When I started this program, I believed I had a clear understanding of what an ePortfolio could be. Throughout the past three courses of the Digital Learning and Leading program, I have adjusted my ideas and expanded my view. Students at the elementary level should be able to explore and build content within platforms that are monitored by teachers. Although it allows less variability, we still have to moderate and monitor the online content that students under the age of 13 are creating, due to COPPA. This does not need to limit student creativity, voice or choice however. There are many tools that students can use to collect and display pride work while maintaining privacy and still encouraging creativity.
However, secondary students have more flexibility and can potentially be given the freedom to create content in the platform of their choice. There are some wonderful options. A few of them are listed below. I also found a Website Tool Tester that details comparisons of many site builders.
There is a movement on some college campuses called a Domain of One’s Own that allows students to keep their domain after they have left the institution. This has a several implications which are outlined in this Educause article. This allows students some liberty with their digital identity and the ability to maintain their digital creations and build upon their learning year after year.
As I have been building my ePortfolio in WordPress, I previewed some other tools here are some notes about each of them. There are many other tools which I did not feature here, these are just notes about the tools that I checked out. This Edutopia article presents two of my favorite creativity tools, Book Creator and Flipgrid as portfolios which I have never considered.
Adobe Spark Page – Adobe Spark is a wonderful creativity tool that is free for educational institutions. The basic Adobe Spark is free, but the premium education version has additional features such as collaboration and access to premium templates. It is an excellent platform for students to create and show their learning. However it is much less flexible than Google sites, Wix, Weebly, or WordPress. There is not an ability to add extensive widgets or subscribe to blog posts, or comment. Here is an example Spark Page portfolio.
Google Sites – many of my classmates suggested using Google sites and have been building their portfolio there. It is easy for them to establish a site as their districts use Google schools. Students using Google Sites would not be able to easily take all of their digital content when they leave their institutions. It is my understanding that Google sites has minimal themes and it is easy to navigate. When I reviewed Google Sites, I didn’t find it as easy to set up as I had hoped. Also there are some limits with domain names. If students do not use a bit.ly link, the URL for their site is quite lengthy. There is a possibility of connecting a domain name, but there is a cost associated with that.
Seesaw – Seesaw is a digital portfolio and platform for digital learning activities appropriate for elementary students. It is very limited in it’s capabilities and the teacher maintains the majority of the control. Parent are able to download student journals which contains every journal entry and activity that students have submitted. This does give parents a nice digital momento as students are able to easily record videos and upload drawings to the platform. It is a viable way for teachers and parents to see growth and progress.
Schoology – The learning management system Schoology does have a portfolio feature. It seems to be underutilized as many people do not share work in that forum. I am able to see the benefits of having students, particularly middle school students, save their pride work there. However the Schoology portfolios does not offer the flexibility that students may find on Google sites, Wix, Weebly or WordPress. Also when the student leaves the institution, they are able to individual download zip files of each folder of work. Students are not able to keep all of the files intact in the organization that they set up. The Schoology portfolio definitely has limits. Students are not able to create or purchase a domain name. The only real creative flexibility is that users are able to add an image to each folder in the portfolio. I have an example that I use for demonstrations with teachers.
Wix – During our first DLL course, Disruptive Innovation, I signed up for a free account on Wix, and browsed around. The pricing seemed reasonable and the templates were slick! I considered setting up a domain name, but I did not follow through. The templates that I looked at had some wonderful images built in and I was not feeling inspired to insert specific images when I didn’t have content created yet.
Weebly – I had a very similar experience with Weebly as I did with Wix. However, I did not find templates. The site set-up seemed a little bit blah and I really needed a starting point. I felt a little bit like Goldilocks. Wix had too much guidance in the form of templates, Weebly didn’t have quite enough. The templates probably came later, but I didn’t put enough time into it to locate them.
WordPress – I settled on WordPress for multiple reasons. Primarily, I had already set up a personal website in WordPress previously and purchased a domain name years ago. It was long expired, but I remembered that I had been able to set it up with minimal effort, so there was comfort in that. Full disclosure, the reason I got an early start on my portfolio was because it felt fun, and more engaging than writing a literature review. A domain name seemed like a really cool place to start. Then I would finally feel some ownership. Well ownership is not always free, is it? So I purchased the domain name and paid for the premium features of WordPress. $100 a year didn’t seem like too much to be able to get me through my graduate program. Then I got really jazzed about making a little image for a tab label. I chose a minimal type theme and realized that I was not locked into a page full of images. My next step was to make an about page because that seemed easy enough. I use Dr. Thibodeaux’s and Dr. Harapnuik’s portfolios as inspiration for starting points. After that, I used the sites of other DLL students to guide the planning of my site. I am fairly certain that I did not choose the easiest tool, or even the least expensive. I was drawn to WordPress because I had used it before and it is one the teachers were advocating. My choice to stay with WordPress was because I had a substantial time and financial investment by the time we started this third class EDLD 5303, Applying Educational Technology Portfolio. Now I am able to navigate the pages fairly well, and enjoy adding the widgets and experimenting with adding various forms of media. I did stop myself from purchasing the business plan in order to be able to use plug-ins. I did not want to go overboard, because I hope to maintain this site for years to come.
Brandl, R. (2021, January 22). Best Website Builder 2021: I’ve Reviewed the 15 Best (& Worst). WebsiteToolTester. https://www.websitetooltester.com/en/best-website-builder/.
Groom, J. (2019, October 18). 7 Things You Should Know About a Domain of One’s Own. https://library.educause.edu/resources/2019/10/7-things-you-should-know-about-a-domain-of-ones-own.
Hertz, M. B. (2020, January 6). Tools for Creating Digital Student Portfolios. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/tools-creating-digital-student-portfolios.