Electronic Portfolios Copyright 1999-2002 Miguel Guhlin

"I heard portfolios," Everette told me as we pulled into the parking lot of the House of Joy, "were on their way out." As I held the door open for Everette, my reply was a simple, "They may be out in traditional forms, but the electronic versions are gaining popularity. Just last week I received an email from a lady interested in electronic portfolios." When a friend of mine applied for a job recently, he told me how he put all his creative works, his web page creations, Hyperstudio stacks and Powerpoint presentations on a CD-ROM. I frequently point to the web pages I work on as an online, electronic portfolio that shows off my skills. Why shouldn't we take a similar approach to showcasing and assessing student work?
Over the past few months, I've received numerous emails about electronic portfolios, probably because I have a page dedicated to electronic portfolios at http://www.mguhlin.net/techserv/workshops/portfolios. I'd like to share some of the answers to the questions that come up regarding electronic portfolios with you. Those questions include:
1) How are electronic portfolios different from traditional portfolios?
Electronic portfolios are concise, annotated collections of student work that reflect educational standards that focus on students' reflections of their own work. They serve as records of learning, growth, and change, as well as provide meaningful documentation of students' abilities. What makes them wonderfully different from traditional portfolios is that they can include scanned or digital photos, video and sound clips, animations, recordings of students, text, traditional writings and drawings. In addition to the usual benefits of student portfolios, such as
  • Allow students to assume ownership and control of their own learning.
  • Motivate students to produce high quality work because it can be easily shared to audiences abroad.
  • Provide both teachers and students with the opportunity for feedback
  • Provide a concrete basis for discussion.
  • Exhibit public, "benchmark" performance,
they also provide the academic community of a school to provide feedback to the student via the teachers' email. No longer do parents have to answer the question, "What's going on at school? What did you do today?" when they have access to their children's work via the web. Combined with other technologies, such as gradebook programs that allow access to children's grades (with password restrictions), parents can stay up to date. And, this isn't a sci-fi future. School districts all over Texas are following the lead of Jourdanton ISD in Jourdanton, Texas which is on the verge of providing access to student grades via the Web. Also, as Harry Tuttle (1997) points out, students can demonstrate effective communication skills with:
  • Digitized video conference clips of a real-life math solution to a problem
  • Multimedia presentations explaining an interdisciplinary local pollution problem
  • Digitized audio clips of a persuasive speech
  • Digitized pictures of a plant growth project
  • Digitized images of a student fax exchange with a scientist
  • A Web page showing how to help save the rain forest through local actions

Other advantages to the file folder portfolios I used with my students at the beginning of my teaching career include:
  • Electronic portfolios are readily accessible to interested parties via the Web.
  • Can store multiple media (i.e. samples of oral reading).
  • Easy to upgrade and organize.
  • Allow cross-referencing of student work via hyperlinks.
There are some disadvantages to electronic portfolios. And, for many school districts, they can appear to be insurmountable obstacles. These include:
  • Staff development for classroom teacher
  • Access to multimedia computer with digital camera and/or flatbed scanner.
  • Internet access in the classroom
  • Web page development skills for the teacher.
  • School district policy for web posting of student products and
  • Teacher access rights to the Campus or District Web Server.
We see that there are different types of portfolios. They include:
a) Developmental Portfolios: A teacher who is interested in documenting a student's improvements in writing or mathematics throughout a school year can have the student keep a developmental portfolio containing samples of the student's work along with self-evaluations of specific assignments. Such a portfolio provides specific documentation which can be used for student evaluations and parent conferences.
b) Teacher Planning Portfolios: Teachers may use an existing portfolio system in order to receive information about an incoming class of students. The teacher may gain a better understanding of the ability levels of his or her students prior to the start of the school year and plan accordingly.
c) Proficiency Portfolios: Portfolios used as a means for determining graduation eligibility. Students are required to complete fourteen portfolios which demonstrate their competence and performance in areas such as science and technology, ethics and social issues, community service, and history.
d) Showcase Portfolios: A showcase portfolio can document a student's best work accomplished during an entire educational career. It can include the research papers, art work, and science experiments which best represent the student's skills and abilities.
e) Employment Skills Portfolios: Businesses across the country are increasingly interested in viewing student portfolios in order to evaluate a prospective employee's work readiness skills. Students in the public schools, for example, are creating employability skills portfolios to demonstrate their skills to prospective employers.
f) College Admission Portfolios: Colleges and universities are using showcase portfolios to determine eligibility for admission. By requiring portfolios from prospective students, college or university admissions officers are better able to assess applicants' potential for success at their institutions
I would like to suggest to you that you follow these steps to putting a portfolio online:
1. Decide on the areas of assessment
2. Select assessment measures.
3. Select portfolio content.
4. Decide who should decide what is included in a portfolio.
5. Decide how the portfolio should be organized.
6. Decide whether to place portfolios on the web.
7. Decide what software program you will use to create/maintain the portfolio.
You can find a variety of sites that provide suggestions for creating portfolios; they include:
Writing the Information Superhighway: Portfolio Information
Collaborative Planning for Electronic Portfolios
Electronic Portfolio Assessment: How do we get there?
and, of course, citing resources is very important. You may want to use this site as guide:
Step 3 above encourages you to select the content of a portfolio.
2) What should be included in an electronic portfolio?
Your students should include in their portfolio, the following:
  • A table of contents
  • Letter to viewer with description of the tasks
  • A photo of yourself, with your name, grade, date (if this is to be published on the web, be sure to protect this information with a password, or, limit the name to first name only and no picture).
  • An example of your best handwriting
  • A sample of your most creative art work
  • A paper that demonstrates your terrific writing ability
  • Information cards
  • Student reflection on the entry
  • Viewer Response card (i.e. you could use a Filemaker Pro/Access online database to keep track of feedback).
You can find some examples of online portfolios at:

3) What do you need to create an electronic portfolio?
You will need a multimedia computer with speakers and a microphone, as well as multi/hypermedia and/or web design software, or portfolio assessment software. You can find examples of teachers using programs like HyperStudio, Powerpoint (my favorite), Kid Works Deluxe, as well as web page creation tools like Claris Home Page and Web Workshop. Some other programs also include databases that allow for hyperlinks and the inclusion of graphics like MS Access or Filemaker Pro. These programs are available in such catalogs as Educational Resources (www.edresources.com) and from vendors like SchoolVision of Texas (www.schoolvision.com).
Other software programs have been designed for portfolio creation. While my preference is to use web design tools to make linking and sharing via the web easier, these programs offer some benefits. Refer to the short list of those programs.
"Yeah," I replied, "Electronic portfolios are the way to go. As we get more technology into classrooms, and provide staff development for teachers." As our lunch of food arrived in The House of Joy Chinese restaurant, we both reflected on the implications for the changing role of teachers.

#1: Electronic Portfolio
Scholastic Inc.
2931 East McCarty St.
Jefferson City, MO 65101
800/541-5513, Fax: 800/223-4011
$249.95; $2,399.50--site license

#2: Grady Portfolio Assessment
Aurbach and Associates
Saint Louis, Missouri, 63132
800/77Grady; Fax: 314/432-7072
$195--single user; $1,500--site license

#3: Learner Profile
Sunburst Communications
101 Casleton St.
Pleasantville, NY 10570
800/321-7511, Fax: 914/747-4109
Macintosh and Windows