Chapter Four (continued)
Table of Contents

Student Perceptions


All of the students in this study were asked what they perceived to be the purpose of the electronic portfolio project. Most of the students demonstrated a positive attitude toward the experience of creating portfolios electronically. They made references to the meeting of course objectives and the development of technological expertise. Cathy felt the purpose was "just to have something to show what I'd done for the whole semester and that I have met the criteria explained in the course."

Penny expressed her opinion that the purpose was similar to that of any other portfolio:

It's just like any portfolio we've done before. It's a culmination of the things we learned and this one was specific in terms of it pointed out what have you learned or what have you done in this class that pertains to the objectives that she [the course professor] had lined up already. So, it was a lot more specific in what she wanted us to demonstrate. It's just basically to see what we know and what we've learned. Instead of giving us a test, this is a way of assessing what we've done.
Lisa stated:
To gather all the pieces together and have it make some sense. I think that was the purpose of the assignment--to see how the little pieces of the class fit together. It was really useful too to see how they tied together. Everything kind of fit everywhere and you have to pick what it most fits into.
Barbara felt that the purpose went beyond the meeting of course objectives. She saw it as a tool for reflection and of possible use in a professional interview:
I saw it as primarily a reflectionary tool. It was helpful to know you were gaining what you should get out of the course. It fulfilled various purposes, but I used it more for reflection on goals. It could also be a tool for interviews.
Dana saw the purpose to be both technological, as well as important as evidence of meeting course objectives:
It was a combination of teaching us about computers and Hyperstudio and making us think about what we're supposed to be gaining from this course. To think about once we had all this information--how are we actually going to apply it and how do the goals fit with the objectives. It really made me think about the class and what I had gained--the purpose to every class, lecture, and every activity.
Sandy agreed that the purpose of the portfolio was to improve technology skills as well meeting literacy instruction course goals, particularly in reference to the RICA.
For me it was getting used to computer technology. I basically knew IBM word processing, but I didn't know anything about Mac--So getting familiar with the portfolio and covering the objectives for the RICA.
Maggie stated:
One of the purposes was to get me used to a new computer program, because I know that's one of the big things that we need to start getting used to now is all the technology. The other purpose was to show that I had met the necessary objectives for the class and that I understood that I met the objectives.
Paula stated that she felt the course professor wanted to incorporate technology into the course as a means of improving computer literacy:
I feel that she wanted to make sure that we were in tuned in to what was going on electronically. A lot of the people in the class were not already computer literate and so she wanted to introduce them to a way of bringing technology into a classroom.
Several students expressed the fact that they began the electronic portfolio project with a negative attitude toward the process. Maggie went on to say:
I was really negative about it at first because it was technology and I didn't know how to do it. I didn't see how it really related to the English and Language Arts class and I didn't want to do it, because I didn't see how it related to that. But, after I did it, I saw the relation and how it correlated. Actually I'm glad that I did it.
Kate did not see the point of the project until she had finished the course. She then determined that it clarified the purpose of the class. She said:
At first it was pretty pointless to me. The whole endeavor just seemed to me like a waste of my time. Now I can see where the objective was to make me understand how we met everything. Had it been an ongoing process, I think it would have been of more value to me--instead of throwing it together, where I felt time crunched wise. I didn't feel like I put my all effort. I thought--if once this gets really great--if this zip disk really works well and there's not three weeks before we even can see it--if every week you're able to go in and say, look at the first objective. It's going to feel a lot more valuable to you if you meet it, do all the course work for it, then go back and put it in and it's a continuous thing, Until I did the portfolio I did not see the purpose of the class.
When asked what she thought was the purpose of the portfolio project, Carol responded with:
To aggravate me? Honestly--I know the purpose was to reflect on what we've been doing and how it all relates to what we need to know, but it was a lot more busy work. I was just trying to get it done and put an end to it. But then when I sat down and reflected on what I've done, it all kind of came to me. Look at all the evidence I do have. If I actually sat down and looked at it, but at the time I was putting it together it was just a chore and busy work. Just getting it stuck in and I didn't care what it was. I had all the evidence, but just to put it in and make it look good.
Two students in the study felt that the electronic portfolio project served no purpose for them. Tina explained that she did not see a purpose to the class because she was a music major and she did not feel that the course content was relevant for her. Karen viewed the portfolio as an interview tool, but felt that it would not be feasible for use in such a situation. When asked what she thought the purpose was, she responded: "To irritate me? I didn't use anything from the class. How often in an interview will the principal have Hyperstudio on his computer, in underprivileged schools?"


Ten of the twelve students in this study expressed positive attitudes toward the electronic portfolio project. Penny said, "I really felt that the electronic portfolio was a great way to organize evidence and artifacts. It was a lot of fun!" When asked what were the enjoyable parts of preparing her electronic portfolios, Maggie said, "I think the final product. I was really happy with it." Barbara stated, "I feel competent. It was easy, fun, simple, and I was successful at producing own products." Dana said, "It was quite a relief when it was all done. I was really proud of it and then when I saw other peoples I got less proud of it, because I didn't put any fun pictures of my friends and me like a lot of people did." Sandy and Cathy both mentioned the fact that they felt "comfortable" with the technology after participating in the project.

The two students who expressed generally negative attitudes toward the project had positive comments to make concerning the portfolio project as well. Karen said, "It was pretty when it was all done. I could talk about myself. I felt pretty good about my personal section." Tina said she "had fun fooling with Photoshop. I had fun learning VI [visual editor for the UNIX server]. There's always a satisfaction in seeing something get built." Kate was generally positive about the project, but she stated, "I felt limited by time, and inadequate explanation of what the end result was supposed to look like." As mentioned previously, Maggie’s initial reaction to the portfolio assignment was a combination of fear and worry because she did not know how to use computer software other than word processing.

Other negative comments related to a sense of frustration over technical difficulties and limitations of time. Maggie stated, "At times, it was frustrating because text can not be as easily scanned as pictures, so I had to re-write portions--not a big deal, just time consuming." Dana expressed frustration over the problems encountered when she tried to edit her graphic images. Barbara said that seeing the final product was the most enjoyable part of preparing her electronic portfolio, but she felt frustrated when she first looked at the work that had to be done to complete the project. She said:

At first it was frustrating looking at the whole process and all the things you have to do--but the whole product is fun to look at. I'm proud of what I had prepared and I will be using it as a tool…I am a master at Hyperstudio.
Lisa stated that she enjoyed learning the multimedia software program, Hyperstudio. She explained that she thought she would be able to use the program in her future classroom. She also said that she thought she would apply what she learned with Hyperstudio to other computer programs:
The program--learning Hyperstudio, which I think is pretty interesting. I don't think it's as easy as people think it is. There are a lot of little things--you think you'd do it this way. It was nice to learn because I think it would be good to use if you could get it in the classroom. It's kid friendly, especially if you're not trying to be too complicated with it.
I learned about finding sounds on the internet and put in animated graphics. I had never used sound files or animated graphic files until I learned how to do that. In fact--the web page I'm having problems with--I didn't even use that stuff because I didn't take the time to learn it then--but by the time I finish this one--now that makes a lot more sense. So I've applied this knowledge to other areas. I had a lot of fun. I saved a lot of little animated things to play with and mess around with during the break.


Many of the positive comments from students in this study related to the creative possibilities within the software used to create the electronic portfolio. Lisa explained, "I spent a lot of time on the visual--the aesthetic." As stated previously, Kate felt the template was bland, so she made creative changes to the colors and text styles. Maggie stated, "Some people had different little things growing out of their portfolios and they had changed the entire card stack and I didn't know how to do that, so I was happy 'cause I changed the background and I changed the color of the writing."

Sandy explained that she was a "self taught artist" and she included a self-portrait in her electronic portfolio. She said:

I put a little book together and put that in the form of Hyperstudio. I did a lot of drawing which I really wanted to learn how to do. So that was actually the main one [stack] I focused on and it took me a lot of time to do it 'cause it's painstaking drawing it--but I enjoyed doing it so I learned a lot just through the process of that. I put in the pictures--did a lot of scanning. I initially wrote the book and I sketched that-- just a rough draft. Then I scanned it in--then I put in Hyperstudio.
Penny stated that she enjoyed making creative changes in the template:
I liked that you can change the colors and add stuff. It wasn't just the plain little program it was in the beginning. It was gray and boring but you can change it and really make it your own. Each one will be different. You can add a lot of multimedia stuff. You can have music. The possibilities are endless. It gives you a lot more than just a binder full of papers. The next group could really expand in terms of putting in video and taking it a step further in terms of creativity level.
Lisa said:
The artistic thing was fun. It was fun to be able to change it around and make it consistent. I liked being able to move things around and having it work. I had a lot of fun with the graphics and the sounds that are in mine. As a last minute thing, the hour before it was due, I decided I wanted to put some sound in it. I sat for an hour and just played and played. That was a blast. You can tell I got a little silly, but it was it was fun so I didn't care.
When asked what advice she would give to a student starting out on the electronic portfolio project, Dana emphasized the potential for creative expression within the software program, Hyperstudio. She stated:
I would say do the artistic and the fun parts--changing backgrounds and buttons--making sounds--because you could make an exceptional portfolio if you worked on that for 2 hours every week throughout the whole semester. Put in the buttons, put in the animation, put in the fun sound waves. They are fun things to have throughout your portfolio. If you put in a little time each week, you could probably get all those multimedia things in. I would get as creative as I could with the sounds and images and I would stick with Hyperstudio.

Use of technology in the future

Some of the students referred to the use of technology in their future classrooms. When asked if she would use technology in teaching, Penny stated, "I hope to. It depends on the school you're at and the resources that they have. I'd hope to be at a school that's technologically advanced. That would be great."

Lisa mentioned using both Hyperstudio in her classroom:

It [Hyperstudio] was nice to learn because I think it would be good to use if you could get it in the classroom. It's kid friendly, especially if you're not trying to be too complicated with it...I just wanted to do what was there and I'm going to be a school teacher and so I figured I need to know Hyperstudio anyway.
Maggie had described one of the purposes of the electronic portfolio as helping students become familiar with technology. She expressed interest in applying technology in her teaching. In her portfolio reflection, Maggie wrote:
In creating this portfolio I was first very frustrated. However, upon completing it, I feel as though I have gained some new knowledge in the area of technology. I do agree that technology is playing a huge role in education today. By completing this portfolio I have been exposed to yet another way to incorporate technology into my future classroom.
Barbara described a project she did in her student teaching:
At Christmas time, the students developed a Gingerbread story (to accompany our Gingerbread Village unit) using either Storybook Weaver or Hyperstudio. They also completed a counting book up to 10 using Hyperstudio cards--which was absolutely wonderful! The Hyperstudio template just said something like "Four Candy Canes" and they would draw a picture to correspond, and a button would take them to the next page. We printed these out in color and the kids just loved it! Without the extensive practice of using the computer and especially Hyperstudio, I would have been absolutely lost and of no help to the students whatsoever. Work on the portfolio has given me the confidence to implement similar projects in the classroom and adjust them to be age appropriate.
Sandy described her use of technology in student teaching:
Most of the skills were technical and were beneficial to me to use as a teacher. I feel more comfortable now. In fact--in the student teaching that I was doing for special education, we had a Mac lab. Now I was able to go in and show these children how to use Hyperstudio and different things which before, I would have avoided completely--but I was there helping them…Any class I go to now--I find out what software they're using or you know what they are doing.

Comparisons with paper portfolios

Most of the students in this study stated a preference for electronic portfolios over paper portfolios. Cathy stated:
I think it [paper portfolio] would have been big and messy. I mean not necessarily messy, but I think sometimes it's probably overwhelming if you hand somebody your big binder portfolio and you have all these papers in there. I did one for one of the other classes here…I think this [electronic portfolio] is better because it shows what you can do in technology. It's easier to look through and if you want to look for certain things, the buttons are right there and you don't have to look through everything to get to certain things.
Barbara said:
A paper portfolio is easier. It takes more preparation to scan, but the electronic portfolio is more valuable to me. It's better than 45 binders sitting on a shelf. It's easier to navigate. I like the look of the electronic portfolio and the convenience. It's better than a 6 inch, 30 pound binder that I haven't looked at since I did it.
Without question, I prefer the electronic portfolio to the paper portfolio for two reasons. (1) Overall professionalism. I would much rather present an electronic portfolio because it looks nicer than a compilation of hundreds of papers...and who is going to take the time to thumb through a six inch binder to look at artifacts? Plus, it indicates my advanced knowledge and competence of technology. In five years, my electronic portfolio will be intact and still carry it's original vibrant colors, whereas a paper portfolio will fade and tear. I have "um-teen' binders at my house that just take up space. The idea of an entire portfolio of my work held on a disk is quite appealing in terms of space. (2) Ease of maneuverability--It is so easy to view the electronic portfolio--click here--click there--which I think would be appreciated by anyone wanting to look at it.
Kate stated that, if she were to create another portfolio in the future, she would prefer the electronic format. She said:
I would do it electronically. It's less work and it's a usable form. You can go out to the work place and take it to an interview to show that's what you've accomplished. The electronic portfolio is more aesthetically pleasing, more personal and intricate. I would definitely go to HTML. I would be able to show I'm professional and accessible. Binders are busy work--useless and a waste of time.
Maggie said:
I think electronic portfolios are a lot easier to look at because you can go to exactly where you want and you can find it right where you want it. You don't have to flip through tons and tons of paperwork and it's also a lot easier to carry around. I turned in a paper portfolio--probably about 5 to 10 pounds. It was heavy. It was a big binder.
Penny said that she supported the idea of an electronic portfolio for all classes. She said:
I think it's a good idea. I think it should be done in all our classes. You do this huge 3 inch binder full of stuff, and if you could have narrowed it down and done it in a format like this, you wouldn't be doing all this outrageous paper work. Just doing it on the computer--I think it would have been a lot easier and way more enjoyable.
I just did this whole huge one for my art class and sure it has pictures of all my art stuff and it had a write up on what I did. Whereas--if I could have done it electronically, you could have more video of the process. You could have had dialogue--instruction. I could have taped the instructor. I could have done more lesson plans in terms of doing actual templates for each thing, instead of having to write about it. It would have been easier if you could just type it in--and this was what we did. Just to have it organized in that manner is a lot easier than trying to keep papers and take photos of things.
Karen stated that she saw an advantage to electronic portfolios, but she questioned its usefulness in school situations and particularly, job interviews. She stated:
The major advantage to the electronic portfolio is that it's small enough to take with you. The paper portfolios are huge and it's unfeasible to lug them around. However, how many schools will have Hyperstudio and a zip drive in their office to look at the electronic portfolio? I felt the paper portfolio was easier for me to show what I can do.
Carol was one student who said she definitely preferred paper portfolios over electronic portfolios. She said:
I can be a lot more creative when it's paper because whatever I want to do, I can do it. Whereas, on a computer, I didn't know if I could do it. I could do all artsy stuff on paper and it would look fabulous. Whereas, on the computer, I did leave it very plain because it looked better to me than trying to fiddle with it.
The course professor described her observations as she examined the electronic portfolios in the contrast to paper portfolios of past classes:
In the electronic version, they had to work harder on the mechanics of digitizing--so they selected more carefully because they were using fewer artifacts. And, again because of the mechanics, it is clear that they do focus on/reflect on the reasons for choosing those they include.
I felt, in some cases, that the very first group of students made some of their choices based on either what they knew how to digitize--or what they perceived to be easy to digitize--but that was because of all the start-up technical problems we had--and their own problems with the process (putting off learning to do it, etc.)--and even then, their choices appeared more carefully thought out than most paper portfolios I had graded over the past several years.


Students were asked what advice they would give new students who were asked to create portfolios electronically. Paula’s advice was: "Get down in the lab and play on the computer. Think about it at the beginning of the course and conquer your fear at the beginning by playing and immersing yourself in the technology." Barbara said, "Pace yourself. Preparation is the key. Look at expectations and questions. Approach it early so you are confident and can take control of it." Maggie advice was "just not to stress out about it. I did because I was really worried about it because I didn't know how to do it. But now that I know how to do it, it’s so simple and you just ask a few questions and it's not that bad. Also, don’t leave it 'til the last minute, because I did."

Kate said, "If every week you're able to go in and say, look at the first objective. Meet it, do all the course work for it and then go back and put it in. If it's a continuous thing, it's going to feel a lot more valuable to you." Dana’s advice was to "be observant in the class and, throughout the whole semester, go work on changing the backgrounds and the artistic parts at first and then you can insert the evidence at the end." Sandy suggested, "Don't be afraid to ask someone for help. Observe what goes on in any classroom that you're in and try and plan ways you can bring that into the portfolio." Karen agreed that you needed to start early, but she explained what she perceived as a problem: "You need to have something to put into the portfolio and you don't have anything to start with. You don't have the materials to start on day one."

Penny stated, "If you really put if off to the last minute you probably were really drowning. I'm glad I started early." She advised:

Start early. At least start looking at the thing--looking at the program--experimenting with the program. Don't wait 'til the end because the computer lab--I mean it's big--but 3 classes doing big projects like this is just not sufficient. Start looking for stuff from the beginning, 'cause you’re given the objectives from the beginning, so if she keeps the same lesson plan, start stockpiling stuff that you can use for this.
Lisa suggested that students "play with the program at the beginning when you’re not trying to do the assignment." She said:
Obviously, don't wait until the last minute. Some of the portfolio I was adding as I went along, but I think the things that worked the best were where I typed it in to my word processor so I knew it was there. I didn't put it in until the whole thing looked the way I wanted it and then I inserted it. Then, if you changed your mind, you didn't have to move things and delete the text and delete everything else. So basically I left text boxes that were not full sitting around with one sentence about what I was putting in there or the file name and then dumped them in at the end. That worked really well 'cause you could change things more easily in the word processor and you have a spell checker.
Carol suggested:
Get started early--to understand what the packet is all about and to understand what was in the packet. Figure out what the objectives meant in the beginning--know what you're getting into. I know a lot of people didn't realize what they had to do.
Cathy recommended that you "have fun with it." She said:
Change some things. Make it more personal because I didn’t understand until I started working on it, exactly what was entailed--instead of just trying to get everything together at the end. One of my roommates is trying to do that and it's just insane to wait until the last second to try and go back and get things. Find out the lab hours. Start it early.
Students were asked how they would improve their process if they were to create another electronic portfolio. Paula stated, "I would have liked to have done less writing and more visual or auditory. I would use more student work relating to assignments." Tina stated that she would "use a lot of photographs" and "go more in my field--music--notation." Dana said, "I wish that I had put on other fun pictures of me or me with my friends. I have other pictures on a disk and I could choose which ones to insert, but it's over and I just don't have the time." Penny would do more multimedia and "put in a lot of stuff the kids have done--lessons I've taught--video."

Carol said:

I think if I kept up with it and if it had been designed differently, I think I'd have got more out of it, 'cause we all procrastinate and we all leave things to the end. If I had realized what it was all about, it would have been better and it would've had more evidence. But, because of the lack of time--I felt I could've done better after I finally got the whole concept.
Cathy stated that she would have approached the technological process differently. She said:
This time I would make sure that I transferred my files from my IBM to the Mac so I didn't have to re-type everything. I think I would have connected things a little differently--like made the buttons--because at some point, the buttons in the portfolio went back to the objectives and I think I would have made it go to the second objective.
Sandy said she would have liked to be "more creative with it." She explained that she would like to include artifacts related to her future classroom instruction. She said:
I think I would put at least some portion of it where there would be something you could use in the classroom--and I say that coming from special education. You know that's needed. I think we could make something we could use in the classroom. Obviously it depends on the grade, but something, for example, like a program where you're putting in the sound for 'a' 'b' 'c' and associating those sounds-- something that connects with phonemic awareness. The kids could actually say--oh this is 'a' and then keep repeating or the sound go back and forth and see the visuals--Something that you could actually bring into the classroom. Create an instructional package for it. Plus it's fun. It helps them feel more comfortable with the computer.

The Electronic Portfolio Product

Course objectives

Course objectives for the reading methods class were based on the state teacher certification standards. Evidence was to be provided by the students in the electronic portfolio to demonstrate that these objectives had been met. The eight course objectives for Group I included the following:
1. The linguistic and cognitive basis for reading/language development and environmental factors that influence the desire and ability to read.
2. Effective approaches, materials and technology for teaching systematic, explicit skills that promote fluent reading and writing including: phonemic awareness; direct systematic, explicit phonics; and decoding skills including spelling patterns, sound/symbol codes (orthography), and extensive practice in reading and writing connected text.
3. Effective approaches, materials and technology for teaching reading and listening comprehension, including literal/interpretive comprehension, critical/evaluative comprehension, and reference/study skills.
4. Effective approaches, materials and technology for developing concepts and word meanings and teaching a wide variety of word recognition strategies.
5. Approaches for teaching students to appreciate and enjoy reading and to develop lifelong reading habits.
6. Approaches for teaching students to view writing as a process and to use writing both to communicate and as a tool for learning
7. The significance of a variety of assessment procedures and the use of assessment results to organize classrooms for effective instruction, select effective teaching and learning approaches, and equitably instruct special populations of students: i.e. differing gender, ethnicity, race, primary language, handicapping conditions and special reading/language arts needs.
8. Ways to maintain and refine classroom reading language/arts programs through interaction with other professionals, parents and the community, curriculum development, self-development and research.
The objectives for Group II were modified due to changes in state certification standards concerning reading instruction competence and the RICA examination required for all multiple subjects credential students. The four RICA domains were described as goals in the electronic portfolio template. These domains were linked to course objectives. The four domains include:
Domain I: Planning and Organizing Reading Instruction Based on Ongoing Assessment

Domain II: Developing Phonological and Other Linguistic Processes Related to Reading

Domain III: Developing Reading Comprehension and Promoting Independent Reading

Domain IV: Supporting Reading Through Oral and Written Language Development

The course objectives were similar to Group I, but they were narrowed to seven objectives and expanded to include RICA concepts. The original second objective was developed through the four RICA evaluation domains for Group II. The first and last objectives remained the same and two of the other objectives were re-numbered. The seven objectives for Group II included:
  1. The Linguistic and cognitive basis for reading/language development and environmental factors that influence the desire and ability to read.
  2. Effective approaches, materials, and technology for teaching reading comprehension, including literal/interpretive comprehension and reference and study skills.
  3. Effective approaches, materials, and technology for developing concepts and word meanings and teaching a variety of word recognition strategies.
  4. Approaches for teaching students to appreciate and enjoy reading and to develop lifelong reading habits.
  5. Approaches for students to view writing as a process and to use writing both to communicate and as a tool for learning.
  6. The significance of a variety of procedures for effective instruction, select effective teaching and learning approaches, and equitably instruct special populations of students.
  7. Ways to maintain and refine classroom reading/language arts programs through interaction with other professionals, parents and the community, curriculum development, self-development, and research.
Each of the twelve students involved in this study referred to meeting the course objectives as being a significant purpose of the electronic portfolio project. Paula described her positive attitude toward the use of the electronic portfolio to demonstrate the meeting of course objectives:
I felt that it was a good way for her [the course professor] to make sure that we had met all of the objectives that she had out laid in the course. She put the emphasis on us making sure we met the course objectives and her making sure we met the course objectives...I found that the electronic portfolio was really helpful in organizing my thoughts--Making sure that I was, in fact, meeting the objectives that she [the course professor] had out laid in the course.
Cathy explained that she felt the course assignments related to the objectives:
She [the course professor] had something in the syllabus that explained each of the objectives she wanted us to meet and that she wanted in the portfolio. I felt that the things that we did in the course pretty well matched the objectives…I liked reflecting on what I was doing and looking back and seeing how my assignments actually matched the objectives.
In Maggie’s conclusion section of her electronic portfolio, she described her understanding of the course objectives:
The course objectives sounded very broad and encompassing when I first looked at them. After completing this portfolio, I have concluded that this is the case. These objectives cover every angle of reading and language arts. I understand the objectives better, however, now that I have analyzed my work in comparison to these eight things. Each objective is very specific about the broad range of knowledge it encompasses. While I may have focused on only one or two areas of each objective in this portfolio, I do understand the broad range of them too.
Dana, a student from Group II, discussed the relationship of the goals to the course objectives:
She [the course professor] also had the goals set out and the objectives and we had to see where the objectives fit into the goals. I really liked having to think about how everything was related in the class because I think a lot of times teachers give you their syllabus, you read the goals and objectives, and you never think about them again. It's really made us think about them after the fact.
Carol, another student from Group II, expressed her concern over the connection between goals and objectives. She did not feel that the class prepared her for the RICA, although she did pass the examination. She stated:
The objectives had to relate to the goals and the goals were based on the RICA test, which I don't feel like I got anything from the class on and that really bothered me. I know that these goals related to the objectives, but I didn't see the connection and I still don't see the connection…With the whole goals part of it--I thought it was throwing an objective next to a goal so that you proved it--but I didn't see that I was proving this goal. I did pass the RICA. I didn't feel prepared for it so I was surprised. I didn't feel like I got the information I needed to prove that I knew what these goals were. The objectives were easier as they were just objectives. As far as a goal, it's much broader. I was having a hard time seeing the connection until I went to look back. I said--well it's on the computer--but look what I did to get it. I can look back and have a better view of it now and appreciate it a little bit more, but at the time…

Artifacts as evidence

Students were asked to demonstrate that they had met the competencies stated in the course objectives by providing evidence in the form of artifacts. Lisa explained her process of matching evidence with course objectives:
The objectives--when I read them and I thought--well I think this fits--and I went back and I read my stuff again. Then things that I'd written sometimes gave me a clue as to whether or not I really got the material.
Barbara stated:
I could demonstrate competency by matching artifacts with competencies. I believe I was very careful in selecting my evidence material to be certain it was adequate--and I did a good job! The most exciting evidence is my electronic children's book.
When asked if there were ways that she was unable to provide adequate evidence of meeting course objectives in the electronic format, Barbara said:
In looking back at the process of creating the portfolio, I do not feel I was unable to adequately provide evidence. With the many options available, I am able to either scan-in evidence, input it directly, or use the incorporation of sound bytes or video clips…With some instances, such as big posters or bulky material, it is even easier to show evidence through scanning or use of clips. The children's book, which I had done electronically, was also easy to copy over onto the portfolio. Overall, I felt there were plenty of options of how I could choose to evidence my material.
When asked how she demonstrated that she had achieved course objectives, Dana stated:
Through the work that I found and had done in the class--I think that every assignment was useful and had a purpose with the objectives and the goals. There were no wasted things that we had to turn in that didn't fit. I don't know whether she [the course professor] planned all the activities would all fit in so that you could have three pieces of evidence for each objective, but I really felt that every assignment had a place that belonged.
Dana went on to explain her process of matching evidence with objectives:
I don't think there's really a limitation. Some of the objectives--I may be stretching just a slight bit on my evidence. When I had to write the cover sheet I would pick and choose the one little part--the two sentences that may work. I haven't got a grade on it. I don't know how well my artifacts and my evidence fit in with what she was hoping for. I think I did a pretty good job. I tried to. I did three [artifacts] on every single one whereas I know that she gave us the opportunity--if we couldn't find something--that we could only do two.
Maggie said:
I didn't think that I had met all the objectives. I really didn't because there were so many and they were so broad--but I think after sitting down and looking at all the work I had done, that I realized that I did meet those objectives. Maybe not fully, 'cause they were so broad, but I did meet parts of each objective.
Carol said:
It was just trying to figure out where to put this one and that one. There were some that were very structured but for the most part, they just came from my assignments from classes. I knew, somehow, I could fit the assignments I've done into some objective somewhere 'cause the whole purpose of this class was to fulfill these objectives and goals.
Several students said that they had some difficulties placing evidence into the electronic portfolio. Karen said, "There were a couple of them where I wasn't sure what to use and I stretched a little bit. Some I wasn't sure what they fit under best. The electronic portfolio made it harder to get it in as I had to scan it all." Maggie stated, "From what I can remember, some of the objectives weren't as emphasized as others. I did have to stretch a bit to find evidence for those less emphasized objectives." Sandy said, "I had all the evidence, but just to put it in and make it look good."

Sandy stated:

As far as just using different artifacts, I would have liked to do a better job that way with more time. I ended up putting a lot more text in, which was supportive of the objectives, but I would have liked to put in more artifacts. I like doing that stuff and I felt I didn't have enough time and knowledge that I would prefer to have to do [the electronic portfolio]. I'd like to be more creative doing it.
The artifacts used by students included assignments from the reading methods course as well as materials gathered from other classes. Barbara said that she included "my fieldwork experience, artifacts included lesson plans created for actual courses, critiques of journal articles, reflection papers implemented foundations teaching management plan, my children's book." Karen included "photographs from lessons I taught which brought the books to life, and pictures of books from a range of genre and age levels." Penny included "a journal article I critiqued about the whole word philosophy and its impact on the literacy rate."

Cathy said:

I mostly went through and tried to use different things from the course. I used my field work journals from the tutoring program and I used some notes from the videos that we took. I used the journal articles that I was to find and the e-mail copies of the tutoring journal for Dr Smith.
Kate described her collection of artifacts as follows:
I took journal articles, observations, personal journal entries that I had done from being a project 30 scholarship worker--A lot of that went into there….As a project 30 scholar for the past 4 years, I've been in the classroom--so, I have a lot of personal journal entries that I turned in for my scholarship work. That went in, as well as my children's book and any other work that I did in my foundations from teaching. My classroom management plan went in and I believe the articles and everything else came from within Dr. Smith’s class--assignments from that class.
Dana stated:
I took some pictures and a few class notes, typed those up, and the pictures were from my field work experience. I took a lot of lesson plans and fieldwork experiences and I even used some links to web pages and web sites. One of the products we also created was our own web site. I used that as one of my pieces of evidence. I tried to make it interactive with the web as well as with some of my own work.
Carol said:
I went through with the objectives and the goals. We had a list and I just went through and got words that came to my mind--first from what the objective was. I tried to think about what I'd done that related to it. I basically stuck solely to everything that I did in Curriculum 135. I didn't broaden and go out. I did a couple of things from just past assignments or past classes, but most of it I tried it keep within what we've done--assignments, lesson plans, units. They’re all pretty much from what was going on at the time in my classes. I directly looked at the objectives and picked out words that I remembered doing something for and just stuck them in.
The cover sheets at the beginning of each objective stack or web page included thorough explanations of the artifacts students selected as evidence of meeting course objectives. Penny described two of her artifacts in her cover sheet:
The little girl whose drawing sample I am enclosing drew this picture and then told me the following story about it, "The hearts help the flowers grow." She is able to write her own name, as evidenced by the back of the drawing, but she isn't at the stage where she can write yet.

I also have enclosed a link to a reading checklist, which can give a teacher a good idea of what level a student is at the beginning of the year. This is important because all children are not at the same level due to their home environment.

Kate provided an explanation of two of her artifacts:
In order to complete this course objective I have included two artifacts on the work I have done in this area. The first artifact is a journal article that I did on meeting the needs of children who are labeled as both learning disabled and gifted at the same time. The second artifact is an excerpt from a huge project that I did in my Exceptional Child's class on how to provide children's literature in the classroom that includes children in literature with special needs.
Maggie explained evidence that she included in her portfolio:
I chose to include this piece of evidence because it shows my personal background and explains how my environment influenced my desire and ability to read. I included this piece of evidence under competency two because it helps clarify all the new methods I learned from watching the videos in class.
Barbara described several of the resources she collected and placed in her electronic portfolio:
This is an appropriate artifact for this objective because it is an example of how to maintain a positive classroom environment. Once the maintenance of the classroom is accomplished as a whole, one can continue to refine, develop or maintain individual subject areas at their fullest extent.

Artifact #2 is my video reflection paper corresponding to the video series we viewed in class. The series highlights successful approaches to writing and reading. For example, the classroom in San Antonio which used an emergent literacy approach. Students are reinforced that their scribbles are indeed communicating a message, and they are encouraged to verbalize what they have "written." This is relevant to this objective because the children are beginning to understand that writing is an effective form of communication.

Cathy included a reflection on her experience as a tutor:
I am also including an excerpt from my tutoring experience. This experience has led me to think a lot about how to develop my students’ appreciation of reading. I tried to bring in books that would fit their interests. I have read to them, and tried various other techniques. My essay presents a few more of these ideas.

The Course Professor’s Assessment

The course professor was asked in what ways students provided evidence of meeting course objectives within the electronic portfolio and in what ways did she see evidence that would indicate that students were reflecting on their learning. She stated:
Indication of students' meeting course objectives was communicated by their choices of artifacts to include and the explanations regarding the reasons for those choices--the same for indications that they did reflect upon their learning. This does not differ much from a paper portfolio--although I did think they chose more carefully because they had to go through the mechanics of digitizing their artifacts--in the old paper portfolios students just put everything in--they were often five or six inches thick--and frequently contained every handout I had ever given them--so it was difficult to tell if they were thoughtful or reflective.
The researcher examined the students’ perceptions concerning the matching evidence with course objectives but did not make judgements concerning the quality of the artifacts. However, the course professor’s method for assessment was considered significant in determining if the electronic portfolio project was successful. When asked what she considered an exemplary portfolio, the course professor stated:
Beyond providing artifacts that are appropriate for the course objectives, I look for the use of graphics, video, audio, animations, scanning, creating linking buttons, and that kind of thing in an exceptional portfolio--not just text.
The course professor explained the system she used for assessing the electronic portfolios:
I have a check sheet that goes with the syllabus of what I'm going to look for. The students must show evidence that objectives have been met. There's a place for me to make comments about what they've chosen and I indicate if the artifacts are appropriate for the objectives. I give students a list of the things I will look for in the course syllabus. I also evaluate appearance and organization. I look for the exactly the same things I would look for in a paper portfolio, but I acknowledge the use of technology--if they managed to use technology effectively. The main part of the grade relates to how well they provided evidence that the course objective was met.

For the technology part of the assessment, I have a scale from strong to weak with one being high. I give a check for average, a check plus for exceptional and a check minus for below average. The check indicates that they managed to learn enough to do the portfolio electronically. A check minus means they did the electronic portfolio, but it has technical weaknesses--Maybe the buttons don't work, or they didn't learn how to scan, or they didn't get enough into the portfolio other than just text. A check plus indicates that the portfolio was exceptionally well done--including video, audio, graphics, links, animation as well as well organized and aesthetically pleasing.

Self-reflection and Self-assessment

Interview responses and reflective cover sheets within the electronic portfolio framework were examined for evidence of self-reflection and self-assessment. The cover sheets provided insight into each student's perspective concerning the artifacts presented as evidence of meeting course objectives. Paula stated, "The electronic portfolio afforded the same self-reflection and self-assessment as a regular portfolio, except my computer knowledge was expanded." Maggie said, "As with any portfolio, I was in the position to review all my work and the initial objectives of the course. In doing this, I was able to assess my work and reflect upon how the work I completed met these objectives."
Barbara stated:
As with any portfolio development, you are critically examining your work to determine which way you have met the selected criteria, and how you can best example or highlight your work. The process of developing the portfolio is a constant self-assessment. However, I don't feel that the electronic portfolio was more of an assessment than a hard copy portfolio would be. The process is the same. It is the final output that is different.
Lisa stated in her interview:
A lot of things that I put into the portfolio-- reflections on notes and lectures--gave me a chance to think about it. Did I really understand that? The objectives--when I read them and I thought--well I think this fits--and I went back and I read my stuff again. Then things that I'd written sometimes gave me a clue as to whether or not I really got the material. It gave me a chance to think about what I really understood.

Especially the assignment where we had to go teach for a few weeks and I had the children write books and stories. It gave me a chance to really see that. When I had planned the lessons, I really had planned it just thinking this will be fun. It would have these aspects and that would be good. But when I stuck it in there, it really met a lot of objectives for reading and writing that I hadn't realized. I ended up having this fabulous lesson, not because I knew it was a fabulous lesson, but, I think somewhere in the back of my mind, I really got something out of the lectures and the readings. I just automatically knew what needed to go in there.

The class really helped me feel prepared but I think, sticking it all in one place and making connections between the objectives helped me say, oh look, I am prepared. Not only do I think I am, but I can tell you why.
When asked whether she engaged in self-reflection as a part of the electronic portfolio process, Penny stated:
Yes, just by being able to tell you what I did for all these objectives or what stuff I put in there. I think I got more out of it than if I would have had to study for a test and just basically memorize and cram into my brain a bunch of stuff for just a couple of days, and then just spill it out on a piece of paper. It was a lot more specific in what she wanted us to demonstrate. It's just basically to see what we know and what we've learned. Instead of giving us a test, this is a way of assessing what we've done. I think you get more out of doing something like this and reflecting back on it, rather than just having to regurgitate what you did.
Tina felt the electronic portfolio was a "viable means of assessment," but she said it affected her process of self-reflection and self-assessment "no more than anything else would have because I'm constantly monitoring what I do. All it did was give me a space to write that down. There wasn't any higher leap I had to make. It didn't create a drive to reflect on what I was doing, 'cause I was doing that already."

Dana reflected on the relationship between the electronic portfolio experience and her understanding of the teaching of reading:

It really let me think about what have I learned--how am I going to teach reading to students--what options that are out there--what are they expecting. I was used to the way I was brought up...It let me focus on techniques on how to teach reading--approaches. I didn't know anything about phonics and whole language approach until this. I don't know how well it prepared me for the RICA test, but we'll see. It made me think about what I'd want to see in a classroom. I want to teach really young kids and I think that reading is such an important thing. These kindergarten classrooms that you go into, you see that some teachers aren't teaching reading and other ones are.
Sandy had a different perspective on teaching after participating in the electronic portfolio project. She said:
I think it made me even more aware to put myself again in the student's position where they feel like they're overwhelmed with something they don't know--How I achieved the goals of meeting the requirement of the course--It put me more in touch with like what a child would feel like if they don't know anything. It was somewhat intimidating for me to start this. I guess I had to humble myself and ask questions of other people and let them help me get to my goal.

A lot of times, as a kid, especially in an elementary school--growing up--you don't ask questions because you think you're not supposed to. You're supposed to know--like you think the other kids maybe know. But you find ways to figure out how to complete it and I think that's so important. When you're a teacher, putting yourself back in the student's prospective when maybe they don't know something, you try to make them feel confident. To tell you the truth, I think the thing that made me feel confident was the drawing portion. I really enjoyed doing it. I said--I can do this--you know. That was really the motivating thing for me.

The cover sheet reflections explaining and defending the artifacts chosen for each course objective, as well as the conclusion statements included in the electronic portfolio, provided evidence of self-assessment and self-reflection. Personal statements provided insight into the student’s thinking throughout each student’s portfolio. Kate commented on one of her artifacts concerning learning styles: "My own personal styles of learning are reflected in the paper in order to show what other areas I will need to focus on for students who do not learn in the same manner that I do." She described two other artifacts included in her electronic portfolio. She wrote:
In order to complete this course objective I have included two artifacts on the work I have done in this area. The first artifact is a journal article that I did on meeting the needs of children who are labeled as both learning disabled and gifted at the same time. The second artifact is an excerpt from a huge project that I did in my exceptional child's class on how to provide children's literature in the classroom that includes children in literature with special needs.
Carol used her reading narrative as one of her artifacts. She defended her choice by saying: "The environment plays a huge role on how and when a child learns to read. I chose my reading narrative and a paper I wrote to discuss how the environment affects reading and language learning incentives." Tina, a music major, related the study of literacy to her own field of music. She said, "I think the most useful (in terms of application) information I drew from this class were the discussions about background information and schema theory. These apply to all subjects, and I found a nice similarity between analyzing opinion pieces or fiction for usefulness and worth and critiquing musical pieces and performance." Barbara described one of her artifacts:
This essay examples the environmental factors which influenced my reading preferences, and also demonstrates my plan of action to positively influence the reading/language development of my students.
Cathy explained why she included her student interview:
I think the best way to learn approaches that will develop life long reading habits is to ask people to think about how their habits developed. In this interview, I was able to see how the habits of a student were developing.
Another one of her cover sheet reflections stated:
I have included my reading reflection in order to show my learning in this area. This paper was about my personal reading history. The assignment lead into a discussion, and a lot of thought on my part, about factors that influence one to read. I think the paper largely shows the factors and influences that led to my success in reading.
Maggie defended an artifact she had included: "I chose to include this piece of evident because it shows my personal background and explains how my environment influenced my desire and ability to read." She described a vocabulary lesson she included in her electronic portfolio:
I wrote this lesson with the intention of teaching a new word (POTABLE). I decided to teach the word using both the students' word bank (comparing known words to the unknown word) and using semantic mapping to further help the students develop their knowledge about the meaning of the word. I feel that writing this lesson helped me develop my understanding of how to approach the teaching of new words and concepts.
Lisa (Group II) described each artifact that she included in her electronic portfolio for the fifth course objective. This objective "focuses on activities and ideas to help students view writing as a process. Writing is a centerpiece of any curriculum. In order to communicate effectively, students need to be able to write effectively. This involves creative writing, reporting and writing letters." She stated:
The first artifact I have included is a unit I designed based on the writing process. It involves the writing of a short story from beginning to end. The students brainstormed using cluster diagrams, created rough drafts, edited, rewrote, illustrated and published. Their stories also include an author's page telling a little bit about the author of the story. The second artifact in this section is the Writing Train. I saw this visual reminder of the writing process in a classroom and thought that it was a good way to remind students of the big picture while they are working on their writing.

The third artifact I have included is some information on journaling and techniques for using journals with literature. Journaling is useful for teaching students the benefits of writing to learn. They can learn effective ways to respond to what they read and see and learn to make use of metacognitive strategies as well. The final artifact in this section is a discussion of publishing and a couple of ways to use publishing in the classroom. Students need to feel that their work is valuable and appreciated. Sharing work orally and in written form inspires students to do their best work and allows them a sense of accomplishment when the final product is presented and shared with others.

Lisa’s conclusion stated that she saw the electronic portfolio assignment as a tool for reflection:
Reading has always been one of my favorite subjects. It has never been hard for me to complete an assignment that involves reading a good story or writing one of my own. This assignment has helped me to think about ways that I can teach Language Arts to children that will instill in them the same enthusiasm for reading and writing. It has also helped me to examine the stumbling blocks that children may face in their pursuits of reading and other subject areas, and to think about ways that I can help them to overcome those obstacles. Reading is such an important part of our lives, and children need to become proficient readers so that they have every opportunity to succeed. Reading, writing and speaking skills will take students far in life, and a good foundation in these skills can give them an edge in their futures. This assignment has given me an opportunity to reflect on the material in the course and to make connections between that material and my own life. I have had a wonderful time looking for artifacts, pictures and sounds that come together to make this portfolio. I am looking forward to having my own classroom and being able to use some of these great ideas!
Barbara’s electronic portfolio conclusion statement reflected on the experiences with reading methods and literacy as a whole:
Throughout the course of this semester, I have learned many effective approaches for teaching reading/language arts curriculum. Through classroom discussion and the video series, I have many exciting ideas and approaches for teaching. Further, I have gained many resources that I can use in my future classroom. However, the biggest gain I feel I have attained, is an increased awareness of the variety of techniques that should be intermixed when developing a reading or writing program. Our field experience was valuable, as I was able to apply the skills and knowledge I learned in class, to actual implementation with my student. I now feel confident in my ability to effectively present and develop a program for my future classroom.
Karen provided a description of her collection of artifacts in her conclusion statement:
In this portfolio, I was able to gather together many of the resources I have collected in my years at the University. They include resources that are the basis for the written language, techniques for teaching and assessing language development, and outside resources. The artifacts I have chosen come from a variety of classes and experiences. Each of them has brought me a step closer understanding the intricacies and importance behind the teaching of language arts.
In her portfolio conclusion, Sandy stated:
When I look back to the beginning of September I think of a blank wall. Three months ago, I had thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and attitudes about reading and its instructional value to students. Now, I have concrete explanations and materials that I can use to help a child learn to read.
When I first started CURR 135 I had an idea of how I would design my wall, like what colors I thought I wanted or what things I thought should go on the wall. But my wall was still blank. I had no idea where to start. Through the medium of this class and my experience, my wall is now covered. There are a multitude of colors and resources all over it.
The "lessons" I learned were that there are so many resources to help a teacher guide and educate children. I watched videos, learned new phonics strategies, was provided with educational lectures, designed lesson plans, and researched the world wide web. There is no "right" way to teach reading because every child is unique and what may work for one doesn't with another. But there are better ways, methods, and approaches that can help assist you with a starting point.
Dana’s concluding statement reflected on the primary objective of this course: the teaching of reading:
Compiling this portfolio has led to some interesting ah-has for me as well. I really had to think about what I had learned in this class in order to finish the portfolio. I realized the importance of each assignment from the class, as well as each experience I had in the class and fieldwork. I learned a great deal about teaching reading and language arts. I feel as though I could go into a classroom now and actually do a decent job of educating the students in these important subject areas. On top of this fact, I realized the importance of the objectives for the class and for teaching reading. The objectives really focus in on the important aspects of teaching. Without the basics, effective approaches, and the ability to find more information, a teacher could not successfully teach one of the most important subjects to his/her own class.
When I came into this class, I really did not know much about actually teaching reading and language arts to students. My personal experiences dealt with basal readers, the use of flash cards, and what I would consider to be old fashion ways of learning. I specifically remember my reading groups where the new vocabulary words were on charts. I had to memorize the new vocabulary that went along with the story. I would then read the story, answer simple comprehension questions, and do activities in a workbook. Today, learning to read seems to be accomplished in quite a different manner. I have noticed from my past fieldwork experiences that my way of learning is not the norm, at least not in the schools around this university.
This portfolio assignment has also made me think about the importance of reading and the role that reading has played in my life. Although I have always known the importance of reading, I have not always been lucky enough to enjoy it. I used to enjoy reading a great deal. It was not until a few years ago that I found my desire to read once again. Reading is my escape from reality and life. What strikes me most about reading though, is the knowledge that reading is the foundation of education in general. A student needs to be able to read to be a success. There is not a task in this world that could be done without reading playing some crucial role to its completion. Helping students see how wonderful reading is and what a reward a good book is what makes teaching reading so much fun. It was not until I actually did this assignment that I took the time to reflect upon the importance of reading education. My teachers have apparently done a tremendous job of encouraging me to be a lifelong reader. I need to do the same for my future students. It was the greatest gift I was ever given--the ability to read and enjoy reading--I owe it to my students to give them the same gift I was blessed with.

Summary of the Findings

The computer literacy questionnaire provided background information concerning the participating students' previous experience, technical expertise, activity level, and attitude toward the use of computers. The design phase was described in order to document the process of creating a usable digital format for demonstrating the achievement of course objectives, particularly from the course professor's perspective. The development of the electronic portfolio project was described as it evolved throughout two semesters of the reading methods course. Descriptions of the course objectives from the course syllabus were included along with the students' explanations of the types of artifacts they chose to use as evidence of meeting those course criteria.

Narratives from student interviews and portfolio reflections provided insight into the students' perceptions of the electronic portfolio process. Each individual's process varied in terms of approach to the project, the use of templates, working at home, using Hyperstudio or HTML, and the amount of time required for completing the electronic portfolio product. Technical processes varied in terms of how much technical support was needed, what technical skills were gained, and what problems were encountered. Student perceptions varied as to what they perceived as the purpose of the electronic portfolio, what attitudes they demonstrated concerning the process, how they compared electronic portfolios to paper portfolios, and how they felt concerning the use of technology in their future classrooms. Strengths and weaknesses were examined from the perspective of the participating students, as well as that of the course professor. Narratives from student interviews and portfolio cover sheets provided evidence of students' self assessment and reflective practice. The course professor's discussion of how she evaluated students' portfolios provided further understanding of the potential for the electronic portfolio as a tool for assessment.

Recurring themes and patterns clearly emerged from the student interviews and the portfolio cover sheet reflections, providing the data for qualitative analysis. The problems encountered in the design of the portfolio as documented in field notes, as well as through interviews and e-mail correspondence with the course professor and the lab technician provided additional understanding of the electronic process. The narrative data reported in this chapter related to the research questions that guided this study. The effect of using of technology in the electronic portfolio process, the possibilities of presenting digital evidence of meeting course criteria, and the potential for self-reflection and self-assessment within the framework of the electronic portfolio were examined throughout Chapter Four. These findings provided narrative data to support the discussion in Chapter Five.


Table of Contents

Copyright 1999 by Carla Hagen Piper