4 Steps to Digital Portfolios

Thinking about helping students become more reflective and more thoughtful learners? Starr Sackstein, a New York educator, recently shared the benefits of digital portfolios and her 4–Steps to Digital Portfolios in a webinar.

Why Digital Portfolios?

When students are tracking their progress over–time, they are better able to set goals, reflect and think about themselves as learners. Using digital portfolios helps students become better and more reflective learners.

Benefits of Digital portfolios:

  • Promote student self-reflections
  • Deepens the transfer of knowledge
  • Encourages connections with the past, present, future

The benefits of digital portfolios are amplified if, in your school, you are not only using portfolios like FreshGrade in your classroom but there is an expectation that students are collecting portfolios in all of their classes. By collecting portfolios in all classes, learning can easily be tracked and passed along to the next teachers, and students are better able to make the connections across all curriculums.

4 Steps to Digital Portfolios

Starr used her many years of classroom experience to develop a process that simplifies and increases the impact of digital portfolios. A process that can be easily used in any classroom, any age level, and with any subject area.


When in the collection mode, kids have the opportunity to capture all of the learning that they are doing and keep it in one place. If your students were anything like Starr’s students who oftentimes throw things out after grades are on them or they just have a really hard time managing their work. Collecting their learning in a digital space meets them where they are and allows them to easily organize their work without the worry of losing anything.


The selection of student work can be done in a number of ways depending on your classroom needs. Setting up expectations around what students are selecting their work will help guide how students select. For example, perhaps you want students to showcase their best work – students will choose the learning that they feel is best. Perhaps you want students to focus on a summative project or something that is a process. This step will be guided by what you and your students determine is the purpose of their digital portfolios.


Once students have made their selections the reflection piece becomes easier. As one of the people that will be reviewing their portfolio, you will want to know why they made the selections they did. You will want them to articulate why they selected the body of work they determined to fit the criteria you and your students determined in the selection process. When students are articulating their work they may talk about the standards that the assignment is addressing, the process, where they struggled, and how they grew. Students may even choose to reflect on two assignments that are addressing the same standards to show how in the earlier part of the process compared to the later part of the process they feel like they have grown, and that they can see within their selections.


The connection is a very important piece to the digital portfolio puzzle – especially when students are learning in lots of classes and digital portfolios systems are being used to document this learning. We not only want them to be able to transfer the learning from unit to unit, skill to skill, content piece to content piece, but we want them to be able to start to see the connections between all of their classes. Being able to see how the skills in Science connect to the skills in Math, or how Social Studies, English, and Language all connect together. Another example of this is group assignments where students are working on things like collaboration and the things learned in different spaces that can be transferred to what students’ lives are going to look like after their schooling is complete.

Honouring the learning

When telling students only grades, or they are just tracking their grades instead of actually looking at the learning over time. Students don’t necessarily understand what progress they have made. Especially when looking at the beginning of the year work to the end of the year work. Or even on a much bigger scale looking at progress over three to four years of time. Having an exit portfolio conference at the end of the year can help with this process. Exit portfolios conferences are a great way for students to review their growth throughout the year or more and reflect on what type of learner they are how and how far they have come.

Join Starr Sackstein in her on-demand webinar to learn more about the 4 steps to Digital Portfolios.

Starr Sackstein

Educational Consultant

Starr Sackstein has been an educator since 2001 and is currently an educational consultant with the Core Collaborative. Her last position was as the director of humanities in the West Hempstead Union Free School District. Starr received national board certification in 2012 and was recognized as an outstanding educator that year by Education Update. She is also a Certified Masters Journalism Educator through the Journalism Education Association (JEA) and served as the New York State director for JEA. Most recently, she was named an ASCD “Emerging Leader” class of 2016 and had the opportunity to give a TEDx Talk called A Recovering Perfectionist’s Journey to Give Up Grades.



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