Managing Digital Student Portfolios

I was ready to shout Eureka! this morning when I came across this resource from iPad X Google Drive X Student Portfolios.

Was this the answer to my digital portfolio management quandary?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m taking an ASCD online course on implementing portfolios. This was a weak spot in my teaching last year, and I wanted to learn more about them. Since we do a lot of work on Kidblog, and will begin doing more work on iPads, I want the students to have digital portfolios.

How in the world do you set up a user-friendly system that students can use, I have access to and doesn’t involve a lot of scanning and document management?

It seemed like a nightmare, and I’ve put off thinking about it for a while, since online research didn’t reveal a lot of useful, free solutions.

The EdTechTeacher article above talks about using Google Drive for portfolio management. I thought this was the answer because I already use Google Drive and the iPad app, am very familiar with it on the single user end, and all my students already have Gmail addresses. Perfect!!

As with any iPad/2.0 integrated system, there are glitches, however, and I’m at a crossroads.

I want a system them is easy for students, easy for me and works relatively smoothly across PCs and iPads. For example, I want my students to be able to:


Here’s a table I’ve created to illustrate some of the benefits and drawbacks to using Google    Drive.

page-0 (2)

The benefits are exciting, especially because it really does seem like it would be a very easy platform to use and teach the kids how to use. In addition, all their documents are saved in a place they will always have access, and if the school wanted us to download the files to our server for some reason, I think it would also be relatively easy to do that as well.

The one major drawback that I’m disappointed about is the fact that students can’t comment on pictures or PDFs on the iPad. They have to go to a computer to do it OR I’ve worked out that they can create a separate google doc to comment on the work. My dream of images, text and possible voice all in one document crumbled as I started to test the features from the iPad.

EdTechTeacher recommended an additional app called “Notability” which is wonderful because this app does allow you to insert a picture, write text around the picture, and even record voice. It’s only $2.99, but I was also really trying to avoid asking the students to purchase apps.

Notability allows you to export a note with images as a PDF file and will also export the voice files connected to the file. It will export them as a zip. You can’t open this on iPads. You can open it on a PC, however, and the export appears as a folder with the PDF and the voice file inside together.

All in all, despite the drawbacks, I do see Google Drive as a powerful, FREE tool to use in managing student portfolios. In combination with Notability, it would be quite easy to use. Considering the low cost of Notability, this is a really viable option for next year.

In comparison with dreamy platforms like Evernote, Google Drive doesn’t have the pizzazz, but in order to view and comment on student notebooks, Evernote would cost $45 dollars a year. $45 is not that much, and I would consider making the investment because it does have all the features I want in an attractive, image-oriented interface.

Without purchasing it, however, I’m not able to assess what other pitfalls there may be. For example, do all the students also have to have the premium version? It’s hard to say, however, it seems that way according to the website:

  • Work together

    Evernote Premium users can allow others to edit their notes, making Evernote a great tool for working on a project with others or planning a trip with friends.

I’ve read rave reviews of schools using Evernote, but I have yet to find any resource that outlines exactly what services you need to pay for in order to make it a useful portfolio tool.

One last portfolio tool I found for the iPad is Three Ring. This app is free for teachers. I’ll be taking a look at this option but will need to play around with it a lot more. I did find this review:

Three Ring – Create Digital Portfolios of Your Students’ Work

It appears, according to this reviewer,  that Three Ring is  better suited for collecting written work as opposed to presentations, videos, and other digital artifacts.


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