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Wednesday 19 August 2015

Creating Educational E-Portfolios

Hey Everyone!  It's my day to post for the We Teach SPED group and so I thought I would share some info about creating and using digital portfolios in your classroom.

Digital Portfolios:  What are they?

For decades, students have been completing assignments in school. Often, these were seen only by the teacher, graded and returned to the student. Sometimes, the work was posted on a classroom wall or in a school hallway. Many teachers kept portfolios of student work for report card conferences, and the rare teacher taught students how to build their own portfolios from their work.
With more and more schools going paperless or migrating to the "cloud" (storing files on the Internet), student work has become more easily shareable, accessible by many, and more easily organized. Many teachers have turned to digital portfolios -- or "e-portfolios" -- for their students. These digital portfolios have caused a huge shift in how teachers assign, collect and assess student classwork and projects.

In its basic definition, an educational e-portfolio is a digital collection of student work that evidences mastery of a set of skills, applied knowledge, and behaviours.  According to Teacher vision, portfolios can be divided into two groups :
"Process oriented

Process oriented portfolios tell a story about the growth of a learner. They document the processes of learning and creating, including earlier drafts, reflections on the process, and obstacles encountered along the way. They may be organized into skill areas or themes, yet each contains a student's work from the beginning, middle, and end of a learning unit. For example, there may be three drafts of a short story: a preliminary draft, a reworked draft reflecting teacher and peer feedback, and a final draft. The student can comment on the ways one is better than the other. In this manner, the artifacts can be compared providing evidence about how the student's skills have improved. In any number of ways, in writing or perhaps during a parent-teacher conference, the student would reflect on the learning process: identifying how skills have changed, celebrating accomplishments, and establishing present and future challenges.

Product oriented
Product oriented portfolios are collections of work a student considers his or her best. The aim is to document and reflect on the quality and range of accomplishments rather than the process that produced them. It generally requires a student to collect all of her work until the end, at which time she must choose artifacts that represent work of the highest quality."

Using E-Portfolios in the SPED Classroom

Documenting learning, growth and achievement can be tricky with students with special needs.  Especially if they have limited abilities in verbal communication and writing.  Showing parents the end products of some of our students' work can be misleading, especially if they don't what level of prompting was used when completing the task.  And for most of the skills that our students learn, it is impossible to demonstrate growth through traditional portfolio products.  

But, I love using e-portfoilios with my students!  By creating digital documentation of learning through pictures and videos, I can share with parents the learning process and growth that their children are making throughout the year.  I can also demonstrate the teaching procedures and strategies that we use in the classroom through video clips, so that parents can be consistent when working on these skills at home.  Parents love being able to see the pictures and videos and being able to access them whenever they have time.

Five Tools for Creating e-Portfolios

Google Sites ( http://sites.google.com ) is a good platform on which students and teachers that have Google Apps for Education accounts can build digital portfolios. Page-level permissions in Google Sites allows the creator of a site to share and give editing access to specific pages within a site rather than giving access to edit the entire site. To use page-level permissions open your Google Site editor then click "enable page-level permissions." With page-level permissions activated you can share and allow editing for each page individually. A video tutorial on using page-level permissions can be found at http://bitly.com/FTPLP15 A 47 page guide to Google Sites can be seen here http://bitly.com/ftgsites.

Weebly ( http://weebly.com ) can be a great digital portfolio platform for your students. Weebly makes it easy to create websites that look great and are easy to navigate. Weebly users can select from a superb collection of site templates and themes. The Weebly mobile apps allow users to edit and add content on the go. Weebly for Education (http://education.weebly.com/) includes all of the intuitive website-building and blogging tools found on Weebly plus features built specifically for education. Weebly for Education offers bulk creation of student accounts which teachers can manage and moderate. Students can create their own websites and blogs using the accounts that you create for them.

Seesaw ( http://web.seesaw.me/ ) is a free service designed for creating digital portfolios on iPads, Android tablets, and Chromebooks. Students can add artifacts to their portfolios by taking pictures of their work (in the case of a worksheet or other physical item), by writing about what they've learned, or by shooting a short video to record something they have learned. Students can add voice comments to their pictures to clarify what their pictures document. To get started with Seesaw create a free classroom account. Students join the classroom by scanning a QR code (you will have to print it or project it) that grants them access to your Seesaw classroom. As the teacher you can see and sort all of your students' Seesaw submissions. Seesaw allows parents to create
accounts through which they can see the work of their children. As a teacher you can send notifications to parents when their children make a new Seesaw submission. Visit
http://bitly.com/ftseesaw to watch a series of tutorials about Seesaw.

Dropr ( http://dropr.com ) is a free service for creating portfolios of your images, videos, and audio files. Within your Dropr account you can have multiple portfolio pages. If you
wanted to have a page for images that you took in the fall and a page for images that you took in the spring, you can do that in Dropr. To create a Dropr portfolio start by signing up with a social media profile or with your email address. Then start your first project by uploading a cover image. Once you have started a project you can drag and drop media from your desktop to the Dropr website. Each project can include text in addition to the media that you upload to it. Each of your projects will have a different URL. You can work on your projects in private until you are ready to share them with the world. Your Dropr projects can be embedded into a blog as a slideshow.

Clipix ( http://clipix.com ) will initially remind you of Pinterest in that you can "clip" images, videos, and links to save on digital clipboards. Clipix also supports uploading files from your computer to your Clipix clipboards. Each of the clipboards that you create in your Clipix account can be kept private or made public. There is also a privately shared option that can be used for collaborating on clipboard creation. Clipix's basic functions are very similar to other services in the same market. The user interface on Clipix feels less cluttered to me than that of some of its competitors. The option to customize your clipboard background is a nice touch too. Clipix offers Android and iOS apps that will synchronize with your online Clipix account.

Defining Your Needs

I personally use Google Sites for my e-portfolios, as we are a Google Education board.  However, with so many options for collecting and sharing student work, it's hard to know which method or tool to use. 
Here are some guiding questions to consider before you commit to a tool or platform:
  • Can student work be made public or is it private?
  • Is student work easily organized by date, course or some other category?
  • Are the portfolios transferable from year to year as students move through the school?
  • Can teachers export it when students leave the school?
  • Does the platform allow for multiple file types (documents, pictures, sound files, video files)?
  • What are the costs for using the tool or platform?
  • Can a teacher create a teacher account and student accounts? 
  • Can the tool be integrated into an existing SMS or other school-wide database and/or grade book?
Do you use e-portfolios in your classroom?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on them!  And don't forget to go to the We Teach SPED Facebook page for more informative posts coming up this month!

Until next time,


  1. Hi ,

    I happened to chance upon your blog and found it very interesting!

    We have recently launched a science app that uses augmented reality to enhance classroom teaching. The app has 3D models for kindergarten to grade 12. I thought you might want to check it out and may be review it on your blog, if possible.

    It is a paid app(with a few models free) but in case you are interested in trying it out I will be happy to provide you with a free copy.

    The link to the app is: 



    You can also search for the app on the app store as 'Augmenter'.

    Do let me know if you would be interested. I am really Looking forward to your response.

    happy teaching!


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