The Power of Digital Portfolios for Students

Kids in classroom with textbooks in front of them using tablets for online learning

Learning portfolios of the past often took the form of large, overstuffed binders with paper spilling out the sides. Filled with writing assignments, tests, drawings, and packets, they captured student accomplishments at specific points in time – snapshots of their year.

Technology transformed portfolios into something more.

Over the years, we’ve seen the power of digital portfolios in action. These are the top ways we’ve seen digital portfolios transform student learning.

Capture Learning in Accessible Ways

How students are asked to show their learning can make a big difference in their development and confidence.

Writing and multiple choice tests are common ways for teachers to assess mastery. Both have a place in the classroom. Yet for many learners, these mediums can be a barrier to students fully expressing their understanding.

Digital portfolios offer multimodal ways to share learning that leverage students’ strengths and interests. The same students that feel limited by traditional assessments can shine when given the opportunity to use photo, video, collage, audio recording, and more. 

Emerging writers, multilingual learners, and students with disabilities in particular benefit from having choice in how they communicate. When they’re not limited by how they share their learning, students can experience success for the skills they have mastered. This bolsters motivation to tackle challenges and supports a positive attitude toward themselves as learners.

a complete picture of each student’s strengths and areas for growth

When adding assignments to their digital portfolios, students can also use multimodal tools to add layers of explanation and reflection. Students not only show what they know. They explain how they know it. 

In turn, teachers get a complete picture of each student’s strengths and areas for growth, which helps them target instruction and push learning forward.

Foster Reflection and Growth Mindset

Digital portfolios are equipped to capture the entire learning process. With everything in one place, students can look back and see how much they’ve grown.

Regular opportunities to reflect on learning is one of the most effective ways to foster a growth mindset – the belief that skills and success are the result of effort and persistence – which research shows contributes to higher achievement and well-being.

But reflection is a complex skill. Digital portfolios can help in key ways.

When students add to their portfolios throughout the learning process, the focus shifts from celebrating perfection to celebrating growth. Students realize that learning happens over time, and making mistakes is a key part of achieving their goals. 

Having a multimodal record of learning makes reflection concrete. Students see what they used to be able to do, hear how they used to think, and compare it to where they are now. Reflection becomes more accessible and meaningful for learners of all ages.

Designating time for reflection activities takes it one step further. Students get regular opportunities to practice this critical skill, and reflection becomes a core part of students’ portfolios and classroom culture.

Support Student Ownership of the Learning Process

Portfolios have the greatest impact on learning when students are empowered to take ownership. With the right digital tools, even our youngest learners can create their own learning portfolios and shape what goes in them.

Choosing what goes into their portfolios prompts students to self-assess and make connections between their work and learning objectives. 

When given the opportunity, students of all ages can show incredible self-awareness. Identifying their own successes and areas for growth makes students more engaged, motivated, and independent.

By promoting ownership, portfolios go from an assessment of learning to an assessment for learning, and achievement soars.

Boost Student Motivation with an Authentic Audience

Students are more motivated to do their best when they have an authentic audience for their work. Connected portfolios allow students to share their learning with peers and family members.

With age-appropriate scaffolds, students can practice giving each other positive and constructive feedback. Not only does this develop important digital citizenship skills, it also reinforces and deepens learning.

Inviting families to connect opens a window into the classroom, which helps families stay informed about their child’s progress. Family involvement is one of the best predictors of student success, and digital portfolios are an effective way to engage families as partners in learning.

Taking portfolios digital transforms them from static artifacts to multidimensional reflections of the learning journey. Students are empowered to capture their accomplishments and the process that got them there. Multimodal tools empower students of all ages to take ownership of their learning. And connecting peers and family members gives students an authentic audience that boosts engagement and motivates them to be their best.

Join the Discussion!
How have digital portfolios transformed learning in your classroom?