A couple of months ago I published a detailed overview of a digital portfolio platform called Spaces. In that blog post I emphasized the capability of Spaces to be used for Asynchronous breakout sessions. Those asynchronous breakout sessions are great for students to give each other feedback. Today, I’d like to highlight another aspect of Spaces. That is the ability for teachers to give individualized constructive feedback to their students through Spaces.
Purposes for Portfolios
From documents to presentations to videos, you can have your students add just about anything to their digital portfolios made in Spaces. I’ve even had students add samples of code they’ve written into their digital portfolios. The type of material or artifact that students add to their portfolios isn’t nearly as important as the process of building their portfolios. Though it used a relatively small sample size, this study by Clare Kilbane and Natalie Milman found that using digital portfolios had a positive impact on students and teachers. In particular, it had an impact on relationships and how students learned academic content.
Over the years I’ve had students create digital portfolios that contained artifacts from just a few weeks of the school year. I’ve also had students build portfolios that covered a semester and some that spanned the whole year. In all cases, the point of the portfolio was to have students create something that they could look back on to see growth. Likewise, their parents could see growth.
It should be noted that there are some other purposes for digital portfolios. Those include showcasing examples of work for potential employers or to represent mastery of specific skills. While those are great uses of portfolios, this article is focused on using portfolios for documenting reflection and growth.
Implementation of Individual Digital Portfolios
Spaces provides a safe, private space for your students to create their own digital portfolios. Within their private portfolios students can upload documents, write text notes, upload videos, upload audio recordings, upload presentations, and share links to just about anything that they have created online.
Students should be given some direction as to what they should add to their portfolios and when. For example, the students in my Intro to Programming class need to add snippets of their code at the end of every week. In other classes, I’ve been a little less specific in giving directions. For example, when I taught U.S. History I simply told my students that they needed to add an artifact (other than quiz/ scores) every two weeks that they thought demonstrated their understanding of key concepts and or events.
Probably the most important part of implementing the use of digital portfolios is providing students with feedback on the items they add into their portfolios. Spaces provides teachers with three ways to deliver feedback to their students. Feedback can be provided via video comments, audio comments, and written comments.
Offering feedback to students through video, audio, and text increases the opportunities to reach students where they are. A struggling student writer might be better off getting feedback in video than in a text comment. A student who has difficulty accessing audio may be better off getting feedback in written form. Spaces provides those opportunities for all students.
The ability to add comments to work shared in Spaces isn’t limited to teachers. Students can also add comments to their own work to gather information from you. A study by Kate Wall, Steve Higgins, Jen Miller, and Nick Packard found that the process of providing feedback through digital portfolios was helpful in aiding students’ ability to understand learning objectives and who are responsible for participating in their own learning. The video, audio, and written feedback mechanisms available in Spaces can help you help your students better understand learning objectives and become responsible participants in the learning process.
Spaces digital portfolios can be kept private between the student and teacher. Parents can also be invited to view their child’s portfolio. In fact, I’d encourage you to invite parents to view their child’s portfolio as it provides a great opportunity for them to see their child’s progress throughout the year rather than just at parent-teacher conference night. Inviting parents to view their child’s portfolio also provides them with the opportunity to talk to their child about what they’re learning in school.
Getting Started With Spaces Digital Portfolios
I published a detailed overview of the features in Spaces here. A couple of tutorial videos can also be found here and here. In short, the quickest way to get started is to sign-up at https://app.spacesedu.com/signup then create an account using either your Google account or email address. After doing those simple steps you can create a class roster and invite your students to join. Once they’ve joined, from your teacher dashboard you can quickly generate individual spaces for them to use. Again, this video walks you through the process of creating spaces for your students and this video shows the students’ perspective.
A digital portfolio can be what you and your students want it to be. Spaces gives you and your students all the tools they need to make a portfolio and gives you the tools you need to give your students meaningful feedback.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web.