2004 Conference Proceedings

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USING ELECTRONIC PORTFOLIOS TO ASSESS CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

Presenter(s)
Barry W. Birnbaum, Ed.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Special Education
Northeastern Illinois University

Effie Papoutsis Kritikos, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Special Education
Northeastern Illinois University

Portfolios are becoming an increasingly common teaching and learning tool. A paper portfolio is usually a folder or binder that keeps records of student work. Since a portfolio is a collection of artifacts about how well a student is progressing, paper contents can become burdensome, crumbled, or even lost. Since the portfolio keeps a running record of student progress, there must be alternative ways to manage its content.

The use of portfolios has grown almost as rapidly as some technologies. When compared to the World Wide Web, faster computers, etc., the use of electronic portfolios has demonstrated a similar growth. Most particularly, the use of web portfolios has become one of the easiest ways to manage student artifacts.

Web portfolios allow users to include not only written work but allow for the incorporation of audio and visual media. The inclusion of such media has a benefit for children with disabilities because it offers more opportunities for students to become involved in the development of their portfolios. Web portfolios also bring together the highly integrated components of a portfolio.

There are many benefits to the use of web portfolios. These include real-life experiences that are a showcase of student work, teaching students how to use the web for more than just Internet use, are easier to handle than paper products, and are usually smaller than paper portfolios and can easily fit on a zip disk or CD. Most computers come with all the software needed to use a web portfolio and don't cost as much as some people think.

Managing web portfolios is also relatively easy. This is particularly true in the area of assessment. Assessment of any type of portfolio has always been controversial. Since most portfolios are based on standards and performance-based outcomes, making the objectives clear is essential.

It is also important to integrate web portfolios into teaching and student performance. Introducing the concept early to students is an important component. Providing time for doing so is also essential. The amount of time it takes to develop web portfolios is usually well worth it because it enhances student learning.

With few exceptions, students with disabilities can learn to develop web portfolios as a means of reviewing and understanding their work. The web portfolio is an excellent means of teaching computer skills to these students. Also, it helps keep track of student progress in an orderly manner.

Web portfolios can be used in IEP meetings so the teacher can demonstrate student progress in all areas. These portfolios become legal documents that can be used should due process or court action become necessary. The use of web portfolios also is acceptable to most states' boards of education. In fact, several states encourage their use.

The Department of Special Education at Northeastern Illinois University uses web portfolios for collecting and maintaining artifacts of student work. The students, who then develop web portfolios for their students who attend the public schools, create these portfolios. This session will focus upon how to develop web portfolios for students with disabilities and will include a demonstration of several portfolios that have been created.


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