Giving Student Choice with Digital Portfolios

My grade one students each have their own blogs that are digital portfolios of their progress from the first week of school until the last one. On those blogs, they post writing, images, video and other artifacts that show what they have been learning. I’ve written (there is an entire chapter in my book) and talked before about digital portfolios, why we use them and how I use them for assessment.

Recently, someone asked me about how I provide for choice in our portfolios. What a great question! Choice should an important part of digital portfolios, and I give my students as much choice as I can as soon as I can.

At the beginning of the school year, as we are learning what it means to show our learning and possible ways to do this, there are fewer choices for the students, but as the year progresses and they become more independent, I turn the choice over to them more and more often.

There are four kinds of posts on my students’ blogs:

  1.  Screen Shot of Zak's VisualizingWe all post a similar artifact. Sometimes when we’ve done something together that I think belongs on their digital record, I do ask them to all post it to their blog. For example, we were recently working on the reading skill of visualizing. I wanted a sample of this to appear on their blogs. Since the students all had several images, and I wanted them to learn how to use the Pic Collage app that I had added to their iPads, I showed them how to use it and asked them to use it to post their images on their blogs.
  2. I choose the outcome but my students choose the tool. That is, I ask them to post about a particular outcome(s), but I give them the choice as to how they show what they know about that outcome. They can choose a digital tool or markers and paper; the choice is theirs. If they choose a non-digital means, they know they will need to make a video or take a picture so that their work can be posted on their blog. Recently, we finished a unit of work about the First Nations people of Saskatchewan, so each of the students got to choose how they would like to show what they had learned. Making a poster with paper and markers was by far the most popular choice, and then those students made a video to explain what they had drawn. Other students chose to take pictures of some artifacts we had in our classroom and then to use the Draw and Tell app to record their voice with individual pictures. Those short videos were then put together using iMovie and posted on their blogs.
  3. 3. The students have a choice about whether or not to post a learning artifact. Often, when we have done something that I think many of them have done well, I will say, “if you would like to post this on your blog, now is a good time to do it”. Some students do and others choose not to.This was the case lately with several pieces of artwork that were completed. The students who wanted to post their artwork simply took a picture of it with their iPad and posted it straight to their blog using the Edublogs app we all use for posting.
  4. The students choose the learning and the tool. As the students become more confident, they begin to ask if they can post things on their blog–things that may not have anything to do with the outcomes that we are studying in school, but are important to them. These might include something they made out of Lego, or a picture they drew or a video they made of falling dominos during an indoor recess. I always say yes because it is, after all, their portfolio.

Learning how to make choices, how to demonstrate your learning and how to choose the best tool to effectively do that are important skills for anyone to learn, and I want the children in my classroom to begin to learn how to do that early in their school career.

27 thoughts on “Giving Student Choice with Digital Portfolios

  1. Love this Kathy. Using Evernote for my record keeping but I certainly can have kids add to the KidBlog site as well. Great idea to have them take ownership of their work by posting it.

    1. Thanks, Wanda.
      I find their blog portfolios to be a great form of formative assessment as well. Evernote has not worked well for me, but I know many people love it.

  2. Great post Kathy! Love all the options the kids use. Choice is so vital to student learning. Do their blogs continue to live on once they leave your class? Does their portfolio follow them?

  3. I’ve been thinking a lot lately between my students portfolios and yours and there are a couple of differences. Kidblog doesn’t have a category option so my students are not able to categorize their posts. I could fix that by having them tag their posts. But I also find my students post more artifacts to their blogs. Not everyone, and not everyday but many post with much more frequency than yours. Part if it could be because I am part of an inquiry project which is focussing on making thinking visible, so they are often adding voice to their work (digital and non digital). Another part could be that they just like posting more stuff. What I struggle with though is there a line where they have posted too much on their blogs? I think about having them tag posts with artifacts that they are most proud of with a “proud” to better sort them from their other work. I’m not sure though and it is something I think about more often now that it is so easy for them to post to their blogs through the kidblog app.

    1. It’s a good question, Karen. How often should they be posting? I guess the answer depends on why you are posting. The reasons that your students are posting often are good ones.
      I do like the categories you mentioned because it gives me the ability to quickly find a post. Tags could do the same (as long as our six year olds spelled them correctly:-).

      1. I am super excited to learn that DOES have categories available and it’s super easy to do. I’m now trying to categorize all 2000+ blog posts my students have created this year. Wish me luck! 🙂 Thanks for being the inspiration behind this too.

        1. You are a brave lady to tackle that. When I thought of using categories a few weeks ago, I tried it on one blog and then decided to wait until next year to implement it on all of the student’s blogs.
          Good luck!

  4. Kathy,
    This is a fantastic reflection on the importance of demonstrating growth in learning. Who knew that grade one’s could blog? Certainly in our school division which is GAFE and an edublogs Campus, we are starting to see a lot more blogging. The way we are now talking is that the students GDrive is their portfolio of ALL their work – the good, the bad, the ugly. And the students’ edublog is their showcase portfolio. From K-3 teachers are modeling blogging via a class blog. Students’ work can still be posted there, but this is where students get to know about how blogging works, what a good comment or post is, etc. From grade 4 – 12 students still have access to a class blog but are also introduced to their own individual blog. Criteria for posting revolves around reflective writing about learning artifacts on
    – why have I chosen this (video, image, essay, etc.) for my blog?
    – what learning is it demonstrating (knowledge, skills)?
    – what criteria does it best meet?
    – what criteria could I improve upon?
    We also have some suggested benchmarks for class and student blogs and these are starting to be shared in the last month and will continue to share over the upcoming school year. (This allows both teachers and students to see the possibilities and where they are at in the process.)

    And, thanks to you, I have just loaded the Edublogs app on my iPad and will be sharing this with our Learning Coaches this Fall. What an easy solution! (I have been posting to WordPress like this for awhile, but never thought to look for Edublogs.)

    1. Great to see your thinking on this, Nicole! Your district/school is obviously dedicated to digital citizenship and is taking the time to think through the big picture. So great to see!
      As you can tell, I DO think that grade ones can blog, though!

  5. I love all the ways you put together different assessments for digital portfolios. If you are a one IPAD classroom, how would this be different? – I cannot visualize how this could be facilitated smoothly. Any advice would be most appreciated. We currently use KidBlogs, but it is difficult to upload many different projects, etc when everyone wants to do it and there is only one IPAD.

    1. Great questions! One iPad would make things more challenging. I think if that was me, I would have some kind of a sign up list, so that when a student had something that was “picture ready”, he would put his name on a list. When the student ahead of him had finished, he would automatically give the iPad to the next student who would take a picture, add it to his blog and then pass the iPad to the next person on the list. This would work if the projects are non-digital, which many of ours are.
      Creating digital projects would be more challenging. I would be tempted to do many things together as a class with the iPad projected onto a whiteboard.
      Perhaps others will see this and have better ideas…

  6. If 1st graders can have blogs, then can my middle school special education students too? Let me rephrase that. I know my students could have digital portfolios, but can I make it happen for them? It’s overwhelming to think about, but I know they would love it!!! I have a 10 laptops in my classroom. I’m not sure how I get started.

    1. I think the best way for you to start is to start small. Perhaps you want try it yourself, Diana. Or just use the digital portfolio as a writing portfolio. As you and your students gain confidence, you can begin to add other artifacts as well.

      1. “Try it yourself”–you mean create a blog? I’m taking a class and we had to do this. Though I’ve only posted 5x:) I’m not sure many students or parents would read my blog. Though when I look at yours–and if mine looked like that, they would! I like your idea of starting small though, meaning they have blogs as a writing portfolio.

  7. I just discovered your site and it is all so very helpful! I’m trying to create some very basic digital portfolios with my pre-k kids who are just learning to write. I think (but am not sure) that Kidblog may be too much for them. I’ve tried using educreations but the auto-correct when they type is making that hard. I really want to see their invented spelling. Have you found a way around this? Or do you just have them write their thoughts on the screen (not type)?

    1. Hi Karen,
      Yes, the spell check thing can be a challenge. You COULD have them write on paper and then take photos of what they write.
      It is also possible to turn off the auto correct in your settings. Go to Settings–>General–>Keyboard–> and choose which of the auto features you want to turn off.

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