HOT TOPIC: Digital Portfolios
Volume 1, Issue 27 - March 27, 2005

"For all the benefits instructional technology brings to the table, none are more transformative than its ability to help us completely revamp our approaches to teaching, learning and assessment. Given a set of new, powerful tools that increase efficiency and allow us to look at how we work in new and different ways, it was only a matter of time until educators began conceptualizing entirely new approaches to the job. Such is the case with digital portfolios. Twenty years ago it was the meticulous work of avant garde early childhood advocates, whole language proponents and special education teachers who were madly filling file folders of student work samples while making time to critique and assess them for student progress. It was messy, cumbersome, time-consuming work, and the mainstream of education wasn’t volunteering for duty.

Give educators a more effective way of collecting those student work samples, though, and they immediately begin to consider the possibilities. Suddenly student portfolios not only seem like a laudable idea, they seem like a manageable idea. Saved files from standard applications, digital pictures and video, scanned images, and quickly auto-calculating rubrics embedded in spreadsheets make the job a pleasure. Add all this to the fact that the portfolio takes up no actual physical space and can be easily transported as students advance throughout their academic careers and you have a revolutionary way to document and assess student learning.

Digital portfolios do not just tell us that a student has met the standard; they show us how the student met the standard. It allows us to analyze strengths and weaknesses, and determine next steps. Moreover, digital portfolios allow students to express themselves in ways that traditional record-keeping does not. Students can help put the work into context - and can use the portfolio to tell their own stories of their progress and their achievements.

In this edition of the Digital Dozen I use the twelve recommendations to offer you a baker’s dozen of online examples of digital portfolios, from elementary through high school and even for professional educators to showcase their accomplishments. In breaking the format to offer this collection of links, I hope you will find extra value in considering this topic for yourself, your staff and your students....."

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©2005 Walter McKenzie

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