A portfolio system is an authentic method for evaluating K-12 student outcomes. Many teachers have their students develop hard-copy portfolios that may include projects, exams and other artifacts from the units or lessons they are learning about.
But this system is becoming obsolete as schools and businesses move from paper documentation and reporting to electronic equivalents. Not only do e-portfolios help the environment, but they also give students practice using digital documentation and organizational tools and systems as they get ready to enter college or their careers.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering e-portfolios for your students.
Evaluate the pros and cons
E-portfolios are great for:
- Keeping student work organized and accessible by learning standard, lesson focus or lesson outcomes.
- Aligning learning outcomes with standards.
- Allowing student reflection, which builds deeper understanding related to the learning outcomes.
- Letting students easily share their portfolios via web links with teachers, parents, colleges and employers.
Before you make the leap to this technology, consider its drawbacks:
- Possible procedural problems with implementation.
- Limited access to or reliability of the technology.
- Extra time and effort to create and maintain e-portfolios.
- Extra time and effort to grade portfolios and maintain digital artifacts.
Choose your tool
Before implementing a web-based portfolio system, determine the components you want the tool to house, such as grade-level requirements and technology needs, such as the number of pictures, videos and documents required.
Next, create guidelines and/or rubrics that describe the portfolio process and how it will be evaluated. Train students how to use the tool ahead of time so they know how to organize samples of their work correctly.
Here are five free, web-based e-portfolio tools that we think work well for K-12 students:
- Digication is free with a subscription through Google Apps for Education. It is easy to use, has customizable templates and supports the creative display of artifacts, such as presentations, photo galleries and reports, with color options, fonts and formats, videos or pictures, and linked documents. Digication offers 200 MB of storage.
- Epsilen offers a standard e-portfolio template for life at no cost. With storage up to 72 MB, students can incorporate calendars, wikis, blogs, notes, drop boxes and other interactive tools. A tech-savvy student can finish training and start using Epsilen's e-portfolio in as little as 20 minutes, but this may take longer for those who are less technologically advanced. The company offers face-to-face training, self-paced tutorials and follow-up training for a fee.
- Googlio is a good option for students who already have Google and gmail accounts. Google provides step-by-step instructions and offers ready-made templates. This tool is easy to use and supports creative presentation of artifacts, so students can easily share their e-portfolios.
- Prezi is similar to an interactive whiteboard that allows students to zoom in and out of the projects they work on. This allows viewers to see how an e-portfolio's content connects. Similar to PowerPoint, Prezi allows students to create a path that the document follows in a pattern when viewed. The tool may take a less tech-savvy student a bit longer to master, but it offers an impressive 500 MB of storage.
- WordPress uses a blog format that includes a commenting feature. While creating an e-portfolio, students could also learn how to use a blog with this tool. WordPress offers a 10-step tutorial, examples, templates and 200 MB of storage.