By Brent Hartsell & Weston Kieschnick
Digital portfolios are an increasingly necessary piece of the puzzle when we talk about holistic student achievement. In environments where project-based learning, creativity, and the cultivation of original content are increasingly valued, digital portfolios are the best tool we have to get a robust sense of a student’s academic competencies. Furthermore, in the last year, as many as 80 leading colleges and universities have announced plans to make some sort of digital portfolio a part of their revamped admissions process.
If college and career readiness is not enough to convince you (parent, school administrator, teacher, or student) to be a proponent for digital portfolios, then consider the following benefits.
Like any practice, simply implementing portfolios is only part of process. Effectively leveraging the power of digital portfolios means that the following characteristics need to be present.
Aligned to Standards
Connected to Reflective Writing
Controlled by Students and Accessible to Teachers
Now that the value is understood, there is plenty to discuss relative to where digital portfolios should live. We are firm believers that schools/districts should not be purchasing platforms for students to house their digital portfolios. While purchased platforms can provide a lot of bells and whistles (most of which are not necessary), they can also create a number of barriers, namely access. Cost should not be an inhibitor of digital portfolios. Instead, schools should be considering portfolios that are already in use by prospective employers, in the “real-world”. That’s right; students should be building their portfolios with an intention beyond their current classroom and in a platform that will be used by others, a platform like LinkedIn. As students move into high school, they should be considering not only their ability to demonstrate competency to their teacher, but also to colleges, universities, and potential employers. It only seems natural for students to build a cumulative representation of their professional and academic achievements. Others agree. Check this out for more.
If you’re not sold on LinkedIn or are interested in implementing digital portfolios in lower grades, don’t despair. There are plenty of great tools out there to begin cultivating digital portfolios, tools that provide low to no cost options and provide an exceptional experience for young digital learners.
Here are just a few examples of tools we have used in our own practice:
Above all, let’s get students taking a deeper look at what constitutes academic success. For those who are struggling on state tests and classroom assessments, a collection of artifacts can present a more complete picture of a student’s capabilities; and thus provide greater opportunity for future success. For those who are already experiencing success, what a great way to create a more tangible representation of their hard work.