Electronic Portfolios for Navigation 101

Dr. Helen Barrett

Frequently-Asked QuestionsTechnology Tools

Navigation 101 website at Washington State Office of Superintendent of Instruction
Navigation 101 blog


June 24, 2008

(uploaded using GoogleDocs Presentation tool)


June 25, 2008

(uploaded using GoogleDocs Presentation tool)

Navigation 101
Key Elements:

  1. Personalizing: Curriculum-Delivered Advisories
  2. Planning: Portfolios
  3. Demonstrating: Student-Led Conferences
  4. Empowering:
    Student-Driven Scheduling
  5. Evaluating:

Frequently-Asked Questions

What is an electronic portfolio?
A portfolio is defined as "a purposeful collection of student work that demonstrates efforts, progress, and achievement in one or more areas" over time (NWEA, 1989). Instead of storing files in a paper folder or notebook, an electronic portfolio stores that collection in some type of a digital container: hard drive, iPod/iPhone, flash drive, Internet, CD, DVD, etc.. Keep in mind that there is a difference between a digital archive of a student's work (all of the work that is stored in a digital format in some type digital storage--sometimes called a working portfolio), and a variety of presentation portfolios that could be created for different purposes and audiences. There is also a difference between the portfolio as process (collection, selection, reflection, direction, presentation) and the portfolio as product (the notebook, the website, the CD-ROM or the DVD and the technological tools used to create the portfolio-as-product). Some commercial tools can also facilitate "work flow management" which facilitates formative assessment and feedback on student work.

How can an electronic portfolio be used with Navigation 101?
The primary purpose for the portfolios that students develop under the Navigation 101 program is for students planning. It is different than the portfolios that students might develop in a class, such as a writing portfolio in a Language Arts class, or an employment/marketing portfolio in a vocational course. These Navigation 101 planning portfolios are meant to take on a long-range perspective, both of the past and especially of the future. Therefore, an electronic planning portfolio should support students beyond their high school years, providing an opportunity to tell the story of their learning and growth over time, as well as their vision of their futures. The Mead School District's Student Portfolio Handbook had a great quote:

Remember, you are telling us a story, and not just any story. Your portfolio is meant to be your story of your life over the last four years as well as the story of where your life might be going during the next four years: tell it with pride!

The best part of Navigation 101 is that students have a clear purpose for creating their electronic portfolios. From that purpose, students can create an e-portfolio that best represents who they are and what they want to do in their lives, and how they want to get there!

How do we get started?
Begin by providing students with space to store their documents digitally, and strategies for converting their documents into digital form. Does your school provide server space for students to store their work? Then have them set up a Portfolio folder that they can use to store the specific documents that they want to include in their portfolio. There are other, more sophisticated technologies available for online storage that we may want to explore.

Next, ask students what technology they have at home, and how they use technology when they are outside of school. Include more than computer and Internet technology. What about iPods, cell phones, game machines? I predict that many students use technology OUTSIDE of their academic work in more creative and sophisticated ways than they do in school. Work with students to see how we could use "their" technology productively and responsibly.

Then, figure out how you want the students to create their presentation portfolios, that they will use in their student-led conferences. That gets us into the discussiuon of tools, which is the next section below.

Publishing ePortfolios

Level 1


Level 2

Online Static Tools

Level 3

Web 2.0 Tools


Virtual Environments

Technology Tools:
What tools should we use to create our presentation portfolios?

It is difficult to make specific recommendations without knowing the complete portfolio context: purpose, audience, technology available, technology skills of portfolio developers, etc. The answer is usually, "It depends!" However, the purpose of the Navigation 101 planning portfolio is clear, putting students at the center of the process. These portfolios are NOT "standards buckets" where students demonstrate the achievement of academic standards ("take a standard, put in a piece of work, justify your reason" although that is often what is done with some of the existing e-portfolio systems). The tools should facilitate students' "voice" (both literally and rhetorically), allowing them to tell their own unique stories about their interests, passions, and achieving their future goals. Therefore, students should have some input into the process of creating their electronic planning portfolios.

Have you asked students how they currently use technology OUTSIDE of school?
Here is a list of questions (in PDF) that you can ask groups of students to gather information about their use of technology. These focus group questions were adapted by Mike Hubert for use with students in Bremerton, based on the focus group questions used in Dr. Barrett's Reflect Initiative study (2005-2007). If would be great if we could share these results with other Navigation 101 schools.

Are there some types of technologies that can be adapted to use with Navigation 101?
Start with what you are currently using in the school: Office software (Microsoft or open source tools). Add other software when it becomes needed )such as converting files into PDF...portable document format...Adobe Acrobat). Consider adding some of the Web 2.0 tools, assuming your Information Technology department approves of the sites that you select (see below)

Look at the list on the left (different levels of publishing ePortfolios). If security is an issue, then have students publish their portfolios on a CD-recordable disc, or on a DVD (if they have a lot of high quality video that they want to preserve). These optical media can be placed inside the students' paper-based portfolios and whipped out during the student-led conference. CD or DVD technology is not interactive, and needs to be updated for each conference, but it a viable first step in creating e-portfolios. Students could create their presentation portfolios using Office tools, Acrobat, or using an HTML (web page) editor, such as Apple's iLife, Microsoft's Front Page, or the free, open source nVu.

If parents give permission, then some of these portfolios could be uploaded to the WWW, using either online, static website building tools (Level 2), or using some of the more advanced Web 2.0 tools (Level 3). Dr. Barrett has published an online Category of ePortfolio tools. In the future, a few students may want to publish their portfolios in virtual environments, such as Second Life, but that should be something they choose to do, not something that the school can or should support.

Do we need to set up a server to hold these portfolios?
Not necessarily, although if security is a real issue, then it would be best to set up a server or use one of the established online service providers. Most of these services are designed for higher education, not K-12 schools, and they may not address the security requirements of minor children. The commercial tools are also not free. But setting up and supporting a server is also not free. That is the advantage of Web 2.0 tools.

What are Web 2.0 tools?
The term Web 2.0 was coined several years ago to describe a new way to use the Internet. More recently, the Internet has moved beyond a lot of static web pages that are "browsed" and more of a creative environment where users contribute using a variety of Web 2.0 technologies, which are based on an architecture of interaction which lends itself very well to a pedagogy of interaction. A key feature of Web 2.0 technologies is the location of the software; rather than storing the software on your computer, most of the software resides on the host computer (as well as most of the files created with that software) and all the user needs is the right web browser to access the software and the files. These Web 2.0 technologies include:

  • blogs: shorthand for "web log" which is like an online journal with entries stored in reverse-chronological order. The most popular blogging tools are: Blogger (a service of Google), WordPress (the software used by EduBlogs) and Moveable Type (software to install on your own server).
  • wikis: wiki means "quick" in Hawaiian and is a publishing environment that can be edited by multiple users... the most famous example is Wikipedia. Popular wikis used in schools are WikiSpaces and PBWiki. You can also install MediaWiki on your own server (the software that runs WikiPedia).
  • GoogleDocs: (online documents- word processing, presentations, spreadsheets) Google has provided a suite of online tools for creating different types of productivity tool files. Microsoft Office documents can be uploaded and converted into GoogleDocs; and GoogleDocs files can be saved and downloaded into Microsoft Office, OpenOffice and PDF file formats. There are other online Productivity tools available (Zoho, ThinkFree, gOffice)
  • Photo Sharing: using sites like Flickr (owned by Yahoo) and Picasa (owned by Google), where students can upload images that they either scan or create with a digital camera, or export from an imaging editing program, such as Adobe's PhotoShop or the open source GIMP software.
  • Podcasts (online audio sharing): Students create audio files and post them to a server than includes syndication (RSS feeds). Create audio files using the open source Audacity software. Upload to different audio services including Odeo and Podomatic.
  • Video Sharing: Students upload video to the Internet. The most popular site is YouTube (which is probably blocked on most school networks) but other sites have been set up for school-appropriate content, including TeacherTube and SchoolTube.
  • WebSite Builders: services that either provide web site editing tools (Yahoo's GeoCities, Google's GooglePages, Lycos' Tripod) or space where students can upload web sites created with PC-based HTML editing tools, such as FreeWebs, Apple's .Mac accounts, etc.

Dr. Barrett has published a web page that discusses the many ways that Web 2.0 technologies can be used to create e-portfolios. She has also devoted a website to the use of the many Google tools that can be used to create e-portfolios. There are some disadvantages to using many of these tools: they are not protected sites and are often blocked by some district networks. Therefore, there should be a discussion with district IT staff about what sites would be accessible in your school.

How do we learn how to implement e-portfolios with our students?
Dr. Barrett has developed a web page that describes the Staff Development needed to implement e-portfolios. Develop a partnership between the Navigation 101teachers and the technology teachers in your school and district. Don't forget to ask the students! They are probably more adept at using Web 2.0 tools than the teachers! In Dr. Barrett's research, some students called their e-portfolios their "academic MySpace!" Educators in Australia believe that students who use the many Web 2.0 tools (especially social networking, such as MySpace, and video sharing sites) have developed the technology skills to be able to develop very creative e-portfolios.

Dr. Barrett will be at the Navigation 101 conference in June 2008 and will showcase some examples of how some of the "Lighthouse" schools have used some of these technologies to publish their electronic planning portfolios that include digital storytelling.

Visuals to help understand "next generation" ePortfolios

Dr. Barrett created the diagram below to represent the concept that the new generation of ePortfolios as a "mash-up"
(a Web 2.0 term) that means a lot of "small pieces, loosely joined" by hyperlinks.

Jeremy Hiebert developed the following two diagrams that put the different e-portfolio processes and tools within a context of self-directed learning and personal learning environment (PLE).

Version #1

Version #2

©2008, Helen C. Barrett, Ph.D. updated January 19, 2012