How Digital Portfolios Empower Students
Today’s students are immersed in digital living. They are accustomed to posting, searching, and interacting online for fun and as a way of exploring the world around them. They are eager to seek out what they don’t know, read blogs on a variety of topics, and make videos to share their experiences—all skills we want students to use and practice in our classrooms. But how do we refine and shape these skills for appropriate and practical use in a learning environment?
Answer: Digital portfolios.
Digital portfolios allow teachers and students to connect and interact in a more deliberate and purposeful way than ever before. Read on to see how digital portfolios enhance learning and empower students to take a more active role in their own learning.
Opportunities for Sharing and Collaboration are Limitless
The digital age we live in has redefined the way we share and collaborate. We are no longer limited to the physical space of our classrooms to share and display student work or bound by class time for students to collaborate.
The possibilities for sharing and collaboration among students using digital portfolios as a platform are numerous. For example, you could snap a picture of a plot diagram created by a student in your third period and quickly display it on the smartboard for the class to discuss. Then you could also share that same snapshot with your other classes as an example with discussion items attached. This would enable students from different class periods to engage and study with one another, even though they are not present with one another in the same classroom.
Students are then able to access, share, and organize all the materials uploaded to their digital portfolios for your course. This aspect of the digital portfolio provides each student with the opportunity to practice online collaboration with their peers, which is fast becoming an essential skill in most careers.
Immediate Assessment Keeps Students Invested in Their Own Learning
The digital world we live in has conditioned students to expect immediacy in most of what they do, and school is certainly no exception. When students work on in-class assignments captured in their digital portfolios, you are able to assess their work in real-time. This means you could assess the student’s progress and provide encouragement or guidance while the work is happening. Remediation and enrichment are more effective and are met with more attention from the student when they occur during the learning process and not after the fact.
Self-assessment and reflection are two other important components of the learning process. The digital portfolio keeps the connection between the teacher and student current. The teacher can intervene when necessary, and the student can reach out for assistance as needed. This connection allows for the desired outcome of the assignments to be met more often because students are able to be active participants in monitoring, assessing, and reflecting on their own progress. Before a final grade is recorded, all stakeholders—students, teachers, and parents—would have multiple opportunities to assess and reflect on what took place during the learning process.
Digital Dialogue and Narrative Feedback Build Trust
Digital dialogue between the teacher and student helps to establish and build a safe and trusting relationship. There just isn’t enough time to conference face-to-face with each student in the course of a class period, and frankly, the one-on-one, face-to-face conversation with the teacher is downright intimidating to some students. When you comment on student work in a digital portfolio, your comments are time-stamped and recorded. This allows students to reflect on your comments, make any necessary changes, and resubmit or ask for help in a timely manner.
Narrative feedback is also more readily accepted and valued when teachers, students, and parents have become invested in the back and forth dialogue that has occurred throughout the learning process. Unlike traditional stand-alone grades, consistent narrative feedback provides insight on how the student performed based on specific criteria and standards. It also equips the student with an understanding of what they did well and how to improve on what they didn’t master.
Ongoing Conversations and Moving Forward
Digital portfolios have the potential to keep the lines of communication between students and teachers open for years to come. The Backpack of Success Skills Initiative, in Jefferson Kentucky, is an extraordinary example of how digital portfolios are being used to encourage students to evaluate and select evidence from their portfolios throughout the school year to act as evidence of their learning. This evidence is stored in a digital “backpack” that will follow them into the next school year. Students are not alone in this process. They dialogue with their teachers to select specific evidence to include in their digital backpacks. These ongoing portfolios allow students to track their growth and show what they know.
How do you use digital portfolios in your school? Let us know on Twitter @Schoology