Thing 16: Digital Notebooks & Portfolios for Students

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

eportfolio features
(image source unknown)


What is a portfolio?

“A student portfolio is a compilation of academic work and other forms of educational evidence assembled for the purpose of

  • (1) evaluating coursework quality, learning progress, and academic achievement;
  • (2) determining whether students have met learning standards or other academic requirements for courses, grade-level promotion, and graduation;
  • (3) helping students reflect on their academic goals and progress as learners; and
  • (4) creating a lasting archive of academic work products, accomplishments, and other documentation.” (Glossary of Education Reform)

Digital notebook and portfolios have been used for a many years in various educational settings and in the past were primarily paper-based, which restricted the types of material that could be included and also limited access.

Digital notebooks and portfolios are common today and can provide access to a far wider range of student created content, including written work, scanned work, photos, videos and audio. And at the same time, provide opportunities for feedback from teachers, other students, parents and if deemed appropriate, the public.

At their simplest level, digital notebooks and portfolios can be used as a convenient place to store, access and share student work. Building on this, teachers can use portfolios to assess student work and share work with parents. And with careful curation, online portfolios can also help students create showcases of their best work, credentials and and qualifications.

Many of the free web tools that you’ve been exploring in Cool Tools can be used for portfolios. You may also be able to use a learning management system or other commercial service that your school district provides. With online portfolios, parents can access student work easily and parent-teacher communication is enhanced.

This approach to student learning assessment can be used for individual courses, single projects, senior portfolios focused on college and job applications and multiyear portfolios that follow students through all their years in a school district.


Before implementing digital notebooks and portfolios, you might consider the following questions from this Edutopia article, Using E-Portfolios in the Classroom.

  • Can student work be made public or is it housed inside a “walled garden,” ie: restricted to school community only?
  • Can students view and comment on each other’s work?
  • Can the teacher provide feedback for the student privately?
  • Is student work easily organized by date, course or some other category?
  • Are the portfolios transferable from year to year as students move through the school?
  • Can students access their work or export it when they leave the school?
  • Does the platform allow for multiple file types (documents, sound files, video files)?
  • What are the costs for using the tool or platform?
  • Can a teacher create a teacher account and student accounts, or do students sign up on their own? Is there a minimum age to sign up?
  • Can the tool be integrated into an existing SMS (student management system) or other school-wide database and/or gradebook?
  • From Using E-Portfolios in the Classroom



  • Blogs & Wikis: Fairly easy to create & maintain via free hosted web services like: Edublogs, Blogger, Kidblog and PBWorks (Be aware of age restrictions)
  • Google Sites: (NOTE: Google Sites has been totally overhauled – take a look!) With so many schools committing to Google Apps for Education, Google Sites seems like a logical place for students to build e-portfolios. Pages can be organized in many different ways. By individual classes, projects, or by type of material. The site can grow and change as the student progresses through grade levels. All sorts of writing, photos, links to other documents and other media can be included. Neatly integrates with other Google tools like YouTube, Blogger for reflective writing and Google Docs for storing reports, slide presentations and other documents.
  • Google Slides interactive notebooks + 20 activities to fill them – Includes some great, free templates to get you and your students started. And lots of tips, tricks and idea.
  • OneNote – Information on how to use Microsoft’s OneNote tool as an eportfolio.
  • Seesaw – Free app to manage student content for up to 10 classes and share content with parents. Easy to set-up, app available for most mobile devices. “Student work can be shared with classmates, parents, or published to a class blog. Seesaw gives students a real audience for their work and offers parents a personalized window into their child’s learning.”
  • BulbApp –  Simple to set up, free service. Use it for digital portfolios, for sharing lessons and more. This looks like a terrific tool! Ideas and tips: Bulb for Teachers
  • Lists with more tools:


  • Explore some of the digital portfolio tools and resource articles.
  • Consider what role you might play in the development of student portfolios.
  • Share your thoughts and reactions in your blog post.


  • Write & publish your blog post.
  • Copy the URL (webpage address) for your post.
  • Return to your Google Classroom, find the assignment page for the lesson you just completed and follow the directions for turning in and sharing your work.

*Only for students participating in the workshop for PD credit hours through the Google Classroom.

One thought on “Thing 16: Digital Notebooks & Portfolios for Students

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *