ePortfolio Presentation and Discussion

What is an ePortfolio / Digital Portfolio?

Eportfolios enable students to create online drafts of their work, engage in a "formative evaluation" process, and submit the final work as evidence of their learning and skill for later personal, teacher, and school-wide purposes.  Paradigms and processes are particular to the purpose picked (no, I won't say that aloud!):
  • personal portfolios, which each student maintains;
  • project portfolios, which we're focusing on this year at Danville;
  • class portfolios, which track a number of projects; and grade- or school-wide, which indicate program effectiveness at meeting standards.
The "sub-pages" to this one will showcase work by Danville teachers that explores this model. 

3 Portfolio Pieces

Any major project will have various stages of work that can be submitted as part of a digital portfolio.  For example,  a research project might include resource list (web links),  a thesis statement, and an outline, all of which get "teacher sign-off" before the first draft of the paper (or website) is submitted for initial evaluation.

At a minimum, however, each portfolio submission has three "digital artifacts" (which I'll call the "Portfolio Artifact Triad"):
  1. The digital work product (submitted by the student)
  2. A rubric against which the work will be evaluated (by the student or peers first perhaps, then by the teacher). This could be a link to the teacher-supplied rubric, or it
  3. A comment exchange about the work product and rubric (perhaps starting as peer review, then teacher & student)
Dr. Helen Barrett has a clear way of describing these differences:
  1. ePortfolio as Digital Storage
  2. ePortfolio as Reflective Journal/Blog
  3. ePortfolio as Assessment/Showcase
There are many ways to organize portfolio triads, depending on the kind of work submitted and level of student access to netbooks and/or home  Internet.  
  • Digital Work: Ideally, all student work is submitted as a  web page, document or file uploaded within Google. Sometimes the work is done on another system (like a Prezi, a Wiki or a Blog) and can be submitted as a link with a screenshot.  All computers have the ability to take screenshots (Windows systems have a "PrintScreen" button that copies the screen to the clipboard).
  • Submission Comments: Comments (whether presentation or evaluation) do not need to be separate from the submitted work product.  Is it a photo or image? Picasa combines comments and images in easy-to-organize folders.  Is it a web page? Google Sites allow commenting below pages.  Is it a Google Doc? Comments are enabled in margins.
  • Subscribing to Comments: If you post or comment on a Picasa image from your Google account, you get emails when it is updated. Similarly, you can subscribe to Google web page changes and to comments in Google documents (see also this).  
  • Subscribing to RSS Feeds (advanced): If your comments are part of an RSS Feed on another site, you can use Feedburner to create an email subscription when changes are made or new posts are added.

3 Portfolio Procedures

Ideally, teachers (and students) can subscribe to comments via email, so that feedback can be on a "rolling" basis, rather than the weekend-destroying "everyone submit their work on Friday and by Monday you'll all receive comments!")
  1. Digital Drafts: A student's initial submission of a digital artifact to a project portfolio should not be "for a grade" (summative evaluation) but rather for feedback (formative evaluation).  Google Docs, Picasa Photos, and Web Pages each have their own "commenting" systems for indicating changes without altering the submitted artifact.
  2. Peer Review: To make a teacher's life easier (and spread out and deepen the learning), it is ideal of students can be trained to serve as peer evaluators of each others' work.  This does add "lesson overhead" for the first teacher to bring this to the culture of the classroom, but once students know the difference between "constructive" and "critical" feedback, it is easier and easier to initiate peer review at earlier grade levels.
  3. Teacher Review: Given the number of students and the depth of engagement required for a portfolio review, faculty are encouraged to adopt a policy of limiting formative evaluation to "one iteration": e.g. students submit their artifact triad (digital work, self-evaluation against the teacher-supplied rubric, presentation comments), teacher provides comment feedback, and student makes change for final submission for a grade.

Submitting to the Matrix

Depending upon the evaluator (self, teacher, administrator) and performance focus (student, teacher, program), portfolios can be organized in different ways:
  • Individual Portfolios: visit the student's web page to find their portfolio triads
  • Project Portfolios: the teacher creates a project web page or spreadsheet to access the triads
  • Class Portfolios: link each Project Portfolio to the Powerschool Gradebook (there's a place to add links in each assignment)
  • Program Review Portfolios:  Focus on Technology, Writing, or other cross-curricular standards (maybe in a year or two).
Each of these forms of organization implies a matrix (e.g. a spreadsheet) that organizes the work, providing a "view" of the triads by student, project, or grade.  An individual student matrix would have the title of each project in the left column, and the triad elements in the right columns. With a web page, the link text and the links can be different:

Joe Student's Career Class Matrix (links are not real)

 Project    Doc, File or Link
 My Rubric  Comments  Completed
Career Blog Post       Blog Post Rubric  On Post
Career Web Page
 Web Link     Rubric  Under Page
Career Research Paper
 Google Doc    
Rubric  In Margins

Using a Spreadsheet, the links are the same as the link text, creating something uglier, but making background colors easier:

Sample Spreadsheet

For a class project matrix (all students within a class), this would have student names in the left column and each of the triad elements in subsequent columns (less, if the comments are an integrated part of the digital work, or more, if tracking initial stages before the final assignment).    Looking only at the one-iteration approach, there is a spreadsheet (like PowerSchool) with students at left, and assignments at right - either one column for each triadic artifact, or (if using Portfolio software), the ability to put all three elements in a single column.

In the Hawaiian example below, each column contains a link to a submitted Google Document and a color indication whether it is pending teacher review, the review has been completed the student should do a revision, or the cycle is complete and the work is locked from further review.  There are no links to rubrics or comments:

Cambridge Class Portfolio

Adding other columns for the rubric and the feedback would complete the model.   Below is a made-up example, where the Word icon indicates the digital work, the Excel icon indicates the rubric spreadsheet, and the Outlook icon indicates the comment exchange. In this color code, white = no rubric submitted, red = work submitted awaiting initial teacher evaluation, yellow = formative evaluation process underway, and green = summative evaluation complete (locked from further changes).

Sample Matrix

Another approach (and reason for adopting a school-wide or district-wide solution) to digital portfolios happens at the level where teachers and administrators can track student work across classes and grades - the program matrix.  Google Sites can accommodate these with "List Template" pages, and here is a screenshot from a great example, Google Tools for Vermont Schools, at https://sites.google.com/site/gtfssummer/final-projects:

For a more graphical matrix display using Sakai, Virginia Tech has a simple explanation and clickable example of a  Program Portfolio Matrix based on learning standards met in the component courses of a degree program (click to enlarge):

Virginia Tech Portfolio Example

It's easy to see how Sakai, a program designed to make these, would be easier than creating our own!

This year, we're looking (at the CCSU Level) at different portfolio models, including HaikuLMS and perhaps Mahara.  The default "make our own" Google Apps model is hardest, because there aren't "pre-built" tools to help us. However, by building the pieces we need as we go, we can each master the bits appropriate to our classes, without having to grapple with big new systems.

Once we do choose to move forward with ePortfolios, however, we'll need to buy something. There are a few open source systems, like Mahara or Sakai, that automate the work submission, comment subscription, and Matrix creation process (here's how Sakai does it) - but these require hosting and significant local or paid support. Here are some factors to consider in picking one.

The ideal system for Danville would work within Google Apps (so we don't have to learn new environments and can make use of permissions and existing users), would not cost a lot of money, and would support both project sites and portfolio matrices.  Haiku LMS (see also this) looks like a great bet at this point (at $4/student), and we're doing some pilots this year.  It's the path adopted by Bennington (superintendency of Vermont's visionary Dan French). Hapara looks even better and is being used at U32 north of Montpelier. Other portfolio software that are not integrated with Google include Mahara and ePearl, which looks particularly promising.

More About Digital Portfolios

Different solutions organize portfolios in different ways.  Depending on your project and your students, different ones might be better choices. 
Here is Dr. Helen Barret's Slideshow on ePortfolos: