Chapter Four (continued next page)
Table of Contents



This study was a qualitative multiple case study examining the perceptions of teacher candidates involved in the creation of portfolios electronically. Twelve teacher candidates were interviewed and their portfolio products were examined to determine the effectiveness of the electronic process from the student’s perspective. A computer literacy questionnaire provided additional information concerning the technical background and attitude of the students toward technology. In addition, the course professor and the computer lab technician were interviewed to explore their interpretations of the electronic portfolio process and product. Data from all interviews and portfolio cover sheets were analyzed with the help of a qualitative software package, Ethnograph, v. 5.0.

The questions that guided this investigation were:

1. What effect does incorporating technology have on the development of a portfolio for teacher candidates?
2. To what extent does the electronic portfolio process encourage self-assessment and reflection?
3. In what ways does the electronic portfolio provide evidence of student learning and achievement in line with course objectives?
4. What are the problems encountered in putting together the portfolio electronically?
5. What do students perceive as the strengths and/or weaknesses of creating a portfolio electronically?
6. What are the course professor's perceptions concerning the effectiveness of the electronic portfolio as a tool for assessment?

Organization of Findings

Findings that emerged from the data collected from interviews, e-mail correspondence, and portfolio entries will be reported through the use of narratives throughout the remainder of this chapter. The process of designing the computer templates was considered significant to the development of the electronic portfolio project. The experimental process that the course professor and the researcher went through in order to create a convenient and useable instrument of student assessment was considered important to the implementation of the project. Narratives concerning the technical and curriculum design process include e-mail and telephone discussions between the course professor, the researcher, the students, and the lab technician.

Results from the student computer literacy questionnaire, including previous background and attitude toward the use of technology in education, are considered important for this study. Students shared their perspective through reflections within the electronic portfolio framework as well through open-ended personal interviews. Interviews, portfolio reflections, questionnaire responses, e-mail messages, and other communication provided the data for analysis. Narratives of student responses have been organized into the following general categories:

  1. The Portfolio Process
  2. Technology
  3. Student Perception
  4. The Electronic Portfolio Product
  5. Self-assessment and Self-reflection.

The Electronic Portfolio Project

The electronic portfolio project was developed to explore the possibilities of using computer technology to store artifacts as evidence of achievement of course objectives. The electronic portfolio project was the final assessment for multiple subjects credential candidates enrolled in reading methodology classes during two consecutive semesters. The portfolio provided an electronic framework for documenting the meeting of course criteria, as well as evidence of self-reflection and self-assessment. A portfolio template was designed around specific course objectives based on state standards. Students included artifacts created with computer text, graphics, sound, or video as evidence of meeting each course objective. Students provided a reflective cover sheet in which they defended their selections for each objective. The text of the reflective cover sheets was examined to gain insight into the student’s perceptions.

The course syllabus, designed with emphasis on learning objectives based on current state certification standards, was prepared by the course professor prior to the electronic portfolio project. Two successive groups of teacher candidates were involved in the electronic portfolio project: the spring group of six students (Group I) and the fall group of six students (Group II). The electronic portfolio project was constantly evolving throughout both semesters due to revisions in state credential standards and technological considerations. The course syllabus was altered for Group II due to revised state standards and the implementation of the Reading Instruction Competency Assessment (RICA). In addition, an attempt was made to solve some of the technical problems that were experienced by Group I. Students of Group II were required to attend a computer training seminar at the beginning of the semester to prepare for the electronic portfolio project.

The paper portfolio was an established means of assessment in the teaching training courses at this university before the electronic portfolio project began. When the course professor was asked why she implemented electronic portfolios into her class, she stated:

I have worked for ten years to get faculty to infuse the use of technology into their courses and teach students to do so in productive ways--this is just another step along the way. The benefits for me? Not having to carry home 100 pounds of paper portfolios as I have been doing for several years--and seeing that students DO know how to use the technology in their classrooms when they leave--and understand not just the tech part--but the curricular uses. They have to get through the learning/uncomfortable stage before they can connect to the important parts of teaching them how to use technology in appropriate ways--and since the state does not require the computer course until 5th year--that puts all of us at a disadvantage because most do not know how to do anything but word processing and email--and now most know how to surf the net. This was my way of forcing them to learn what I wanted them to know even though I couldn't make them take the computer course.

The Computer Literacy Questionnaire

A preliminary computer literacy questionnaire was used with all students in both courses to examine technical background and student attitude toward technology. Results were tabulated for the twelve subjects who voluntarily participated in this study. All students were female and the average age was 23 years old. Five students were graduate students and seven were college seniors. Nine students reported having used computers for more than four years. The three remaining students had been using computers for two to three years. All students had access to computers at home. Eight students owned DOS computers with a Windows operating system and four students owned Macintosh computers. All but one student had access to a modem at home.

All students reported using computers for word processing and e-mail and all but one student used the World Wide Web. Eight students reported playing games on computers and six students used computers for graphics. Only three students claimed to use computers for multimedia. Students generally reported that they used word processing, e-mail, and the World Wide Web frequently. Least frequently used software programs were graphics, multimedia, spreadsheet, and database (see Table 4).

Table 4. Frequency of Software Use

Software Use
Word Processing
World Wide Web

According to the literacy survey, the general attitude was positive toward the use of computers. Six students reported that they "loved" computers and five students reported that they "liked" computers. Only one student claimed to "hate" or "dislike" computers. Four students reported using computers more than eight hours weekly. The amount of activity in relation to the reported attitude toward computers for the study group is reported in Figure 1. The one student who reported "disliking" or "hating" computers was the same student that reported the least amount of computer activity weekly (see Figure 8).

Figure 8. Activity and attitude toward computers.

The frequency of use of graphics and multimedia software for the twelve students involved was considered significant for this study. The electronic portfolio design was to incorporate multimedia artifacts in the format of graphics, audio, video, and text within the computer framework. Students were expected to present their evidence of meeting course criteria in an interactive format, allowing the viewer or evaluator to link directly from the course objectives to multimedia artifacts (see Figure 9). Seventy-five percent of the students reported never or rarely using graphics and multimedia software prior to the electronic portfolio project.

Figure 9. Graphics and multimedia frequency of use.

Comparisons between Study Participants and Total Class

The twelve participants in the study volunteered to be interviewed and have their electronic portfolios examined. The questionnaire results for all of the 31 students enrolled in both classes were examined in order to compare the study group with the total class population (including the twelve participants in the study group) prior to the study. According to student responses given at the beginning of each course, the amount of weekly computer activity was generally greater with the twelve student volunteers (see Table 5). 42% of the students participating in the study spent six hours or more a week using computers compared to 29% of the total class. The total class included four students who reportedly "disliked" computers and 25 students who stated that they "loved" or "liked" computers. Graphics and multimedia software programs were reportedly used frequently or sometimes by 43% of the total group in comparison to 25% of the student volunteers who participated in the study.

Table 5. Amount of Weekly Computer Activity – Comparison of Study Group with Total Students in Course

Weekly Activity 8 + hours 6-7 hours 4-5 hours 2-3 hours 1 hour
12  Students
31  Total Class

Figure 10. Comparison of frequency of use of graphics and multimedia software between research study participants and total student population.

The Design Process

Phase I

The initial electronic portfolio was designed for Group I by creating a template based on the course objectives and assignments included in the reading methods course syllabus. The course professor provided a syllabus indicating how course objectives were linked to state certification standards. The course syllabus included descriptions of all assignments and included guidelines for traditional portfolio preparation. The portfolio designer began with the assumption that hypertext mark-up language (HTML) web authoring offered the most practical format for students because of its cross-platform compatibility and accessibility to HTML editing software through the Netscape Gold software browser and editor. In addition, linking course objectives directly to the World Wide Web addresses of state certification agencies seemed to offer possibilities for providing easy access to current standards. A literacy resource packet was also compiled to provide teacher candidates with additional curriculum materials.

Technical problems developed immediately because of cross-platform issues. The designer created the web pages on a Windows NT computer and saved all files on a CD-ROM. Files were then to be transferred to each student’s zip disk. Initial problems were described in the researcher’s journal:

My original design plan called for cross-platform compatibility between Windows and Mac. I thought that students would want to work at home and I knew many people had Windows machines. The lab was primarily Mac and I knew the course professor would want the final product in Mac format.
Some of the problems that occurred during the process of preparing the portfolio template were documented in the researcher’s field journal.
I originally named files not worrying about length of file names. I wrote all HTML files on a Windows NT using FrontPage 97. I designed the pages using the original syllabus which had been written in HTML using Pagemill. I determined that my NT files were not being read by Mac because I had used Windows 95 unlimited names. I had to go back and name all files with DOS names using eight or less letters. Somewhere in the process of moving from NT to Mac, the links to files with long names were not readable by Mac. Mac files came up with a % folder division that I did not understand. After renaming all HTML files with shorter names, they were cross-platform compatible. An additional problem came up when I saved all files on a writable CD-ROM. The files were locked once I put them on CD. On the Windows machines, you could simply unlock the files by going to the properties menu. The Mac files were fine once they were resaved on a Mac, but before that, you could not edit the files.
Teacher candidates participating in the first electronic portfolio project were asked to purchase zip disks in order to have adequate storage space for all text, graphics, audio, and video files. The HTML template was transferred to each student's zip disk. Most of the students requested Mac format, but a few students requested Windows format in order to work on the portfolio on their own computers rather than in the lab. When the project was finally introduced, the students indicated that they were overwhelmed with the complexity of the web and confused over the links to the literacy resource packet. The course professor separated the resource packet from the portfolio in an attempt to differentiate between the purposes of the portfolio and the literacy resources.

Early in the semester, it became clear that students also were having difficulty using the HTML template. A decision was made to provide an alternative template using Hyperstudio, a multimedia authoring software program. The course professor described the problems:

The initial decisions were based on what would be easiest for the students--most whom had NOT had any computer courses or training--that we could support in the lab. Also, since our lab assistant hours were very limited at that time, we made some decisions (i.e. using HTML) so that students would be able to it at home and change platforms without major problems.
Problems occurred because students didn't find the web construction we gave them understandable--they were overwhelmed with all the cross referencing, etc., and didn't understand most of what they had--particularly the resources--until late in the semester. We also caused problems because we had technical problems and kept changing things on them. We also had problems with the CD and that made things worse for them.
Eventually, we gave them a template to use (Hyperstudio) and that seemed to make more sense to them--so they all used it--with one exception, I believe. Once they connected with Hyperstudio the tension about it eased a bit, but many still found it difficult (because they put it off and didn't just go learn to do it) and by then their attitudes were so bad about the whole thing that it made it more difficult for them.
The course designer created separate stacks for each objective, as well as a main menu stack and an assignment stack. The menu stack included space for personal information and a philosophy of education statement. Each stack included a series of cards or pages in which students were to place their artifacts. These artifacts could be inserted as text files within text boxes, graphics files, sound files, or video files. The students appeared to be less intimidated by the Hyperstudio design. One student from the original group elected to use the HTML template. Another student from Group II elected to use HTML as well. Several indicated they would be interested in trying the web format if they were to prepare an electronic portfolio in the future. One student indicated that she would have used HTML if she had more time to complete the project, but that Hyperstudio simply proved to be faster. The researcher’s field notes indicated the feeling that students did not have the technical background to understand the flexibility of HTML and the possibilities for linking between assignments and objectives. Everything needed simplification.

Penny, a student from Group I, expressed her frustration with the initial electronic portfolio assignment:

If we would have had this assignment from the beginning--and I know that we were the first class to do it--I can see next semester, when they have this, it will be a lot easier for them, in terms of they'll be able to work on it the whole semester, rather than the last month. There were so many changes. We started out with HTML and then we decided that not too many people were getting into that, so--I liked the Hyperstudio, the stacks. That was really great. That was much easier. I can't imagine having to try to do HTML.
An additional problem emerged with the design of both templates during the first semester. The original portfolio menu emphasized the course assignments rather than the course objectives. Early in the design process, the researcher noted in her field journal the changes that had to be made in the electronic portfolio template in order to keep the focus of the course objectives clear to students:
The course professor noted that students were confusing the assignments with the actual purpose of the portfolio--showing evidence of completing course objectives. The initial portfolio menu design emphasized the assignments causing students to think completing assignments meant meeting course objectives. I changed the design when moving it into the Hyperstudio format--so that the assignments were under the notes menu. Assignments could be used as evidence of meeting objectives, but they must then be placed in the appropriate place in the portfolio. I believe this gave the course objectives greater prominence in the design, giving the students a clearer understanding of what types of evidence they needed to provide. I believe this was my error because I did not make the opening menu clear. I think this change, along with switching to Hyperstudio, saved this project.
Figure 11. Original Hyperstudio template menu page emphasizing course assignments.

Figure 12. Revised Hyperstudio initial template menu page placing emphasis on course objectives.

Figure 13. Hyperstudio course objectives menu page.

The technical expertise of the course professor and her commitment to use technology in teacher preparation were crucial to the success of the electronic portfolio process. The professor stated:

I had to spend much more time talking about it, demonstrating, and trouble shooting technical problems in class than I should have--which meant my concern about the time taken away from the reading instruction was growing. And I finally had to simply call a halt to the in-class time--which meant I also had to compromise the technology standards for the portfolios that semester. They zapped me heavily in their class evaluations--but they did them a week before they finished their portfolios--right at the height of their stress level--and late nights--so I was expecting that. At the end, they did get excited about the portfolios--and most would probably do it again by choice. I believe they saw the benefits of the electronic format and they liked the individuality. Also, they saw the usefulness of the format for later. They were very proud of their products. Many got all excited about buttons they created or little bits of music they put in--they are, after all, going to be elementary school teachers!

Phase II

Several changes were implemented for the second group of reading methods course students who began portfolios in the fall of 1998. The California Advisory Task Force on Teacher Preparation for Reading Instruction (RICA) prepared new standards that needed to be implemented into an updated course syllabus. The course professor reorganized objectives, added RICA goals to accommodate changes in state certification standards, and simplified the template design. Students were expected to make connections between the RICA goals and the course objectives. Other changes in the project included the addition of Saturday technology workshops in which students worked with the software and hardware in the computer lab. Students were required to attend for at least one four hour session during the semester. The weekly computer hours were extended, allowing students more time on the computers with the assistance of the lab technician.

The course professor described additional changes made for Group II regarding the literacy resource packet and the implementation of Saturday workshops:

Between spring and fall I decided to separate the syllabus and resource files from the portfolio because I believed that was what was so confusing to them in the first place. I did away with some of the cross referencing because it was so confusing to them. I put the syllabus/resource files in a folder named Electronic Packet and put the template for the portfolio itself in a folder named Portfolio--and tried keeping the two things as separate as I could at first. I taught the packet first--and didn't even give them the portfolio until they attended a special workshop (I did two on Saturdays--they had to attend one of them) to learn to use Hyperstudio and the template.
Attempts to integrate technology into teacher preparation prior to the state’s fifth year clear credential requirement was described by the course professor:
I also want them to learn more than the state currently demands in the undergraduate part of their program--and have for years made them do computer projects (lesson plans, book reviews for Kidline, etc.) and so this serves that purpose also. Recent research says that pre-service teachers do not come out adequately prepared in technology and the use of it in curriculum--ours do. They are ahead of many other schools.
We began offering a one-unit course for incoming school of education students this year--that was elective/not required. Many took it and got a fast (too fast) intro to e-mail, the web, Hyperstudio and HTML. Without exception, their evaluations indicated that they liked the class and what they were learning--and wanted more time--so that word (when spread) may cause more of them to take the computer class early in their coursework--which is what is needed. Most students learned all of the basic skills taught in the computer class and some more advanced skills such as video production using Premiere and audio production using Sound Edit--all learned very basic scanning, image editing (Photoshop) and Hyperstudio skills. The state is in the process of changing these requirements and the computer course will be required earlier in the program.
Due to the design changes in the electronic portfolio project, Group II students were perceived by the researcher to have advantages over those of Group I. Group II students received the four-hour computer workshop training prior to the beginning of the electronic portfolio project. The computer lab technician’s hours were extended to three-quarter-time so that technical help was more readily available for Group II. Group II students received the Hyperstudio template early in the semester and did not have to go through the delays, the technical problems of HTML, and the attempts at platform compatibility. Because of the cross-platform problems experienced by Group I, students in Group II were not encouraged to work at home except for word processing unless they were already comfortable with the technology of Hyperstudio or HTML.

According to the course professor, the content of the portfolios from Group II as a whole demonstrated a "more meaningful collection of artifacts aligned with course objectives." The first group reported that "evidence selection was determined primarily by the ease of being able to digitize and insert the artifact into the Hyperstudio stack." She stated that artifacts from the Group II were more complete and the portfolios were more elaborate and personalized. Students demonstrated less frustration over the electronic portfolio process throughout the second semester. For the most part, students from Group II reportedly kept up with assignments and did not wait until the last minute to work on the project. The course professor introduced the literacy resource packet early in the semester before discussion of the portfolio project. The portfolio template was not introduced until after the students participated in the computer workshop, resulting in less confusion over the purposes of the project. Also, the students had the advantage of viewing student projects from the previous semester.

The Electronic Portfolio Process

Student approach to the project

Creating an electronic portfolio was a new concept for all of the students in this study. The initial reaction to the project caused worried reactions from several students. Maggie stated:
I was scared of the whole assignment at first because I didn't know how to use any other programs than word processing basically…I was really worried about it, 'cause I didn't know how to do it. But now that I know how to do it, it's so simple. You just ask a few questions and it's not that bad.
Students approached the electronic portfolio assignment in different ways. Some students began by examining the course objectives and looking for artifacts before they worked on applying the technology. Penny described how she began to work on the portfolio assignment:
It started out in class. We were given a list of possible artifacts for our objectives. Basically, I went through some of my stuff and figured out what sort of things--like pictures, text, articles, and web sites--and things that I thought were appropriate for the objectives. I also looked at her [course professor’s] suggestions. I basically went into the computer lab and just started experimenting with it and seeing what it did. It was really neat. I didn't really know what to expect 'cause it was the first time we'd ever done anything like this. It was just hands on and I didn't research the whole lot. I just went in and did it.
Kate examined the objectives of the course before collecting artifacts:
I went about looking at the general objectives--the course objectives that I was supposed to accomplish on the ditto piece of paper that Dr. Smith gave us. Before I even sat down at the computer, I began gathering all of the information that I needed, like all the artifacts--paper-wise or on disk. I collected all of mine on disk 'cause I thought--the lab tech at the time had told me it was very easy to transfer and disk copy to the portfolio. So I matched all my artifacts with the objectives and took all the disks of my material to the lab. I sat down probably two weekends before and finally looked at what the portfolio actually looked like. So that's how I set about putting it all together.
Dana explained that she was doing two electronic portfolios during the same semester. She described her process of collecting evidence of meeting course objectives in both courses:
I took the objectives from both the pedagogy and the language arts one and tried to think of classes that I'd taken and what artifacts I had that I'd be able to use. With the pedagogical objectives, the artifacts were focused toward the other methods classes I had taken. I looked through all my stuff for each class and I organized and grouped the material together so that I could just find two artifacts for each thing. We had everything on disk so a lot of it was just really easy to save as a text file and bring over to the lab and insert. I basically took everything from the class itself, from class notes, class projects that we did. It's all from the class whereas the pedagogical one is a combination of everything else. I used Hyperstudio. I thought about using HTML but I just wanted to do what was there. I'm going to be a teacher and so I figured I needed to know Hyperstudio anyway.
Sandy stated that she was first concerned about the technology demands for the assignment and decided to get familiar with the portfolio and the computers in the lab before beginning to match artifacts with objectives.
I basically had no experience on Macintosh. I came in the week after I heard about this project and I just started getting familiar with the portfolio. I'm also taking Microcomputers in Education, which also helped a great deal in this portfolio. I also had a lot of help from the lab technician. The way I started putting it together was that I used the Hyperstudio template. I did a lot of it in Hyperstudio--which I really enjoyed.

The use of templates

Because most of the students lacked background in technology, pre-designed templates were provided. A main menu was designed to provide pre-programmed links to other Hyperstudio stacks or web pages, depending on the format selected by the student. Students were encouraged to include a personal stack or web page, along with a statement of their philosophy of education. A separate stack was created for each course objective, providing a framework for the presentation of multimedia artifacts as evidence of meeting course objectives. Each objective stack included a cover sheet text box for self-reflection and self-assessment. Artifacts within the portfolios were evaluated in terms of meeting course criteria and cover sheets were examined for evidence of student reflection and assessment. Students were asked to provide a conclusion statement as well. An assignment stack or a set of assignment web pages was included to provide a framework for lesson plans, journal critiques, field experiences, and other assignments given during the semester. These could be linked from the objectives stacks or web pages.

Ten of the twelve students in this study used the Hyperstudio template provided for them on zip disks. One student used a template designed in HTML and one student created her own HTML portfolio without a template. Students generally responded favorably to the use of templates. Maggie stated, "I liked having the prepared one [template]. That was great, 'cause I was just getting started. I really liked the templates --those were helpful." Some students indicated that they made changes to the template as they worked on the project. Barbara stated, "I liked having the template. I could change things later to spice it up." She described how she would improve her process in the future: "I would use Hyperstudio but I'd design my own template. The ease of the template took the stress off for the first time, but I'd do my own next time." Penny agreed that "it was easy having a template instead of having to create one on your own."

Lisa described how she started with the basic template and made changes as she worked on the project:

I used the Hyperstudio program. I used the portfolio that had been pre-done, the template, but I took it apart and put it back together the way I wanted it to connect. I set up how I wanted the computer part of it first. Then I went in and plugged in what I wanted to add for the objectives and artifacts and things. There were links between stacks that didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, so I changed the links. The biggest thing that I did--there was one assignment that I wanted to use pieces of in different stacks. I had to take it all out and make it a new stack, so I ended up linking. There are some pages that look the same but they're actually two different pages that I ended up double creating so it would link the way I wanted it to.
Barbara described her process:
The first step was organizing material I wanted to use, the artifacts. I looked at competencies required. The second step was to apply the technology. Once all the artifacts were gathered and collected, I began to enter field experiences in Hyperstudio. The second template was easier to use. I cut and pasted in the material.
Carol said:
Using the Hyperstudio software and the templates that were already designed, I went through with the objectives and the goals that we had on a list. I just went through and I got words that came to my mind first from what the objective was. I’d try to think about what I'd done that related to it.
Karen described her process of collecting photographs, papers, and observations from various college courses:
I've kept binders full of all the work I've done through 4 years of college and I went through that and picked it out. I took some photos of work I'd done with kids and put those in. Also--photos of books for different age levels. The rest are papers I'd written, observations I'd done, and discussions I'd had at various points throughout my education. I used more than just from this class--in fact very little from this class.
Working at home

All students involved in the study had access to computers at home. Several students reported being able to successfully work on files for the electronic portfolio project on their own home computer. Kate described her process of working at home:

My little Microsoft Word disks--I collected in a pile 'cause most of mine [artifacts] were on other disks. I hadn't been using a zip disk 'cause I never really worked on a zip disk 'til this portfolio project. I did most of all my work at home. I collected either actual pieces of paper that were going to be my artifacts and scanned all of the information that I had--like different articles I had on disk. I brought all that with me, along with the course objectives, and actually opened the portfolio on zip disk for the first time in the lab and just started inserting everything that I had.
Maggie stated:
I typed out most of my stuff at home and I used Claris Works. I had to save it as Word Perfect 4.0 so I could transfer it to the computer over here in the LRC. Then I just basically cut and pasted most of my stuff into the electronic portfolio. I wrote all the objectives and I kind of picked little parts from each objective because they're so broad. Most of the things that I chose were segments that I had to do for my class.
Dana explained that collecting her text files and graphics at home was convenient due to her schedule and the limited amount of time available in the lab:
I brought in separate text files that I typed elsewhere and put them in. I saved all my graphics on a disk. I got them from internet sites. I did all of the work outside and then came in and just cut and pasted and copied all the competencies that I had to write for a pedagogical and all the explanations--the cover sheets. I wrote them all at home 'cause the lab hours were limited and it's hard to fit in with the schedule. I may as well do all the work at home. I work best late at night anyway so…I either did everything through inserting a graphic or through a text box. I would insert a text box, cut and paste, and insert the reading material into the text box. When I was done, I moved on to the next one.
Carol explained that she used mostly text files that she typed at home. She saved them in text format, and then used cut and paste options to insert them into the Hyperstudio template in the lab:
I did very little scanning. Almost all of it was cut and paste. I took it just right off my desktop at home. I had a Mac but I didn't have the equivalent so I just saved it in text format, brought it over here, pulled it up on Word, and cut and pasted a lot of what I did on it. A lot of it though I did type in myself. All the lesson plans I just retyped 'cause it seemed to be easier 'cause the format was different. It took me less time to retype than it would to try and figure out how to cut and paste and do other stuff. I didn't do a lot of graphics. Mine was very simple. I was more concerned about what went into the portfolio than trying to make it look fancy. My scanning consisted of all the photos I brought.

HTML web portfolios

Two of the students used HTML to create a web portfolio. Both of these students reported that they had used computers extensively for more than five years and spent more than eight hours a week working on computers. Paula reported that she used all forms of software frequently, including spreadsheets, database, graphics, and multimedia. She used the original HTML template given to Group I and linked to the literacy resource packet as it was originally designed. She indicated that she did all of her work at home. She described her process:
I used Microsoft FrontPage and I scanned a lot of the stuff in as well as I used a lot of the resources that you had given us on the running records and some of the other things that were already included…I'm working on an IBM and I knew that you would be on a Mac, so it had to be something that could be used on the Mac format. I used a scanner and I used some of the backgrounds and things that come with FrontPage. I dragged and dropped a whole bunch of stuff from the electronic pack.
Tina, a student from Group II, organized her portfolio without following a template and wrote her web pages using HTML code. She expressed frustration that she was not initially made aware of the possibility of working at home and using the web format. Prior to the beginning of the project, Tina, a music major, criticized the emphasis on using Mac computers, stating in her literacy survey that "the Mac devotion in this course is less than convenient, especially given the amount of PC users in the class." Once she realized she could present her portfolio in HTML, she designed her own web site and posted in on the university server.
I did it on the web. I did HTML using VI editor on the UNIX machines. I either telneted from home or used the UNIX lab here. I wrote the code. I was upset at first 'cause we weren't told we could do it on the web. I did a lot of web pages as it was web based...The Mac lab hours were bad. I would not have been able to get in to finish it if I'd had to work there. I did it mostly at home and in the UNIX lab.


The amount of time that students spent on the electronic portfolio project varied greatly. Some students reported the amount of time spent in the computer lab putting their portfolio into an electronic format after collecting their evidence. Other students reported the time they spent making decisions concerning the selection of artifacts for each objective. Cathy and Maggie each estimated that they worked in the lab for approximately ten hours to complete the portfolio. Maggie, however, stated, "It took another ten hours above preparing the assignment--just getting it in and in the form I wanted it." She said it was not difficult, but she added that "most of it was just time."

Barbara said, "Once I’d gathered the evidence, I processed what was fulfilling competencies. Once I’d learned Hyperstudio and gathered artifacts, it took about 12 to 18 hours to complete." Paula stated, "Collecting the information wasn't so time consuming. It was more of the thought process involved in that than anything else. Mostly it was putting it together. It took actually pretty much the whole weekend, so three days." When asked what took the most time, Karen replied, "The scanning, making it pretty, choosing what I needed. I spent almost two months in the computer lab, every night after class and work, weekends."

Dana described the problems with technology as she worked on her electronic portfolio:

Changing the backgrounds and putting in images--Cutting and pasting. They had real problems with the computers. Something would just happen. It just takes a while to cut and paste on each page and then you get efficient at it. I'd say, in the lab, a good 10-15 hours--Outside of the lab, probably another good 10-15 hours. It was just a matter of collecting everything and saving it as a rich text file. Finding images and sounds--I've never really experimented with sounds on the internet. I'd seen other people do it and got a feel for how that was done.
Sandy said, "I would guess I spent at least 40 hours on the portfolio." She said she enjoyed the process of working in the lab, but that time was an issue. She said:
It gets to the point when you're down to the time factor, so you just start asking rather than sit there for an hour trying to figure it out. I did try and succeeded now and then.
Kate stated, "I felt limited by time." She said she would have preferred to use HTML if she had had more time. When asked what the most time consuming part of the process was, she said:
Probably just simply gathering artifacts. Honestly, actually getting in there and sitting in front of a portfolio, once I had everything, it was not difficult. At first I thought it would be and I was amazed at how easy it is to do a portfolio…At the time I was doing it, I was on a time limit. I actually would have done HTML had I had more time and been more prepared, 'cause it would have been a lot better to be able to access it on the web easier, in my opinion.
Penny stated that the electronic portfolio took "probably at least 20-24 hours, spread over a three or four week period of time" to complete the electronic portfolio. She described the process:
The coversheets took the most time. I think it was just putting it all together and organizing it and actually taking it from like all the stuff you have on paper to putting it into the computer--whether it's scanning it or typing it in or copying it in. I think it's just generally just sitting down and doing it that was the most time consuming. Organizing it. If she [the course professor] hadn't given us suggestions, I could see it taking a really long time. I guess just doing it is the most time consuming.
Carol said:
The actual time in the computer lab working just on the portfolio was at least 40-50 hours. The most time consuming was probably figuring out what I was going to put in each and what I was going to say about each. Scanning things in or just linking it to your web page and do whatever was easy because Linda [the lab technician] the magnificent works in there. Trying to figure out what I was going to say….and then to pick them [the artifacts] --so that was the most time consuming--actually sitting down and trying to do it.

Resource packet

The literacy resource packet was given to Group I students at the beginning of the electronic portfolio project (see Appendix G). The original intent of the designer was to provide students with a variety of literacy resources that could be linked directly to the objectives on the main web page menu. The researcher’s fourth journal entry states:
The resource folder is full of information which students can copy into their portfolio as evidence of meeting course objectives. The question is: will they actually link any resources to their portfolio? Also, does the resource packet actually help them, or does it possibly cause confusion? As I designed this package, I thought that students would link to resources, or cut and paste, adapting resources to their own web pages. It appeared early on that they liked the resources, but did not see relationships between resources and course objectives. Particularly, once they moved to the Hyperstudio template, they were unable or not interested in attempting to link resources.
The course professor felt that the presence of the literacy resources confused students in Group I, even after the resources were separated from the portfolio and placed into a different file folder. She said:
I don't believe that doing it that way increased the student's use of the resource files--but I do think they at least understood what they had--and most used the excuse of time for not making use of them--but said they would use them later--which is probably true. The only way I could really force them to make use of all of it during the semester I give it would be to require reports on things in the resource folder--or test them...maybe...haven't really thought too far on that. I talk about all of the subjects of the things that are in the resource folder--so they don't have to go there to learn the basics--and most are too busy to want anything extra during that time. I hope they use it later. I do tell them that there are many handouts I used to give on paper that are now in that packet--and I do specifically refer them to some of them that they really need for certain assignments. The top students usually explore more of the resources (surprise!).
Students from Group II reported that they did not use the literacy resource packet. Students from Group I reported limited use of the literacy resource packet. Maggie said, "The only time I looked at them was when you came into the class and did some of it. I just didn't have time, but I will use it. I did flip through and look at a little bit of the stuff for the RICA, but I didn't have much time to look at all of it. It looks like it will be helpful for that test." Cathy stated, "Unfortunately I didn't look at it too much, just because of time constraints, but I am planning on using it afterwards. I think what it was is that I didn't really need it so much at the time, but I knew that I would need it later and I'd have more time to look at it."

When Barbara was asked if she used the resource packet, she said, "I used Zoo-phonics in the field experience. I haven't really gone through resources. It didn't intimidate me. I like having the information. It's most exciting to know there are tools I can use later." Paula was the only student in the study who reported using the resources in the packet. She linked the objectives on her web page directly to several resource web pages, including the running records, phonics, and phonemic awareness web pages. She said, "I used a couple of things off the electronic packet. I used some phonics stuff and the graphic pictures of phonics animals…The electronic packet had tons of stuff that we could have used. It's just a matter of exploring that and utilizing it."

Technical Processes

Technical support

Linda, the computer lab technician, provided technical support in the School of Education learning resource center (LRC). Computer lab hours with a three-quarter-time lab assistant were extended for Group II because of the technical problems experienced by the Group I. Many students felt that the technical support from the lab technician was essential to the success of their process of creating their portfolio electronically.

Barbara stated:

Linda was the key component. She was there for guidance and support. She provided knowledge of how to navigate so I now could do it on my own. Some classmates freaked out and were critical. It was overwhelming to them. There would be no way without support.
Maggie stated:
Well I needed someone to stand there and basically tell me what to do. I really liked the templates, those were helpful, but I did need somebody to stand there and tell me what to do because I didn't know how to do it.
Dana explained how she appreciated the help of Linda, the lab technician, as well as the help of a fellow student, Lisa.
Linda--she was a big support. I also talked to Lisa a lot about it. I was afraid I wasn't doing something right or I messed up here or I’d ask Lisa--I just can't understand this one. What did you do? OK--that gives me some ideas and was able to go from there. I would ask her questions about how you would do this.
Penny explained her feeling that they were not technologically prepared for the electronic portfolio assignment and needed to rely on the lab technician for help:
We had to basically rely on Linda. She helped us out tremendously in terms of how you do this--how you do that--how do you import this--this doesn't do this.
Sandy explained that she needed Linda’s help in the lab "mostly with the technical things--how to get things done." She stated, "I find myself writing things down a lot--otherwise I’d forget. I did get a lot of outside help--mostly in the lab." Carol explained:
I knew how to do most of everything--and I knew what I wanted to do--but it seemed like I needed her [Linda] to be in the room to make sure that I got what I really wanted and what I thought could happen was really valid--her encouragement. I don't feel comfortable enough to do it on my own--even though I did it all the time.
Cathy explained that Linda was helpful to have in the lab even though she felt capable of completing the project on her own:
It was nice to have Linda in there 'cause there were some things that I had to ask her. I think I had to ask her again how to scan, just because I couldn't remember from the last semester. One time the Hyperstudio wasn't on the computer for some reason so I needed her help to get it back. Most of the time I could have done without it and if she wasn't there, I always could have left and come back at another time--or just chosen another computer. I think it is pretty important [to have technical help].
Some students had support from other people uninvolved in the electronic portfolio project. Tina explained that, without doing the project on the web, she would have needed a considerable amount of time in the computer lab. She stated, "Doing it on the web--I could do it independently. My boyfriend helped occasionally."

Lisa described the on-line technical support she received through e-mail from a friend 300 miles away:

I needed a copy of the program for PC to use at home. The most support I had was when I had that animated graphics problem and it froze. I e-mailed my whole portfolio to my friend. He's getting a computer science degree masters so he knows what he's doing. I sent it to him and I said--here tell me how to fix it. We spent a lot of hours back and forth just making sure that when I finished things, I would e-mail it to him and he would make sure it did what I said it was doing. That's something I had never done before. We collaborated a lot over 300 miles.

Technical skills

Penny stated that she became more efficient with technology as well as more proficient with cross-compatibility between computer formats because of the electronic portfolio project:
I became more efficient with computers and using Macs and PCs--the programs--how to keep things open. I learned little things about programs that I use all the time just from trying out new things. I became very efficient at Hyperstudio….I'd never used Hyperstudio before, so that was a really good experience. I have a better idea. I didn't actually create my own stack but, through using it, I learned a lot more about it--Same thing with Pagemill and I had never really scanned a lot of stuff before so that was the first time in experiencing that. I never had a lot of Mac experience. I'd always had Windows and IBM, so this was another good experience.
Dana stated:
I became more efficient with computers and using Macs and PCs. I learned little things about programs that I use all the time just from trying out new things. I became very efficient at Hyperstudio. I really like Hyperstudio.
Some students developed skills working with graphic images, drawings, photographs, and backgrounds. Several students discussed their experiences learning to work with graphics files using software programs such as Adobe Photoshop. Lisa learned how to make new Hyperstudio stacks and create interactive buttons. Kate said that she learned how to make creative changes to the template, scan images, and transfer files. She stated:
Taking from Photoshop to transfer pictures to Hyperstudio--to work in and transfer to the other Hyperstudio stacks 'cause you use stacks and transfer those too--When I had to do my own Children's book--that was a brand new stack for me. I did erase what was unnecessary to me--And I changed all the look of it--the color and everything 'cause it was pretty bland. I changed the coloring, the headings, and the text styles.
Sandy reported that she learned to "do actual drawing" on the computer. She said:
I typed, cut and pasted--some scanning and video--Definitely, being comfortable with the Mac and Hyperstudio and learning the drawing portion--Really everything about it, 'cause I didn't know anything. Most of the skills--I became better at--scanning and using Photoshop, linking to web pages, clicking on buttons and making them links.
Maggie said she enjoyed producing her own product. She described the computer skills she gained as well as her process of learning how to get photographs into her portfolio:
I learned how to scan and I learned how to use the Hyperstudio portfolio. I learned how to put buttons in and take buttons out and add new pages…The pictures and other artifacts I scanned in--which was new to me.
How do I scan, how do I add a new card to the card stack and how to get the pictures into the right size because they had to be a particular size? At first I didn't know that, so I had to go back and make sure they were the right size--cutting them down to the right size. The picture there I have of myself actually is me and my father. I cut my father out and just put me in there--like it was a little portrait.
Paula stated that she had learned the HTML format and how to produce a web site. She described how she learned to create links from her web page to the resources in the literacy resource packet:
Seeing I was doing it in HTML format, I had to make sure that all of my links were active--I'm sure the same kind of process that you went through to create the electronic pack--Making sure that all the links were live and active and working. I learned how to scan. It helped me focus and hone…I deleted some templates. I deleted unwanted links and I retained some links.
A few students gained experience with more advanced skills, including file compression and object character recognition (OCR). Lisa explained that some of her graphics were photos she had processed directly from film to disk by a local film processor. She learned advanced technology skills when she compressed her files and sending them to a friend through e-mail:
It was interesting to learn how easy it is to zip it up and send it off over the internet, unzip it on the other end and get it all hooked up and fixed. I've learned a lot technology wise about how that works and how to fix things.
Dana described how she scanned her text into her computer through OCR:
I have a scanner at home so I scanned various things. I didn't have to scan too many of the pictures. I'm still learning about OCR and how to change things that I don't have on the disk so I don't have to re-type everything. That's one thing that I really wish the lab would work on-- helping us do things like OCR.
Advanced multimedia skills were demonstrated within the electronic portfolios of several students in this study. Barbara stated that she "learned technological aspects of scanning, recording voice, and video." She used an animated growing plant to demonstrate her philosophy of education: "Plant a seed...Watch it grow!" Lisa said that she was able to "freeze frame" video on a friend's computer and "snapshot it into his computer." She found sound files and animated graphics files on the internet and inserted them into her portfolio. Her portfolio included numerous sound bytes. Cathy recorded her voice in an audio greeting. Dana said that she found sounds from the internet. She explained that the lab technician "picked out three sounds for me to put into my portfolio, because I just found out the day before how to have sound."

Several students indicated that having previous experience with computers was helpful in preparing them for the electronic portfolio process. Cathy indicated that she had taken the microcomputer course for teachers previously. She said, "I know it really helped me that I'd worked with Hyperstudio before. I'm not sure how many problems other people had--not being familiar with it. I'm sure I would have had severe problems." Carol had taken the same computer course and agreed that it was beneficial to the portfolio experience:

I got much more efficient at Hyperstudio, but I did take the microcomputer class beforehand, so I did have a big edge up on everybody else in the class. I became better at scanning and using Photoshop, linking to web pages, clicking on buttons and making them links.
Penny indicated that she felt there was a noticeable difference in the processes and products between those students who were experienced with those who were not experienced in technology.
I'm also taking Microcomputers in education, which also helped a great deal in this portfolio...If I had more computer knowledge, I can see that would be easier. I know that the people in our class who had experience with that--during the lesson plan assignment they were just flying through it and doing really great. And then there was our group who had no experience at all. We were like--help, help. I think if you had more experience, of course, you'll be more comfortable doing it. They could probably do a lot more stuff, especially if they've had the computer class. You could see the difference between a person's portfolio who'd had a computer class before. They had a bunch of really neat stuff like 'gif' files--where some people who'd never [had experience] were just saying--I'm just going to type in all the words and that'll be it.

Technical Problems

The original HTML web packet caused frustration for the Group I students who attempted to get started early. Barbara began with the Netscape Gold template and discovered that she had problems typing. She said, "When you typed, it blinked--but it worked on Pagemill." Penny voiced her complaint concerning the slow start and the many changes made due to the technical problems experienced at the beginning of the project. She expressed relief over the introduction of the Hyperstudio template, stating that it was "much easier to use."

Many of the problems students related were due to compatibility issues between their home computers and the lab computers. Seven of the twelve students mentioned problems with compatibility between computer formats or their lack of experience with Macintosh computers as being a concern for them completing this project. Paula explained her problems with graphics compatibility: "It was time consuming to take pictures from IBM to Mac and go through and change graphics from Photoshop and Word 97." When Lisa was asked about the problems she encountered, she stated:

The little things I ran into--a lot of it was that everybody was doing it here on the Mac version and I had it on my PC. It was really hard sometimes because they’re not fixing things the same way I'm fixing things--So it was hard to find the resources and help. The PC version was a little older.
Dana described her frustration as she solved problems with graphic image editing:
I was frustrated when the pictures had to be limited in size because I know my personal picture is kind of fuzzy because I had to scan it at a low resolution. So then it turns out fuzzy and I don't like that but if I scanned it bigger--then it blew up then--There wasn't enough room to put it all on, so I got frustrated with all that.
Lisa described the technical problems she experienced with multimedia, particularly in terms of audio formats and animated graphics:
I had some problems with songs and sounds picked out and when I went to put them in it wouldn't let me put them in. They told me it had to be 16 bit or stereo and it couldn't support in that version I had. I ran into that little problem...and I ended up finding other stuff. If I had more time or a more advanced system, I would have been able to…I ran into a problem that took me a few hours to fix. I put a graphic in and I animated it and it crashed everything. It froze it and it would just shut down the program, so I had to redo a whole section. After that, what took the most time was, before I inserted any more graphics, I would copy the whole thing and dump it somewhere else [as a backup] in case it crashed again.
Chapter Four (continued next page)

Table of Contents


Copyright 1999 by Carla Hagen Piper