizes, tracks and shares learning in a project-based learning classroom. It includes standards-based grading tools and feedback tools. Teachers have the option to include a digital portfolio website for students.

Google Sites*

Create a website to share classwork and projects. Potential users must be at least 13 to sign up. Students can use the "file locker" option to upload files.

Wikispaces and PBwiki*

These two wiki-creation tools allow students to create a website of their work. Due to the collaborative nature of the tools, student teams can build a workspace to showcase their work. The teacher can create student accounts without an email address. (Note: PBwiki is also known as PBworks.)

Dropbox*

Students can create a public folder in Dropbox to share their work. This platform supports multiple file types and can be used collaboratively by sharing folders.

Evernote*

Students can create "notebook" within their Evernote account for each class, and that notebook can be shared publicly. Students can upload files to their notebooks, including documents, photos and audio files.

eBackpack

Teachers can assign, collect, grade and return assignments to students through eBackpack. Students can upload files to their digital locker to create an online portfolio for their course. Work uploaded cannot be seen outside of the closed system.

Comments (33)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Tandra Ericson's picture
Tandra Ericson
Assistive Technology Specialist in Concord, CA

I think Edmodo, Skydrive and OneNote should be added to your list as most schools have Microsoft products.

Bob Barboza's picture
Bob Barboza
Bob Barboza, Founder of Super School K12 International University

Thank you for the post. For the record, we are working on a school of the future project. We had to design a special ePortfolio for the iPhones, iTouch, iPad, Mac , PC's. This portfolio helps our teachers to inform their instruction in our afterschool backpack science, backpack journalism and backpack robotic's programs. We have a special relational database that helps us with multimedia exhibits and portfolios conferences. The cloud version is going through a redesign for Spanish and other languages.

Steve Zimmerman's picture
Steve Zimmerman
Charter school founder and creator of OpenSchool ePortfolio

I've founded two charter schools in western Queens, NYC, both on a "progressive" model, which is fairly unusual in the charter world. Our charter requires us to meet "academic accountability requirements" set, of course, by our performance on standardized tests. But we have set out to create a real "authentic assessment" tool that we call OpenSchool ePortfolio. It's in beta and free for teachers. www.openschooleportfolio.com We would love to get feedback from users!

DrMcDougall's picture

I've had students set up e-portfolios over the last several years - found that the best professional setting is weebly with a great poster format in glogster - students like both, and since they are third party applications, they can keep these files with them long after they graduate

Lorraine Tesina's picture
Lorraine Tesina
9-12 Visual Arts teacher from Woodstock Georgia

Tandra, I agree. Microsoft is dominant. Our district just started using Skydrive and I am a newbie who gets frustrated but is having lots of fun too.

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger 2014

Tandra and Lorraine,

Would love to hear a sentence or two about your experiences with Skydrive.

Thanks!

Lorraine Tesina's picture
Lorraine Tesina
9-12 Visual Arts teacher from Woodstock Georgia

Mary Beth,
I will let you know more in August when my students actually start using it.
Just finished a one- day tech class called, The One iPad Classroom and I realized that I don't have to know how to do everything. I can provide students the opportunities to use the technology and we can help each other learn. I also got a Point 2 View USB Camera that I know my students will enjoy using. I simply stress too much about my feeling technologically challenged...

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger 2014

I love the Point2View Cameras! No need to stress--we do what we can with what we have!

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