Portfolios have long been used in education to represent a student's or educator's best work. But today, accordion folders are being replaced by "e-portfolios" -- engaging electronic showcases of the user's best work put together with software and services that help with the collection, collation and organization of work highlights.
Knowing how to use e-portfolio tools is important as education moves toward project-based learning, the integration of 21st century technology skills and, for K-12, the rigors of the Common Core State Standards. E-portfolios also are increasingly de rigueur for professionals, especially those looking for a new position.
E-portfolios are "dynamic, developmental spaces representing your professional 'self' on the Web," says a Penn State website that offers help and services to students, alumni and faculty looking to build an e-portfolio. "They are becoming standard practice for academics, students, and professionals and typically include examples of skills and achievements, as well as a reflective blog element."
E-portfolios can be developed in a variety of ways, from simple (and free) blogging platforms, to modules in learning management systems, to dedicated software programs and services. Many colleges and universities offer their own e-portfolio services to students, be they proprietary or licensed through an outside provider.
Pathbrite is one company offering e-portfolio services. Christopher Gray, the company's chief product officer, told InformationWeek Education that e-portfolio technology can be used to present "to a teacher, potential employer, any potential audience."
One common misconception about e-portfolios is that they are just for art students, he said. "You might think this is only for visual disciplines, like art, but … [we] have a gym teacher using it, as a video rubric for his gymnastic class," said Gray.
He said Pathbrite also is used extensively in the classroom for day-to-day teaching and learning, with teachers able to add interactivity to their lessons to increase engagement and understanding.
Gray noted that one of the benefits of e-portfolios -- no matter what environment they're being used in -- is that they are capable of representing a continuum of work, and that different elements and experiences along that continuum can be connected. In addition, because e-portfolios are usually stored in the cloud, users -- and those who want to connect with them or assess their work -- can get to them anytime and anywhere.
E-portfolios vary widely in their capabilities and extensibility. Pathbrite, for example, integrates with online learning site Khan Academy; badges earned in Khan can be pulled into Pathbrite. If you're looking for an e-portfolio platform, weigh your list of needs, both present and anticipated, against the capabilities and costs of the many options currently available.
In the following slideshow we offer a look at just a few of the many ways you can get started on your own e-portfolio. Have you already created an e-portfolio? Leave a comment to share advice.
Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.