Digital Portfolios

Digital portfolios in action

Example of a great Digital Portfolio by a classroom teacher  Carmel Mayer from Cairns School of Distance Education who has completed her Pedagogy Licence and Advanced Licence from Education Queensland. Includes a great site about Multimodal texts, new literacies and Web 2.0.


Rationale for Digital Portfolio use in teacher preparation

The use of digital portfolios in particular will be increasingly prevalent as a strategy for students to demonstrate what they know and can do and how they apply their knowledge to practical tasks. To provide preservice teachers with the experience of developing a portfolio while being a learner, and reflecting on that as they transition to being teacher is significant and USQ obviously undertake this responsibility very well. Students have a few opportunities to present portfolios during their course journey. The commitment by the university is portrayed in their supply of a digital portfolio system universally across courses. The policy framework components of enabling students to assess portfolios and presumably updating them after graduation, will enable education graduates to develop professional standing as they begin their careers. National and state standards expect that teachers maintain a professional portfolio and the quality of ones portfolio (in terms of its communication style and content) determines if one has the edge in a crowded and competitive employment and promotion market. Including digital portfolio experiences in a program of study is essential.
Why Digital Portfolios are important
Digital portfolios can provide students with an opportunity to:
  • Demonstrate they have mastered the expected Learning Outcomes of the course
  • Demonstrate a broader set of competencies for audiences other than their lecturer
  • Combine a range of products into a cohesive whole for some external audience
  • Provide an insight into how they teach, why they have made pedagogical choices and holistically how their knowledge and skills come together in a classroom setting
  • Show their best professional work
  • Share a personal learning journey
Characteristics of Digital Portfolios
Digital portfolios for preservice teachers may have sets of characteristics to enable students to demonstrate their capacity:
  • Annotations to lesson sequences to demonstrate what the purpose was and to rationalise pedagogical choices
  • Attached rubrics or ticked lists to illustrate the qualities of the inclusion, which assist the reader to see why an item was included and enables the writer to pick gaps and strengths in their portfolio
  • Resources that have been developed to use in lessons/units
  • Resources that have been selected because of their value to the teaching sequence with annotation of why it was chosen and to cite the original source. Hyperlinks to online resources are valuable, especially if they are annotated.
  • A capacity to see the overall structure of the portfolio and its contents, for the reader’s ease and the writer’s capacity to edit and add to their collections. Selective updating should be designed into portfolios.
  • Professional information about the writer, introducing the reader to the producer of the portfolio and the pedagogical beliefs of the writer, as well as a clear indication of the purpose of the portfolio and the general content area.
In a digital portfolio, the onus is on the writer/producer to make it easy for the reader to see why an item has been included, what story the whole portfolio and each item is demonstrating and how to navigate around. The reader should not have to mine the portfolio for evidence of knowledge, skills and competencies – what the writer wants the reader to notice, needs to be obvious.
Professional portfolios are written for a busy audience or a selection panel and so the reader’s task must be straightforward and easy. Likewise portfolios used as an assessment item should enable efficient marking and judgement.
IN EDC4000, students develop a digital portfolio in readiness for their final interviews. It is suggested that students develop the following inclusions.
·         A Personal theoretical framework/ Philosophy Statement
·         assignments done for course work, 
·         planning documents or resources made by you in the course of your professional experience, 
·         professional experience reports, 
·         written mentor feedback on lesson plans or formative feedback forms, 
·         written or recorded critical self-reflection,
·         correspondence between yourself and students, parents, peers or colleagues
·         photographs of you working with students and students at work(with express permission of the principal and parents/guardians) 
·         student work samples 
·         student assessment with teacher feedback
·         certificates and awards obtained that link to the professional work of teachers
·         professional diary, journal, anecdotes or blog entries about certain relevant incidents, issues or discussions
·         video or audio recordings of student performances or teaching episodes
·         teacher created resources such as worksheets, activity cards, games, posters, etc…
·         other items that you feel are relevant.  This is not an exhaustive list and you may have many other items to use as artefacts in your portfolio.
Students should be encouraged  to gather these things all through their course. ,Students could start the learning journey about portfolios and how to be prepared for the end portfolio, right from the first practice at putting it together. Perhaps each unit attached to prac can have a lecture/part lecture reminding students to collect stuff for their portfolio.

Assessing Digital Portfolios

The digital portfolio used in education courses has multiple purposes, but clearly the portfolio requirements need to enable students to demonstrate they have achieved the Learning Outcomes of the course. It is expected then that course examiners will develop criteria for assessment that match the intent of the course outcomes. Given that how portfolios are assessed in a teacher preparation course models how teachers might assess portfolio work, the following qualities of portfolios might be assessed as well as course goals.
  • Communication of  rationales for inclusion including theoretical perspectives
  • Navigation and communication for the reader
  • Demonstration of relevant national and state professional standards
  • Reflections on implementation where that is possible for preservice teachers
  • Resources developed and used
  • Contribution to and use of professional community to enhance teaching in their classroom (professional presence)
  • Digital skills and knowledge (and digital pedagogy skills and knowledge)
For assessment purposes, how the student demonstrated the Learning Outcomes needs to be paramount and dominate the criteria used.
Assigning standards to criteria
The standards need to describe back to the writer/producer where their work is situated on a standards scale and provide feedback on the quality of their submission. Thus descriptors need to articulate the characteristics of the qualities expected to have been seen. Thus the number of items or number of times an element has been demonstrated is not significant. Further, for assessment purposes, the required components of the submission should become essential conditions for assessment and these would not appear in the descriptions of the standards. That is, the standards are not a checklist of what needed to be included in a portfolio, but rather the quality of the submission components is judged.
Using Mahara for Digital Portfolios
Mahara is a solid tool for developing a portfolio and one which results in a reasonable product. It is not easy to create a graphical interface to information. Some students will be frustrated by Mahara and some will develop material  is a more attractive interface and reference it in Mahara.
For those with little ICT experience and particularly  those with little authoring experience in contemporary systems like blogs, wikkis etc, they may have a steep learning curve.  USQ students have opportunity to develop Mahara portfolios  each year of their program and so skills will develop over time if students persist.
When assisting students to use Mahara, there are many excellent tutorials on how to manipulate the software already developed and lecturers should point students to these resources. The videos on Mahara’s features are particularly excellent.
Learning software by tutorial step by step ways is okay, but never sufficiently useful to assist students to master the software and make it work well for purposes.  It certainly does not promote problem solving or creative use of the software for the job. It is more helpful to use a conceptual approach to using the software. If this is done well in first year, the students will be able to successfully build on their collection of artifacts and make the software sing.
Some concepts to embed in courses which use Mahara portfolios include:
  • Multiple views enable you to provide a lens to look at subsets of our collection for different audiences and purposes, so the construct is a bank of annotated items which are drawn on in various views and at the view level you can add annotation/comment for each item used in that view.
  • An assignment submission can be a view of a subset of the collection
  • That the more data recorded by the portfolio maker about each item  as it is added will jog the memory of what that item was about in 1-3 years, even if that annotation is in a view for the portfolio writer only
  • Communication about the artefacts will be as important in each view as the artefacts themselves.
  • That a latest and best policy should be applied. If a better example of lesson planning is developed, it ca replace earlier attempts. Less is more.
There are also some general points about digital portfolios we could remind student about as they develop them. It would be useful to locate each portfolio submission in the bigger picture context each time they use their portfolio as an assessment submission.
  • There is more to a portfolio view than a collection of annotated artefacts – eg Belief statements, professional information, analysis of theoretical perspectives and generally information to show the reader what lens through which to view artefacts.
  • Digital portfolios can have multiple genres, especially in a teaching content. In universities they are used to develop and present a professional view of a graduate. In classrooms they can be used to show a learning journey through a multi-stage process, support collaborative learning projects, and showcase your best work.
  • Each university course/subject will have a genre to its assessment  and the portfolio tool may be a simple way to add to a collection of polished evidence for a professional portfolio view and share good teaching ideas with colleagues and expert readers/guests.