LIBE 477

Reading Review Part C

My Findings

My reading review involved a literature and internet search about using digital portfolios with primary students.

My search started at the UBC digital library collections for journal articles. I didn’t find a ton of great resources – most articles about using digital portfolios with teacher candidates/students and some were quite outdated. I spend quite a bit of time looking, but didn’t really find what I was looking for.

When I expanded my search to the general internet, I found quite a few great blog posts and websites very quickly. These results, predominantly written by teachers who have used digital portfolios in their classrooms, were much more helpful – they discussed the pros and cons of digital portfolios, offered advice, and provided samples or ideas that I could implement in my classroom. These results were much more encouraging!

There was a distinct lack of literature about using digital portfolios with primary students; almost all the results I found were targeted to the intermediate or secondary levels. I found that I would need to either adapt digital ideas for primary students, or paper-based primary ideas for digital tools. However, this doesn’t seem too daunting now that I have so much information and I look forward to trying it out!

Finally, this literature review demonstrated the importance of sharing ideas and experiences in public ways; it was only because other teachers shared their stories online that I was able to find the information I needed for this review. In the future, I plan to share my digital portfolio experiences online to help increase the amount of literature for other primary teachers.

Key Learnings

To reflect on my five guiding questions, I have annotated the best resource for each with the key learnings or takeaway message:

1. What are the benefits of using digital portfolios to display student work?

“I am a storyteller. I tell stories through art and writing and acting and music. We’re all just stories in the end, so why not make it a good one? I wanna tell you my entire story.” (mcsStealMine)

The video “Digital Portfolios – The Whole Child, The Whole Story” (mcsStealMine) was developed by Madison City Schools in Alabama. It was by far the best resource I found about digital portfolios. This video describes so many reasons for creating digital portfolios that you will be excited to try it yourself. It also links to a Google Drive with a ton of helpful documents and information.

What I learned from this resource:

Digital portfolios provide a public space for students to share themselves and their learning. They develop a sense of pride in their work, celebrate their accomplishments, and demonstrate their growth over time. The process of creating a digital portfolio incites students to be more self-directed and reflective learners. Through interaction with the portfolios of others, they also learn about digital citizenship. (mcsStealMine)

In the words of 11th grade student, Maggie: “It actually has helped me think about what everything means to me in a specific way… How I do art connects to how I write, and then I can see themes there of things that I believe and things that I dream. And it’s cool because it’s all in one place and then I can see it.” (mcsStealMine)

2. How are digital portfolios used to show/reflect student learning in primary grades?

“Honouring learning as a continuous process rather than a series of separate events, teachers design opportunities for students to develop an understanding of learning processes and to reflect on their learning journeys.” (Surrey School District)

The Surrey School District has created a website “Digital Portfolios in Surrey Schools” to help link digital portfolios to learning standards and core competencies. The ‘Primary Learners’ section was specifically relevant to me, containing examples of portfolio activities and teacher feedback. I particularly liked their scale descriptions for parents:

  • Emerging – “I’m just getting started.” “I learn best with help.”
  • Developing – “I’m getting there” “I am beginning to do more and more on my own.”
  • Proficient – “I get it.” “I can do it on my own.”
  • Extending – “I get it and go beyond what is expected of me.” “I can teach it to a friend.”

What I learned from this resource:

Digital portfolios are used to demonstrate and communicate student learning over time. This is done through a series of authentic artifacts, each specifically chosen to reflect a particular learning outcome (something a child knows, understand, or can do). The creation of a portfolio can “activate student voice, inform teacher practice, and engage parents in their child’s learning.” A conversation is formed between student reflection/evaluation, teacher feedback, and parent comments. (Surrey School District)

3. What criteria or directions would help students choose which work samples to include?

“Students should choose the content of their portfolios with the clear understanding that the items must include examples of their best performances, demonstrations of achieving a particular objective, and examples showing personal and academic growth.” (Kolk)

Building Digital Portfolios: Create memorable learning archives” by Melinda Kolk is a great place to start when considering digital portfolios in the classroom. It gives a brief overview of digital portfolios, what should be included, what the student and teacher roles are, and how they can be assessed.

What I learned from this resource:

Artifacts included in a digital portfolio are chosen specifically to represent a range of learning outcomes and skills. If students are given clear expectations, criteria, or a detailed rubric for the expected outcome/skill in that entry, then they will be able to choose a work sample that best demonstrates their ability. Using examples and standards of excellence will help students produce quality products and chose meaningful artifacts. (Kolk)

4. How are digital portfolios evaluated for and as learning?

“Student portfolios have become living documents as we work together discussing, planning, reflecting on the evidence of learning, and setting shared goals for future learning.” (Vogstad)

Communicating Student Learning: The Journey Continues” by Kelli Vogstad describes her experiences with student digital portfolios. In this post, she discusses the value of reflection as a form of assessment in all three stages of portfolio development. She also provides sentence starters and student examples. 

What I learned from this resource:

The assessment of digital portfolios is largely based on student self-reflection, prompted by teacher feedback and peer conversations. Some ideas are the traditional ‘two stars and a wish’ or ‘a rose, a thorn, and a bud.’ Vogstad has also developed her own ‘language of reflection’ that is easy for students to use and remember: Now, Not Yet, and Next.

“This process of reflecting on and assessing one’s own learning has made our documentation and communication of student learning more meaningful and powerful…The goal is to provide opportunities for students to become reflective practitioners and to develop their understandings and skills so that they can confidently talk about their learning and describe the evidence that leads them to their assessments.” (Vogstad)

I also really like Vogstad’s description of the 4 types of documentation she asks students to include: Two of the Same, Showing the Knowing, Celebrating the Learning, and Explaining the Hows and Whys. (Vogstad)

5. Which platform would be best for this application?

“The first part of our work will be to decide what artifacts they want students to put into their portfolios and how they want those artifacts displayed.” (Byrne)

Richard Byrne’s blog is an excellent place to start when looking for any technology tool – he offers comparisons, tutorials, and suggestions for almost anything. This article, “Three Digital Portfolio Styles – And Tools for Making Them“, describes three styles digital portfolios: sharable folders, websites or blogs, and digital portfolio apps. For each style, he gives some pros and cons, then some suggestions on how to implement that type of portfolio. This blog also contains other articles where he evaluates specific tools for digital portfolios.

What I learned from this resource:

The platform chosen depends on the style of portfolio students will be creating. A shared folder is simple but doesn’t allow much flexibility for presentation or student descriptions/reflection. A website or blog allows students to create posts of their best work, including descriptions, reflections, and feedback comments. Services specifically made for digital portfolios further allows teachers to create a classroom of students or assign activities, and are also made with younger children in mind. I think these services, like ClassDojo and SeeSaw, may be best for my situation. (Byrne)

I am currently using shared folders with my students and would like to try a style that is more about students presenting, describing, and reflecting on their work. However, until I decide exactly how I want this to look, I may have trouble deciding the right tool. Therefore, my first step is to think about what I want students to share and how I plan to assess the students’ work.


Byrne, Richard. “Three Digital Portfolio Styles – And Tools for Making Them.” FreeTech4Teachers, 2018,

Kolk, Melinda. “Building Digital Portfolios: Create memorable learning archives.” Creative Educator,

mcsStealMine. “Digital Portfolios – The Whole Child, The Whole Story.” YouTube, 2017,

Surrey School District. “Digital Portfolios in Surrey Schools.” Surrey Learning By Design,

Vogstad, Kelli. “Communicating Student Learning: The Journey Continues.” Teaching and Learning With Heart, 2016,


1 thought on “Reading Review Part C”

  1. Wow, this was a very well done Reading Review Part C. Your reflection on the process, the insights you’ve gained about sharing online, as well as the style in which you annotated each resources was very good. I appreciated your honest, open reflection on what you experienced going through this and thought your key learning, highlights, guiding questions and resource descriptions were truly excellent. There is nothing I would recommend to adjust or amend. I also think that once you see how we run the small groups and blogging that you might want to look to blogs and RSS as a way for students to share and publish their portfolios. It might be worth considering. Overall, very well done!


Comments are closed.