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10 Reasons Why You Should Implement Digital Student Portfolios

Portfolios pass the test for this principal/father

by Matt Renwick

This article was originally published on ASCD Inservice.

As both a father and a building principal, education is a personal endeavor as well as a professional one. My two children have always attended the school in which I have served as a leader. So for me to recommend anything to teachers and leaders, it has to pass muster as a dad as well as an educator.

student with tabletOne of the few technology initiatives I do promote is digital student portfolios. They are defined as online collections of learning artifacts intentionally curated to showcase a student’s accomplishments and growth over time. With the availability and ease of use of digital tools today, there is little reason why students should not be able to experience this authentic process of assessment. Here are ten reasons why every student should have a digital portfolio.

1. Celebrate all students as learners

By opening up the possibilities for how success in schools is documented, all students can be celebrated for their efforts. Standardized tests are not the answer; they are designed to ensure that some students are not deemed proficient. As educators, we have to find more (and better) ways to assess learning in a way that makes students want to learn more. Digital portfolios capture each student as an individual, embracing their personalities and uniqueness that scores and grades cannot.

2. Improve home-school communication

Families are busy. They don’t always have time to get into the school to observe their children’s learning. By integrating teacher and student on computerdigital portfolios into the classroom, teachers provide a window into a student’s world with regard to their best work and growth over time. In my last school that had a higher level of poverty, we witnessed several families become engaged in the school experience through their child’s digital portfolio. Using FreshGrade (www.freshgrade.com), students and teachers posted video, audio, images, and text that showed up on a parent’s smartphone or tablet through an app. This assessment work paved the way toward better relationships with parents who might not typically show up for a special event at school.

3. Facilitate better feedback

When student work is housed in an online space for others to see, the importance for the learning naturally increases. Parents, peers, and even the world can be a potential audience. And when there is an authentic audience, there is the opportunity for feedback. For example, Margaret Simon, a gifted and talented teacher in Louisiana, works in several buildings in her district. She has each of her students regularly post their learning using Kidblog (www.kidblog.org). This tool allows peers to comment on each other’s work in safe space. For Margaret, she can now recruit many individuals to be critical friends for her students, instead of facilitating feedback all by herself.

4. Highlight the process of learning

student drawingExcellent work does not come out of thin air. In writing my book on digital portfolios, I had to go through many drafts and revisions before it was ready to publish. Students can better understand this process by publishing not only their best work but also their prior attempts and efforts. For instance, an English teacher can expect their students to keep a digital portfolio of their writing using Google Sites (https://sites.google.com). Instead of only publishing the end product, such as a piece of original fiction they wrote, they can ask students to include initial drafts and re