Magazine article Technology & Learning

Digital-Age Assessment: E-Portfolios Are the Wave of the Future

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Digital-Age Assessment: E-Portfolios Are the Wave of the Future

Article excerpt

Effective 21st century assessment reaches beyond traditional testing to look at the broader accomplishments of learners. Assembling an e-portfolio, or electronic portfolio, is an excellent method for assessing students' progress toward school, state, or national academic standards, as well as 21st century skills. An electronic portfolio is a purposefully limited collection of student selected work over time that documents progress toward meeting the standards. Work may be collected over a semester, a year, or even several years, passing from one grade level and teacher to the next. E-portfolios reflect more in-depth, more comprehensive, and better thoughtout evidence of student learning than on-demand tests. For instance, a student's three-hour state benchmark essay offers the feedback of a 5/6 score, while an e-portfolio allows students to document the many aspects of their essay writing improvement over the course of a year.


Educators can begin by showing the students sample e-portfolios so they understand the overall format and the richness of artifacts--digitally produced homework, class-work, and projects--that can be put into it. A common e-portfolio format includes a title page; a standards' grid; a space for each individual standard with accompanying artifacts and information on how each artifact addresses the standard; an area for the student's overall reflection on the standard; and a teacher formative feedback section for each standard. Within the e-portfolio, the evidence of student learning may be in diverse formats such as Web pages, e-movies, visuals, audio recordings, and text. Elementary students might explain the biology standard through e-movies of plant experiments and explain their cultural art to another class via a recorded videoconference. Middle school students might demonstrate their understanding of community by posting interviews to a Web site, or for P.E., display their understanding of lifelong fitness through a spreadsheet of their wellness activities. High school students might document their comprehension of negative numbers through digital pictures or record a radio show where they role-play the parts of authors discussing common book themes for a humanities class.


Students need to be able to store all their digital artifacts in one location such as on the network, on a flash drive, or on their class laptop. The ideal scenario is to store them in multiple locations and archived on a CD or DVD. Some teachers have students store their artifacts within a digital folder labeled for the standard such as 1Understand. Others have students save each artifact with the number for the standard such as 3Comparetwopoems.doc. Students spend more time in thinking about the artifacts and less time in trying to figure out what the file contains if the artifact file name is very descriptive.


Another advantage to e-portfolios is that they encourage self-guided learning. Students take the lead in selecting appropriate artifacts for a given standard and explaining how these exemplify the standard's requirements. Next, they write a reflection, learning that it is not the rewording of the standard nor a description of the learning experience, but rather a statement of what they did not know beforehand, what they learned during the creation process, and what they have yet to learn.


Educators can select from many possible tools to create e-portfolios. Some use commercial software specifically designed for e-portfolios such as LiveText, Grady Profile, Scholastic Electronic Portfolio, and Sunburst Learner Profile; others use noncommercial software such as Open Source Portfolio. Another avenue is to create e-portfolios from generic software such as word processors, an Adobe Acrobat PDF file, Web pages, multimedia tools, or blogging. Students feel most comfortable with these generic e-portfolio software programs when the instructor provides a high degree of structure through a template. …

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