Tools for Creating Digital Student Portfolios
Portfolios are a good way for high school students to see and share their learning growth over time, and digital tools make it easy to set them up.
In assessing student work, one of the challenges that teachers face comes when students have created a product for a project. Ideally they’ve had a chance to share their work with each other because that has numerous benefits: It allows them to see how their peers interpreted the project content or questions differently, and to reflect on their own learning and their learning process, which can help them improve future projects and processes.
Sharing students’ work more widely, with their families or with outside experts, for example, has benefits as well.
So how do we get student work in front of as many eyes as possible to increase the impact of their ideas? One of the best ways is to have students create digital portfolios, which can help students track their personal growth and share their work with classmates, the community, and the world.
Considering Student Privacy
Before creating digital portfolios with our students, we should consider student privacy and be aware of our district and school policies around sharing student work with third parties.
Sharing student work is powerful, but it’s also vital that students and their families consent to that sharing, which includes posting student work to third-party platforms—platforms that students must log into outside of the school’s internal systems. Before using such platforms, review the Student Privacy Pledge. Signatories of the pledge—which include all of the tools listed below—have taken the time to consider student privacy and data on their platforms.
You can also check with your school and district to see if the app or website you want to use is approved by your district.
Digital Portfolio Tools
Portfolios can serve different purposes, which dictate what goes in them and how they’re shared. For more public-facing portfolios, students generally create fine-tuned products. These are portfolios that students may use to showcase their work for awards, internships, jobs, and college applications. Work shared here may connect students with experts and add their voice to larger conversations around issues they care deeply about, while also validating their agency as members of a global community. These portfolios may also be a place for them to celebrate their work with their family, friends, classmates, and school or district. No matter how they’re used, these portfolios can help build confidence and excitement around student learning.
Sometimes, however, portfolios are shared less widely, with just the teacher and the student’s family. In these portfolios, rough copies of student work may be included to show growth. If students are able to create a portfolio that spans multiple years, they can see growth over a longer time. These portfolios are a great window into what students are learning, showing what they understand and what they’re struggling with so the teacher can plan accordingly. Families can see their child’s progress in real time and celebrate successes or provide support at home for areas of struggle. Portfolios also help students reflect on their progress and make connections to their own learning process. There may be pieces that move from this internal portfolio to be shared more widely in a public-facing portfolio.
Once you’re ready to provide students with an opportunity to reflect on and share their work with an authentic audience, there are several tools you can use.
For sharing inside the classroom: Students can use Google Slides to create a digital portfolio that showcases their progress on a project, posting their work as well as their reflections on the work. You can have them start from scratch or create a template for them to use. You can have students share this portfolio with you alone or embed it in a blog post or post it to a Google Drive folder shared with the class.
You could instead use Google Classroom to create the portfolios: A student can add documents to their portfolio that can be viewed by both you and the student over the course of the year.
For sharing with the outside world: Students can post their Google Slides to a public-facing class blog or use a tool like Flipgrid to post video journal entries about their learning. These videos can be summative, or they can act like checkpoints as students work through the project. Flipgrid is free, and the company provides a sample consent letter to send home. Videos can be shared publicly, with only the class, or with only the teacher.
Another tool, Book Creator, allows students to create digital portfolios that can include text, images, audio recordings, and videos. The books are contained in a class library, and students can browse each other’s books. Students can review their books to reflect on their growth in critical skills, and their books and the class library can be shared publicly. BookCreator can be used for free, but if you want to create more than 40 books you’ll need to pay for access.
The tool Seesaw allows teachers to create activities that students can work on and share to a class portfolio. These activities can be designed by the teacher, or they can be imported from an activity library curated by Seesaw. An activity might ask students to explain their reasoning while solving a math problem, reading and reflecting on an article, or reflecting on their progress on a recent project. Seesaw allows teachers to provide family access to student portfolios so parents have a window into what students are learning.
Benefits of Digital Portfolios
Digital portfolios—as repositories of evidence of learning and growth—can be used in multiple ways. They’re helpful to the teacher for planning instruction and gauging student understanding, and for communicating student progress with families and sparking conversations at home.
They can also be helpful in creating a culture of learning in the classroom, where students look to each other for knowledge and understanding. And they’re a useful tool for students to reflect on their own personal growth over the course of the year.