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Designing a Digital Portfolio

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Keywords: CTE, Ngoma, Mecklenburg, CMS, Harding, Digital Portfolio
Subject(s): Technology
Grades 9 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Harding University High School, Charlotte, NC
Planned By: Sylvester Ngoma
Original Author: Sylvester Ngoma, Charlotte
A. Objective

Upon completion of this objective, students will be able to:
- Complete a digital portfolio
- Design and create a digital portfolio

B. Warm up

1. Students will take a Critical Incident Questionnaire (CIQ) survey from http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/JLG7ZPQ on how the class has done so far. The survey is available on the instructor’s website (http://pages.cms.k12.nc.us/sylvesterngoma/techadv.html). It was designed from Survey Monkey. The survey should last 5 minutes. A brief discussion on students’ feedback will follow the survey.

C. Key Questions
• What are digital portfolios and how can we use them effectively?
• What should be included in a digital portfolio?
• What can be concluded about the primary objective of a digital portfolio?
• What impact does a digital portfolio have on marketing an individual’s skills?
• If you were an expert in multimedia/web design production, what type of digital portfolio would build?

D. Instructional Input/ Modeling

• Teacher will give an overview of digital portfolios
(SlideRocket Presentation: http://portal.sliderocket.com/AFIRC/My-Presentation-2).
• Teacher will present digital portfolio examples and have students comment or take notes to use in discussion following presentations.
• Students will be presented with specific steps involved in using Dreamweaver to build a digital portfolio.

E. Check for understanding

Teacher will check Students will be shown how to use Photoshop, and Dreamweaver.

Students will explore how to operate a scanner and a digital camera to insert pictures into their web pages.

F. Guided Practice

Students will be guided through different steps in design process.
Students will review literature about what makes a website effective (PPT).
Students will follow instructions in tutorials.

G. Independent Practice

• Students will create digital portfolios using Deramweaver and Photoshop. They will organize their projects including research paper, product, graphics, outlines, newsletter, annotated bibliography, annotated outline, and other school work into a multimedia/interactive format that represents what they have accomplished in this class. Students will present their digital portfolios to the class at the end of the year. Students will create a website that will highlight all the work they have done for this class.

I. Evaluation Criteria

• Ease of navigation: 10
• Organization: 20
• Completeness: 10
• Effective use of graphics: 30
• Layout: 30

J. Additional activities

• Create a "My SWOT" Analysis page which will highlight your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
• Create a SMART goals page
• Create a lessons learned page
• Students will pair off, review each other other's website, evaluate the completeness of each web project. Each student will then make recommendations for improving the website. Each student will incorporate any necessary revisions or corrections. Final evaluation is made by the teacher.
• Students will take a Quiz test on HTML codes
• Students will critique each other's website in writing (One-page essay).

K. Closure

Students will test their websites in different browsers and save their work.

L. Materials and equipment

• Computers and Internet
• Promethean Board (LCD Projector)
• Software: Dreamweaver and Photoshop.
• Step-by-Step Tutorial (Dreamweaver Directions) accessible at http://pages.cms.k12.nc.us/gems/sylvesterngoma/DREAMWEAVERDIRECTIONS.doc
CSS Tabbed Navigation (Dreamweaver Tutorial) accessible at http://www.dreamweavertutorial.net/
• Copies of HTML Basics Handouts for each student
• TeacherTube video - Dreamweaver CS3 using templates accessible at http://www.teachertube.com/viewVideo.php?video_id=76759
• PBS website (http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/ghana804/.)
• Teacher's website http://pages.cms.k12.nc.us/sylvesterngoma
• Adobe Dreamweaver CS4
• Adobe Photoshop CS4
• Promethean Board (LCD Projector)

Lesson Plan Analysis


As indicated earlier, this unit is designed to equip the learner with web development skills using Dreamweaver. It is supremely useful for students in an IT class to harness skills needed for planning, designing, and building, testing, and evaluating a website on an important topic. Additionally, this activity is intended to heighten the learner's awareness of the importance of digital portfolio. By creating an interactive website showcasing their projects, the learners will develop not only manipulative skills but also organizational and research skills.

Creating a website can be a fairly easy endeavor. But creating a professional website that produces positive results is rather a completely different venture. Well-thought-out strategic planning does help leverage the power of a website. By developing a responsible, thorough plan, a learner can learn to prevent surprises, minimize uncertainty, choose between alternatives, assess the outcome, and handle competition effectively. Before throwing a site on-line, a learner needs to make decisions about the site functionality, messaging strategies, types of feedback features, tracking site access, site promotion and positioning, and marketing strategies. In addition, questions about ethics and privacy policies should be well carved out. Thinking strategically helps avoid a management of surprises.

As a tenured IT educator with a Master of Science degree in Internet Strategy Management (from Marlboro College) and a five-year degree in English Language as a Second Language, I have learned through my eleven years of teaching IT courses that students benefit more from actually applying concepts to building products than by simply being taught concepts. The coursework that I did to meet North Carolina licensure requirements in Technology Education, Digital Media, and in English as a Second Language coupled with the preparation for two PRAXIS II tests through the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University prepared me adequately to face the challenges of IT education. I have matured as an IT educator and have earned the status of “Master Teacher” in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. My IT education experience is a great asset in the doctoral program in Information Technology I am currently in. I have been fortunate to have three articles published by ERIC. Two articles are related to Student Information Systems used in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and one is about the ICT-support education reforms in the Democratic Republic of Congo, my native country.

This is my fifth year teaching "Technology Advanced Studies". I feel privileged to teach a course that stirs up a lot of interest among students. Most of my students are seventeen years old, ready to go to college. It is worth pointing out that I have been teaching Information Technology courses at Harding University High School since 2000. I have taught other courses in the past including “Communication Systems”, “Audio and Video Programming”, “Radio and Television Broadcasting”, and “Web Design”. Currently, I am teaching “Scientific and Technical Visualization I”, “Scientific and Technical Visualization II”, “Trade and Industrial Education Advanced Studies”, along with "Foundations of Information Technology”.

Theoretical Underpinnings of my Teaching Philosophy

Aligning instructional objectives with curricular goals and providing support and scaffolding to individual students so that they can reach higher goals were two key elements that motivated the selection of these two learning activities. It is my belief that teaching is an act of co-creation. Students are co-creators of IT reality in my classes.

My primary task is to create the conditions for effective learning to occur and to provide motivational elements. My teaching philosophy is an eclectic mix of various educational philosophies. It draws on some elements of existentialism, constructivism, behaviorism, progressivism, perennialism, and essentialism. I believe that schools should transmit traditional moral values and intellectual knowledge that students need to become model citizens. This is one of the tenets of existentialism. Shaw (2005) argues that essentialists urge that "the most essential or basic academic skills and knowledge should be taught to all students" (p. 25). From progressivism, I retain the respect for individuality. I believe that each learner has unique characteristics that educators must tap into. I am in agreement with progressivists when they contend that "education should be a perpetually enriching process of ongoing growth, not merely a preparation for adult lives" (Shaw, 2005, p. 26). I espouse the perennialists' philosophy that most education should develop our capacity to reason. I find appealing the notion that planning can be shared and negotiated with students from constructivist perspective (Woolfolk, 2004). When suggesting software programs for an activity, for example, I ask for students' input. Recently, they wanted to explore SlideRocket more than Adobe Illustrator. I chose not to quarrel with their decision.

Furthermore, I believe that learners learn differently. I incorporate activities that promote Gardner's multiple intelligence theory (Gardner, 1983). My ultimate goal is, as Jenkins (2003) puts it, "to increase success and decrease failure". As my students are actively engaged in learning activities, I often act as the “guide on the side”, not as “sage on stage” (Tinio, 2009).
I am a facilitator of the learning process.

Surveys play an important role in my teaching. I design surveys based on and adapted from Brookfield's (2005) Critical Incident Questionnaire and administer them frequently. The surveys are web-based, created from Survey Monkey (2010). I utilize several other web resources to enhance my resources. My students took a survey from Education Planner (2010) at the beginning of the school year about their learning styles. The learning styles surveys and the post-activity formative assessment surveys were designed to help me make informed decisions about the effectiveness of my teaching practices. I have been able to learn a great deal about myself and about my teaching styles. It appeared that the feedback from students helped me make adjustments just as my timely relevant and constructive feedback helps guide my students. As Brookfield (1995) notes, CIQ allows teachers to capture "vivid happenings" that occur in the classroom. As a matter of fact, it allowed me an opportunity to critically reflect on my teaching. Using an adaptive model of CIQ provided me an opportunity to reflect on my teaching. Keefer (2008) posits that "reflective practice brings the lesson to closure" (p. 181). This is the first year I have used learning styles surveys and CIQ surveys. I intend to continue to do so.

Because of my CIQ survey--accessible through my website (Ngoma, 2010), I was able to learn that some students had trouble hearing me in the back of the classroom at the beginning of the school year. Also, I found out that some students thought that I was too fast when demonstrating the use of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. They had trouble keeping up. I made adjustments accordingly.
Students indicated that they enjoyed my class because they thought I communicated high expectations and took time to learn about their learning styles. As Checkering (2006) observes, communicating high expectations and respecting diverse talents and ways of learning are essential for student academic achievement. Graham et al (2001) suggest three ways of communicating high expectations: (1) Giving challenging assignments; (2) providing examples or models for students to follow; (3) publicly praising exemplary work.

By design, students are expected to present their final projects to the class. These give-and-take sessions open up an avenue for in-depth discussion on what has worked and what has not; what students have learned and areas of improvement. It is through these sessions that all types of personalities come together: extrovert, introvert, intuitive, and logical. As Brookfield (2006) notes, "Those skilled in time-management, self-management, self-organization, and linear thought mingle with highly lateral thinkers or those with little patience for detail" (p. 153). These sessions may be rich and enriching. Brookfield (2006) argues that "When students feel themselves to be respected and treated as equal creators of knowledge, they are much more likely to take the discussion process seriously" (p. 124). On the other hand, guided discussions sometimes turn out to be of little verbal value to some of my introverted students. They do not often engage in class discussions.

As can be noted, the learning activities I designed have rubrics that foster student creativity. Stevens and Levi (2005) propose four steps to rubric creation: (1) reflection, (2) listing, (3) grouping and labeling, and (4) applying. Reflection makes an educator ask such questions as "Think of when you used this assignment before. What worked? What didn’t? What about your objectives? How does this match with your objectives?" (Stevens and Levi, 2005). These questions do promote critical reflections.

The web portfolio component is a major component of the course. This is a continuous project which allows students to add all their other projects throughout the semester.


Overall, my learning activities are designed for the following reasons: 1) Increase students' awareness of, and tolerance for, ambiguity and complexity, (2) Engage students in exploring a diversity of perspectives, (3) Increase intellectual agility and openness, (4) Develop the capacity for the clear communication of ideas and meaning, (5) Help students become connected to a topic (Brookfield, 2006). One of the most important responsibilities of an IT leader, as Glen (2003) notes, is to manage ambiguity (environmental, structural, and task). This valuable lesson should be taught to future IT leaders in their formative years.

It is my intent to design activities in a way that gives students control of the assignments. As Palloff and Pratt (2001) point out, "In order for a high degree of interactivity to occur in a course, faculty need to let go of the control of the course and empower students to take responsibility of the learning process" (p. 3). This is true for online learning as well as for face-to-face instruction. In K12 education, it is critical that the teacher uses the right balance of class control. It is my primary job to create a learning environment that allows students to engage in systematic exploration of software programs in ways that respect their individual interests and abilities. Further analysis of this unit will take place after students submit and present their projects. I will then be in a position to determine what worked, what did not, and areas that need strengthening.

Therefore, support from colleagues is needed. Curriculum alignment meetings and other professional development opportunities do contribute to strengthening some of my best practices and correct some of my weaknesses. Content planning sessions, CTE department meetings, and professional development activities at Harding provide rewarding learning opportunities. Additionally, CMS alliance meetings, state-sponsored summer training workshops, and teacher-to-teacher experience sharing sessions help me discover new collaboration, teaching or assessment tools as well as new teaching strategies.

From the activities highlighted above, students will not only learn to use software programs but also learn about different IT-related topics. Every student is not expected to learn at the same pace but all students are expected to learn. Some of these students are a few months away from going to college; so care is taken to ensure that they are adequately prepared to take IT courses in college. Therefore, the more software programs and IT topics they investigate, the better prepared they are. My joy comes from knowing that my students are doing well beyond high school.


Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco, CA:
Jossey Bass.

Brookfield, S. (2006). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Chickering, A.W. (2006). Every student can learn if … About Campus, 11(2), 9-15.

Education Planner. (2010). Learning styles quiz. Retrieved from http://www.educationplanner.org/education_planner/discovering_article.asp?sponsor=2859&articleName=Learning_Styles_Quiz

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind. New York: Basic Books Inc.

Glen, P. (2003). Leading geeks: How to manage and lead people who deliver technology. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Graham, C., Cagiltay, K., Craner, J., Lim, B., & Duffy, T. M. (2001). Seven principles of effective teaching: A practical lens for evaluating online courses. The Technology Sources Archives. University of North Carolina. Retrieved September 14, 2010 from http://www.technologysource.org/article/seven_principles_of_effective_teaching/.

Jenkins, L. (2003). Improving student learning: Applying Deming's quality principles in
classrooms (3 ed.). Milwaukee: ASQ Quality Press.

Keefer, J. M. (2008). The critical incident questionnaire (CIQ): From research to practice and back again. Retrieved September 14, 2010 from http://www.adulterc.org/Proceedings/2009/proceedings/keefer.pdf

Ngoma, S. (2010). CIQ surveys. Harding University High School. Retrieved September 14, 2010 from http://pages.cms.k12.nc.us/sylvesterngoma/

Palloff, R.M. & Pratt, K. (2001). Lessons from the cyberspace classroom: The realities of online teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Digital portfolio projects can work in every CTE class.
Students will design video resumes to add to their digital portfolios.
Materials: Speech and Language, Student Resources, Art Tools, Flash/USB Drives