Saturday, December 7, 2013

Student Portfolios & the Art of BYOD

Student Portfolios

I've been using blogs as a way of creating student learning portfolios for the past couple years. When I taught Graphic Arts and Photography we started out making digital portfolios in Fireworks, Flash and Dreamweaver. We were building mini websites in a very graphical way. These websites were burned to compact discs and we even made a jacket with liner notes and printed directly onto the compact discs to give them a professional look.

There were always laptops for every student in my old room and we were able to move to using Blogs as simple portfolios when we began using Google Apps for Education. We could have used other platforms at that time but to be honest, I didn't know much about blogging! We were able to use Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premier Pro from Adobe and Blogger, Docs and Picasa Web Albums from Google to put our portfolios together. The goal then was to showcase completed student work. Last year we began to build planning documents in Google Docs and embed them into several pages within the blog to highlight the process students followed in creating their projects. Two of my students used their skills in building online portfolios to help them gain admission to the Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver, Canada. It was a very proud moment.

This year I was transferred into a different program at a different school. I no longer had a 1 to 1 laptop luxury so there needed to be a new way of doing business in my classroom if we were to integrate technology into our learning. Luckily, many of the kids have their own devices.

Creative Workflow

The difficulty lay in developing and integrating a workflow that it would work with any device. This could not be done alone and has benefitted greatly from feedback from students and much experimentation. Becoming proficient at building blogs and curating portfolios mainly through a variety of personal devices has been a collaborative effort between the students and myself.

Here's the general workflow we use in our creative classes. I believe this sequence works well for most things and can be thought of in more complex ways than presented here.
  • Idea - From a set of parameters or a given technique, students develop an idea for their creative work. 
  • Brainstorming - Students take the time to think about everything they know about technique, materials, theme and process.
  • Research - Expanding learning comes in the form of working with classmates, instructors as well as online and print resources.
  • Planning - Sketching and model making are a major part of the process to ensure the success of the project.
  • Creating - This is the making of the project.
  • Evaluation - Can take the form of self, peer or instructor led evaluation. Evaluation is based on a rubric that outlines expectations for creative projects given at the beginning of the process.
  • Reflection - The process of reflecting on the experience of creating a work of art allows for improvement and new ideas to take place.

The Art of BYOD

At the beginning of the course I set up Google Apps for Education accounts for all the students. We spent a class in a computer lab to ease the process of signing in for the first time. In the future I would like to do this without the use of a lab. Students then were asked to set up their new email account on their devices. Email has become a useful and important tool in our classes. I can email the entire group of students effectively and quickly using Google Groups. Students are now able to communicate with me via a professional email account that is fully transparent. Next was the installation of a few mobile applications. Blogger, Google Drive, Snapseed, and the Google App were all downloaded. It's taken a while to convince students why these applications are necessary when working in the world of Google Apps for Education. The best selling point in the beginning was the 30 GB of cloud storage. Now that we've done a couple of collaborative exercises students are seeing that there is a lot more than just storage in this suite of tools.

Taking from what I learned in a variety of classes over the past couple of years and using some of the techniques modelled in ECI 831 as well as learning from student feedback we came up with the following based on the Creative Workflow above to take advantage of the variety of mobile devices coming into the studio. We found a handful of apps that work really well both on Android and on iOS. This workflow also makes it possible for us to work with content on tablets, laptops and desktops. Using common tools also enables us to do things more collaboratively and on shared devices in the future.
  • Ideas and brainstorming are done in a paper Sketchbook. Photos provide content for portfolio work. In future projects I'll be exploring the use of some mobile apps dedicated to brainstorming and pulling ideas together. As well as sketching.
  • Research is both web and Print Based - Examples are collected and posted to student blogs.
  • Planning is done in a sketchbook and documented with photographs.
  • Step by step progress during the making of a project is documented with photos.
  • The completed Final Project is photographed with seamless paper backgrounds and natural light
  • A slideshow is made and embedded in a blog post documenting each phase of the project and the photo of the final product.
  • Written reflections are included in with the blog post.
Now that students have completed a few projects and have had the opportunity to learn how to build their portfolios, here's what I would like to do with class participants in the future:

  • Collaborative projects involving Pairs or Groups
  • More Student Commenting on Peer Portfolio Work
  • Teach more about image Attribution & Copyright
  • Self-Directed Art Project With Mentorship from and Artist
  • Student Created How-To Videos
The portfolio and BYOD project has given me lots to think about. Stay tuned for a reflection on the entire process.


  1. Excellent article Jason. Certainly like your term "Creative Workflow" and the 7 points. We are implementing some BYOD in Saskatchewan in the Good Spirit School Division

    1. I agree! I loved this post. At my school site, students have to compile and present a portfolio of their assignments throughout their high school experience. We currently use Google Sites, but we've used Blogger in the past, and will probably switch to