Why are Digital Portfolios Powerful in A Classroom?

February 24, 2021

Tisha Poncio describes the various benefits of digital portfolios in teaching and learning 

Why are Digital Portfolios Powerful in A Classroom?

As an undergrad student at a small university in the Texas Panhandle, USA in the late ’90s, part of my final course was to create a tangible portfolio that curated all work accomplished in my previous courses to become a teacher. Looking back, I am incredibly thankful to my professors and university for being so forward-thinking. In my second job interview after graduation, I was hired on the spot and I attribute that to the leather-bound portfolio with the plastic-covered pages I included not only showing what I learned but also how I applied the learning in classrooms with students. 

Fast forward 22 years later with the advances in technology and I now advocate for every educator, principal, and school to implement digital portfolios with their students no matter their age. It was because of my experience creating my own portfolio that I realized the power of a portfolio.

The students I work with now are Gen Z and have been highly influenced by the evolution of social media. Ironically, students consuming and creating on social media platforms do not recognize what they are doing as a digital portfolio of sorts. As a self-proclaimed ambassador of digital citizenship and digital literacy, I encourage educators around me to take time to teach and implement the idea of digital curation and portfolios with their learners. Digital portfolios could be implemented in any grade level showcasing any content as the focal point. Some of my students have created their own curations showcasing talents or areas of improvement. 

Student Digital Portfolios

Here are 5 powerful benefits: : 

Learner Agency and Ownership

When we create experiences for learners to choose the proper tool to solve problems, we are empowering them to be owners of their own learning and giving them safe opportunities to explore the why behind the learning. As students begin creating their portfolios, they will begin to realize that their portfolios are not exactly the same in content or design as their peers and creates confidence to use and share their unique voices and experiences.

Reflection

The most important part of the learning process, in my opinion, is reflection. Without giving learners the opportunity to reflect on the learning or their implementation, we miss a critical opportunity to make the learning stick. Personally, I use the design thinking process with my students and we discuss digital portfolios as a solution to the problem: “how can we show our learning?” Sometimes we start with reflection, first!  In addition, when students are given time to intentionally reflect on their creations or implementation, they are more likely to continue building on top of their learning as they move forward. 

Curation

As previously stated, students are unaware that they are curating content when they post photos, stories, or videos on a given platform. The truth is many of the learners that sit in our classrooms are using social media and have a better grasp of how it works than most of their parents or educators. If we allow them opportunities to curate their work, writings, designs, video reflections or language practice,  if we show them how to put all the artifacts together to showcase for parents or their community, if we teach them why it’s important to do this we are preparing them to use tech for good instead of just consumption. 

Collaboration

One of the best ways to introduce peer editing into your classroom is to have students work together reviewing their digital portfolios. If students are unsure if an artifact fits or should be added, this is a great opportunity to teach meaningful peer feedback. There are many strategies to teach them how to give peer feedback. The beauty of this part of the process is it creates a classroom culture of trust among learners and teaches them one of the most important soft skills they will utilize in their lifetime. 

Real-World Application

As we know the best learning happens with the expectation that we will use the knowledge in a real-world setting. Digital portfolios afford both educators and students the opportunity to curate their niche, their talents, their expertise, and even their growth for a real-world and sometimes global audience. Portfolios also teach students authentic online presence and allow them the ability to practice applying online skills they have learned either in a learning environment or on their personal device. I often explain the why behind a digital portfolio like this: “A resume is a promise of what we can do, but the digital portfolio is the solid proof.” Most 16+ year olds begin applying for first jobs and it is typically a requirement to add in a resume or a CV (Curriculum Vitae) when doing so. Several of my students list their digital portfolio links on their document in case additional questions come up in the interview. The great thing about a digital portfolio is it becomes a living document that evolves with the creator. 

Interested in using portfolios with your students or teachers? Unsure of what applications might be appropriate for your learners? My students created their portfolios using Wakelet and have their examples here as well as their student-led podcast where they explain how portfolios are helping and empowering them. 

Contact me I will gladly share some educational tools that might best fit your learners and situation! 

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