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What Is a Digital Portfolio?

by Nina Makofsky, Demand Media

    Digital portfolios provide a distillation of an individual's best work, typically generated over a year or a longer period of time. Most digital portfolios contain a broad range of information to properly capture the person's versatility. Information in digital portfolios may also be in a variety of media, such as text, photographs, illustrations, diagrams, web material, audio files, spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.

    Types

    There are several types of digital portfolios. One of the primary uses for digital portfolios is in the realm of education, where the digitized information is used as a means of authentic assessment. These may represent the culmination of a specific project, or they may be a requirement for an undergraduate or graduate degree, containing key information from the student's academic career. Digital portfolios are common tools for professional artists such as photographers, illustrators and graphic artists, complementing the traditional portfolio used to market their work.

    Considerations

    In the educational realm, digital portfolios are not always restricted to final projects and polished drafts. In fact, some educators require that students include research notes and rough drafts in a digital portfolio as a means of chronicling the entire process of a project. Other educators want student or teacher evaluations integrated into the portfolio as well, which demands that the instructor enter information into the portfolio or that the student accurately represent a teacher's evaluation.

    Potential

    There are several markers of what makes an exemplary digital portfolio. For artists, portfolios should represent top work and any key clients or publications. In education, digital portfolios should accurately represent a student's interests, incorporate active learning, be accessible to the school community, comprise a showcase of student work and integrate student reflection on the process.

    Benefits

    A key benefit of digital portfolios is their versatility. It is easy to update them and keep them current. Users can organize and tailor information toward a specific use, be it to demonstrate mastery of a certain subject or to apply for an internship or a job. Digital portfolios can be a visually interesting medium for presenting disparate information.

    Technology Requirements

    There are various software programs to support the creating of digital portfolios. Among the popular choices are Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Macromedia Dreamweaver, Macromedia Flash, Hyperstudio and Adobe Acrobat. Other equipment requirements may be digital cameras, scanners and a CD burner.

    Warning

    Without proper vision and editing, digital portfolios can be a hodgepodge of files and documents that is difficult to navigate. There are a couple strategies that can improve a digital portfolio's readability. You can plan the portfolio by creating a mock-up of the desired final product. You can also write a table of contents or index for sorting disparate documents. Some people include a vision statement to help define the purpose of the digital portfolio.

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    About the Author

    Nina Makofsky has been a professional writer for more than 20 years. She specializes in art, pop culture, education, travel and theater. She currently serves as a Mexican correspondent for "Aishti Magazine," covering everything from folk art to urban trends. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mills College.

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