The most basic level of creating an electronic portfolio is the collection of work in a digital archive, stored on a server, whether locally or on the Internet. At this basic level, the teacher or the student stores the artifacts in folders on a server.
The basic organization of the digital archive is based on files in folders on a server. At this level, teachers choose one curriculum area to store student work samples (for example, writing samples in Language Arts).
The basic activity at this level is converting student work into digital formats and saving these documents in the designated storage space (not on individual laptops). The role of the teacher at this level is to provide students with guidance on the types of artifacts to save.
Why do you need to develop an online digital archive of your work?
Don't Trust Flash Drives! (or even your computer's hard drive!)
The first stage of the portfolio development process is COLLECTION, or creating a digital archive of documents to eventually become part of your online portfolio. There are a variety of strategies for storing documents online (with free storage limits), from GoogleDocs (1 GB*), to Microsoft Live Skydrive (25GB), to DivShare (5 GB). Most people store video in one of the popular video services such as YouTube, Vimeo, and blip.tv.
*Note: Documents converted into GoogleDocs format (i.e., Word->Documents, Powerpoint->Presentations, Excel->Spreadsheets) are not included in the storage limits, but PDFs and video files are part of the storage limit. Additional storage can be added to a "public" Google account for $5/year to add 20 GB to all Google services including Picasa (images and video). GoogleApps account have higher free storage limits.
Two popular tools are Box.net (5 GB) and DropBox (2 GB) which requires downloading software on any desktop/laptop computer and any mobile device (iOS and Android). The power of DropBox is that it automatically updates all files in each desktop/laptop device when connected to the Internet... an easy way to share files between a desktop and laptop computer, work and home, etc., and accessed/updated anywhere with mobile devices.
To effectively use these tools to store artifacts for electronic portfolios, each document needs to have a URL that can be used to hyperlink to the document. Some tools allow this hyperlinking feature better than others. GoogleDocs provides a link for sharing each document that is made public, and embed codes are available for presentations; SkyDrive files can be linked, but videos cannot be embedded; DropBox files in the Public Folder have a URL for linking; DivShare files have both links and embed codes. There are other services available... these are just the tools that are the most popular.
What's the difference between an embed code and a hyperlink?
An embed code places the document into the web page that is being viewed; a hyperlink sends the reader to another web page. Let's use an example of a YouTube video: you can embed the video on a portfolio page, or you can link out to the video source page... it depends on your preference. Most people like to keep the reader on their web pages while viewing the video. Here is a page on my Weebly portfolio where I have embedded two videos and provided links to others. NOTE: videos can be stored in GoogleDocs, but can only be linked, not embedded (at this time)... use YouTube, Vimeo or Blip.tv if you want to embed video clips.
What about hard drive backup services?
There are several popular services that allow you to back up your hard drive to "the cloud": Mozy, Carbonite and Backblaze. For a fee (around $50-$60 a year) the software automatically backs up all of the files on a single computer. These services provide good peace-of-mind, and individual documents might be addressable by URL, but these services may not be appropriate to maintain a digital archive for electronic portfolios. There are free services that will work as well for this purpose.
Assignment: Pick a service that you can use to collect your documents, one that provides a URL for each document so that it can be linked to the electronic portfolio. Upload files that you may want to use in your portfolio.
A note about file formats to use in electronic portfolios:
You don't want your readers to have special software to read the documents in your portfolio. It is recommended that you convert your documents into universal formats that can be read with a web browser, such as HTML or PDF. Most computers have Acrobat Reader or are able to read PDF files in the browser. GoogleDocs provides its own PDF reader.