How digital portfolios have killed portfolios at my school



portfolio_wai_1Students at my secondary school use a blog (set up and organised by the school) to organise their digital portfolios and I think this does a disservice to both blogs and portfolios alike

Why is a portfolio important?

A school portfolio of work should provide an honest representation of a student’s school achievements.  Format discussion can be saved for another time.  The required content can range anywhere from just the highlights to absolutely everything – the good, the bad and the ugly.  However, I accepted that there should be evidence from all subjects.  For all the evidence which enters the portfolio, a student should reflect upon what has been learnt from the whole associated experience – not just a final grade.


The downfall of the portfolio

Few people enjoy looking at themselves critically and, unless well supported, the vast majority of students will not choose to do this.  Furthermore, a blog is open to the world and demands interaction whilst a portfolio is a something which is shared with those that you trust, admire or want to impress.  Therefore, the use of an individual’s student blog to represent a student portfolio defeats its purpose, and hence stifles both.


The re-birth of the portfolio

To help our students produce informative portfolios will require our guidance and our support and our time and an expectation that this should be done.  Our guidance must be shown in teaching our students how to reflect effectively.  Our support must come in the form of templates and/or scaffolding for student to initially follow.  As educators, we should be setting aside time both in class (when work is returned) and before that (in extra feedback that will ignite their thoughts).  Our expectations mean that this needs to be done and it is not something a student can avoid.  Now I appreciate that the blog provides excellent digital portfolio functionality – an opportunity for a reflective statement and to embed school work.  But this needs to be private in order to avoid plagiarism issues and to increase the value of events such as a Student Led Conference.

How digital portfolios have killed blogs at my school


Students at my secondary school use a blog (set up and organised by the school) to organise their digital portfolios and I think this does a disservice to both blogs and portfolios alike.

Ace elementary bloggers

Students coming up into my secondary school are ace school bloggers. The elementary class blogs represent class learning, individual reflection and shared interests at their best. These blogs reach a wider audience, including people relevant to topics of inquiry. The students reflect a genuine enjoyment of this style of writing and, more importantly, a culture of commenting on each other’s thoughts.

The downfall of the blog

As they make their way through secondary school, our model is clearly failing as I see students becoming progressively disinterested and unmotivated to blog. The reasons behind this, as I see them, are:

1) Logistics – In secondary school we do not have one consistent class – classes are split into a range of groups – from arbitrary letters to House groups, interest and/or ability. As a result, the close knit group of students involved in one shared experience with one central teaching figure no longer exists.

2) Size – Year level blog posts become too large and unwieldy, a subject class blog becomes ineffective (unless there is a very strong related project) which means that innumerable student school blogs become the unfortunate norm. As a result, it becomes very difficult for a blog to rise up from the mire.

3) Motivation – Students soon become unmotivated to complete these because the content is prescribed by teachers as part of a digital portfolio (or more often than not ignored as a medium by teachers).

4) Audience – Parents and a few teachers do not make a credible audience. The lack of an authentic audience provides no opportunities for the much needed dialogue with others; which is what essentially makes blogging so rewarding.

Blogging with passion

To overcome these problems first requires the school to recognise that a blog without passion and/or an audience should not be described as a ‘blog’ and should not be enforced by anyone – on anyone. I would like to see the school provide the time, space and support for students to produce blogs on topics of interest. I am even happy for groups with similar interest to run a shared blog. All I want is to find a practical way for student to express themselves and be part of a wider dialogue and to enjoy that experience.

Does the digital age bring the downfall of the student led conference?


Student Led Conference


A student led conference is a school organised forum designed to allow a discussion between a student and their parents (and sometimes teachers) around the portfolio of work created throughout that academic year.  With suitable guidance and support this encourages students to reflect honestly on both their work and themselves as learners.  Especially when work was often paper based, and might not make its way home, this format makes a great deal of sense.  The key objectives are:

  • To increase student accountability and autonomy concerning academics and their habits of work and learning
  • To hone student verbal communication and critical thinking skills
  • To emphasize a student centered philosophy
  • To build open relationships with families concerning student progress
  • To help students meet speaking standards
  • To teach students how to persuade by substantiating claims with evidence


These objectives are still important but with the development of a digital portfolio, the requirement for a specific school arranged time-space has seemingly becomes less pressing.  In reality parents, if they choose, can follow their children(s) progress at any time.   Hence, over the past few years I have seen fewer parents are attending these days – particularly with upper middle school students.


If the student led conference held at school is abandoned then in the best case scenario student-parent discussions at home could follow a guided student led conference model but this removes a teacher involvement.   In many cases this will reduce the high expectations and it also reduces the insight which this process can provide for the teacher about the student.  So even the best case scenario is floored and worst case scenario of no guaranteed interaction becomes far too likely to occur.


So I believe that schools should re-mind themselves of the original objectives and acknowledge that process should be re-examined.  This should include dialogue with the parents, students and teachers.  This should also include a re-examination of the tools used – especially digital portfolios in the form of blogs, but that is another post entirely.

Using scribd to show other sources in a blog – (End of unit 1 project)


I have discovered that my year 11 science classes, due to a lack of exposure, are not as confident with word press blogging as the present year 6 students. So I felt it was my duty to provide them with a the useful skill of converting files into an attractive blog embedded format.

The attached file is the required format of the related culminating task for unit 1 of the excellent CoETaIL course.

UbDProject Champions of the Earth (Neil)

Enhancing weblog space


The COETAIL blogging rubric states that for the highest level of achievement “The student greatly enhanced their weblog space using video, audio, images or other add-ons.”  As I appreciate that linking represents roots that have fed the thought process that is being presented the tools I felt this would be a good starting point.

To test this out I am going to look at 3 of the prescribed blogs and see if there are any linking features that I can take on board.

The Intrepid Teacher – when given the opportunity hyperlinks are in place to fellow bloggers

Always Learning – More sensible hyperlinking.  Pictures and embedded you tube videos.

The Thinking Stick – So I glanced at a specific blog relating to managing student interest on facebook entitled “Make Students Your Fans“.  There is an embedded facebook page link which you can scroll though for further links.

Catching Up – Now this is a blog from one of my fellow COETAIL students and he specifically has pictures which he took from Wylio alongside videos and hyperlinks.

So my things to learn how to do list is:

1) Pictures

2) Pictures using wylio

3) Videos

1) So first of all can I just paste in a picture

The answer to that is yes.

2) Now I noticed that on Ivan’s blog he had placed pictures which had the origin linked within them.  I have gone to wylio and they have given me some code which it tells me to paste into the text box (This did not work but I am leaving in just to show my journey):

<span id=”wylio-flickr-image-3311130707″ style=”display:block;line-height:15px;width:370px;padding:0;margin:0 10px;position:relative;float:left;”><img style=”padding:0;margin:0;border:none;” width=”370″ height=”252″ src=”″ title=”Traveling stars – photo by: Dhilung Kirat, Source: Flickr, found with” alt=”Traveling stars” /><span id=”wylio-flickr-credits-3311130707″ style=”font-family: arial, sans-serif;padding:0;margin:0;width:100%;color:#aaa;background:#fff;float:left;clear:both;font-size:11px;font-style:italic;”><span style=”padding:2px; margin:0;”><span style=”display:block;float:left;margin:0;padding0;” >photo © 2009 <a style=”padding:0;margin:0;color:#aaa; text-decoration:underline;” target=”_blank” title=”click to visit the Flickr profile page for Dhilung Kirat” href=”″>Dhilung Kirat</a> | <a style=”padding:0;margin:0;color:#aaa; text-decoration:underline;” title=”get more information about the photo ‘Traveling stars'” target=”_blank” href=”″>more info </a></span><span style=”display:block;float:right;margin-left:5px;”><strong style=”margin:0;padding0;”>(via: <a style=”padding:0;margin:0;color:#aaa; text-decoration:underline;” target=”_blank” href=”” title=”free pictures”>Wylio</a>)</strong></span></span></span></span><br />

3) So with videos there are buttons above the text box I have selected a Plain English guide to blogging as it seemed vaguely appropriate – I will now try and press those [youtube][/youtube]

So two out of 3 is not bad (and in my own time I will find out how to do all 3) but I now feel ready to explore, find, consider and blog.

Hello world!


An ultra compact H II region is the first observable feature of a massive star.  Whilst studying astrophysics at university I spent many years searching for these.  I then spent several years working in music and film searching for the next massive star (of different sorts).  I was never truly satisfied working in either of these fields.

Teaching for me combines both academic demands and effective communication.  I am no longer searching for a massive star but am working to help develop the potential future stars which are all the students in front of me.  I know these stars will shine brightest if the grasp a new set of skills which will help them be those in the future.

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