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Monday, October 1, 2018

Three Digital Portfolio Styles - And Tools for Making Them

This post originally appeared in my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter and on my Practical Ed Tech website. 

This week I am working with a group of teachers who want to have their middle school students create digital portfolios that they will maintain throughout the school year. The first part of our work will be to decide what artifacts they want students to put into their portfolios and how they want those artifacts displayed. To guide that work I've broken various digital portfolio tools into three style categories.

Simple, Shareable Folders
This style is the least aesthetically pleasing but it can be the easiest way to get started. In this style students use Google Drive folders, OneNote notebooks, Dropbox folders, or a similar type of online storage tool that lets them share folders with you. These won't have any aesthetic appeal and there isn't much room for students to explain why they added a particular artifact, but if your students are already using Google Drive or OneNote this method is quick as it doesn't introduce a new tool to them.

It is important to note that if you decide to use this style you need to develop a folder structure and naming conventions that all of your students must follow. Without an established folder structure and naming conventions for students to follow you will pull your hair out trying to figure out which artifacts are where within the portfolio.

Website or Blog as Portfolios
In this style of digital portfolio creation students write blog posts or create web pages to showcase examples of their best work. When students do this they should include explanations of why they document, presentation, video, or other artifact is an example of their best work.

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano coined the term Blogfolio to describe using blogs as portfolios. I recommend reading her detailed overview of the ways that students and teachers can utilize blogs as portfolios.

If you decide to pursue using blogs or websites as portfolios I recommend trying Edublogs, Google Sites, Weebly for Education, or Blogger.

  • Edublogs is great for kids who don't have email accounts or Google accounts because you can manage their usernames and reset passwords for them. 
  • Google Sites is good if your students are already using G Suite for Education because they can import anything from Google Drive into the pages of their Google Sites. 
  • Weebly for Education is a good choice if you want to have students make their own websites, but you're not a G Suite for Education school. Weebly for Education will let you create and manage student accounts. 
  • Blogger is my last choice of these four options but it is still solid if your students are over age 13 and they have Google accounts. 
Use a Service Designed for Digital Portfolios
This is the route to go if you have students making a mix of digital and physical products that you want to store in one place. This is also the route to go if you're not married to school-wide deployment of G Suite for Education or Microsoft 365 Education. There are two tools that I recommend more than any others in this category. Those tools are SeeSaw and ClassDojo Student Stories

Both SeeSaw and ClassDojo let you create multiple classrooms with your account. In those classrooms you can assign activities to your students. An activity could be a prompt to add a particular type of artifact to the portfolio. Both systems let students take pictures, record videos, and write explanations of the items that they add to their portfolios. Additionally, SeeSaw will let students record themselves talking over pictures that they have added to their portfolios. Both systems were designed with K-6 students in mind, but can be used by students of all ages. You really can't go wrong with either service. 

Here's a video overview of ClassDojo's Student Stories


Here's a video overview of SeeSaw.