Online Student Portfolios – A Community Engagement Project

As part of my course work this term in my masters program at Seattle Pacific University, I had to create a project that incorporated ISTE standard 2 Digital Citizen and used the stages of backward design thinking as described in Wiggins and McTighe’s book, Understanding by Design. When I started thinking about this project I knew I wanted it to be something that any educator could pick up and engage with. I also knew that I wanted there to be creativity, student voice, and adaptability involved in the project. Something that I have long thought about was online student portfolios. So I began to think about how I could create the space for educators to build this into their teaching and allow students to discuss, share, and talk about their learning through the use of an online portfolio. I also wanted this to be something that would provide educators with alternative ways of assessing students. It was also important to me that this project provide authentic learning opportunities around digital identity,healthy online interactions and fair usage. However I was concerned about how educators might react to a project like this since for many of the educators that I work with, this is outside their comfort zone. So I knew that I needed to be intentional with how to share this plan with my fellow educators in order to create trust and buy-in.

Where to Begin

I had an idea for the project and now I needed to start to bring it to life. To start my project I focused on really defining what my goals were for the online portfolios. I wanted to focus this project on a couple things; authentic learning for students around being a good digital citizen and authentic opportunities for reflecting on and sharing their learning. I really struggled with what this stage of the project would look like. Since I was trying to design something that could be used in any content area I did not want to get too specific but I wanted to provide enough support for teachers. As I continue to think about what the essential questions are for a project like this I am still torn between leaving them open versus providing specific example questions for different content areas. So I plan on continuing to push myself to think about what some of these questions might be and how to structure it in a way that both makes sense and supports the online portfolio.

Stage 1 of my learning plan, including my essential questions

Going further

Once I had a somewhat clear plan for what I wanted students to know and be able to do I turned my attention to how they would demonstrate that learning. Part of this was easy, students would be creating an online portfolio and that would be where students could house much of their learning, however that didn’t cover everything. I really wanted this to be student driven which meant I needed to think about how to incorporate the students into the assessments. So I turned my attention to how I might incorporate student self reflections and peer reviews into the project. I also wanted students to practice reflective writing so I built that into the assessment section of my project through having students complete weekly reflection of their learning using an adaption of the four question prompts that Sakai-Miller shared in chapter 2 of her book, Innovation Age Learning. I also knew that I wanted to be able to assess what students knew and learned about digital citizenship so I wanted to incorporate a quiz or two around this topic. While it may not seem that there are a ton of assessments in this plan, the key is that the assessments are ongoing throughout. During the entire process students are assessing their own work and the work of their peers and teachers are checking in with students on a regular basis.

Four questions for students weekly reflections, adapted from the book Innovation Age Learning by Sharon Sakai-Miller

The Learning Activities

The biggest and almost hardest part of this project was thinking about the learning that needed to happen in order for students to successfully meet the goals of this project. I think this was hard for me because too often the things that I wanted to include in the learning plan can be the things that teachers want to skip, avoid, or don’t even think about. Often in the classroom teachers are so focused on their content area and the skills that students need in order to master or learn the content that additional things or activities are skipped in order to preserve time. I wanted this project to be different though. I wanted teachers to see the importance of the activities and how the activities support the content they were trying to teach as well as the overall project. I looked to incorporate activities that built in the components of digital citizenship, skills that students needed to be successful in this project, and student voice.

The learning plan highlighting opportunities for authentic digital citizenship, student voice, and communication/reflection

Reflecting on the Process

As I reflect on this project and the components that make up the project I am really happy with how far it has come. I do believe that this is something any teacher could incorporate into their classroom. While I have not had the opportunity as of yet to utilize this project in its fullest with a class of students, I have been able to share pieces of it with teachers I am working with. One of the teachers I work with is doing a modification of student portfolios and used a modified version of the single point rubric I created to have their students complete peer reviews (see image below). I am encouraged by their willingness to try the rubric and do something outside their comfort level. I am thinking about and reflecting on how to share this project with other teachers, maybe even on a larger scale. I am happy with where this project is and the potential it has to impact students and their learning by providing authentic learning experiences. I am looking forward to continuing to reflect on the project the more I introduce it to teachers and use it with students.

Example peer review filled out by a student after reviewing a classmates math portfolio.

Project Resources and Documents


  • Digital Citizenship Curriculum. (2020, January 29). Retrieved from
  • ISTE Standards for Students. Retrieved mcsStealMine. (2017, May 20). Digital Portfolios – The Whole Child, The Whole Story [Video]. YouTube.
  • Sakai-Miller, S. (2016). Innovation age learning: empowering students by empowering teachers. Eugene, Oregon ; Arlington, Virginia: International Society for Technology in Education.
  • Wiggins, G., & Mctighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design, Expanded 2Nd Edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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