Some of the most common questions I receive are about how to assess the arts in an authentic way that represents true student growth.  Of course, I am a huge advocate of using ePortfolios as I think they demonstrate that growth easily and provides students with choice in what to contribute and how they want to showcase their work to take ownership.  But the question then becomes, if you do choose to go with ePortfolios as an assessment method (as IB has chosen to do with its high school art classes), where do you house them and how do you manage them?

Actually, both questions have a variety of solutions at this point.  Here are a few ways you can house ePortfolios through the cloud:

1. Skydrive.  This free cloud storage solution through Microsoft only requires a Live ID (free) and there is a fairly large space limit.  This is great for high-resolution images and sharing files.  The downside is that it is essentially a file cabinet and doesn’t necessarily showcase student work.  However, if you are in need of a platform that allows students to share their work with you and you can send it back to them with your feedback, this is a good solution.

2. Dropbox.  This is a similar solution to skydrive and comes with 2 GB of free storage.  To create an ePortfolio, students would need to create a powerpoint/keynote with their images and then save it as a zip file to their Dropbox account to share.  Another plus of Dropbox and Skydrive is that these are easy to take with you anywhere in any format.

3. Blogging Solutions.  Edublogs provide a safe, student-friendly blogging environment where students can create a true online portfolio and design the way in which it is showcased, which is so much more than a filing system.  Of course, the challenge with this is the space element.  Most of these blogs do not provide enough storage for many high-resolution images and video.  That just means students will need to practice their editing skills.

4. Hybrids.  Students can use the blogging solutions and if they run out of space, they can save videos and presentations to their dropbox/skydrive accounts.  They can then embed the link into their blogs.  This way, the storage is handled through the cloud file-storage but the content is shared smoothly within the blog itself.

Now that you have a few solutions for where to store the ePortfolios, what about the management aspect?  Managing all of these ePortfolios can be a cumbersome proposition.  There are a few options here as well.  First, you could utilize the same methods as the students to organize all of the ePortfolios in your own system.  For instance, you could have a file system on your own Skydrive/Dropbox account for each student that is dedicated to their work.  However, I don’t find this to be very user friendly because it contains a lot of clicks.

Another option is to have a blog that contains links to each of your students’ blogs.  Each time they update their blog, you’ll be able to see their updates and keep track of their growth.  Or, you could use a system like Edmodo where you set up a class page and students submit their files/blog updates via your class social board.  You can comment or send email feedback directly through the messaging boards.

ePortfolios are going to change the way that we assess students – beyond the arts classes – across all contents.  As we begin to investigate solutions for housing the variety of media that students can use to represent their learning, it’s important to also include how we plan to keep track of this growth and manage the systems and frameworks of sharing understanding.  At least it’s not a stack of binders taking up shelf space in your classroom!