Foreword written by Dr. Helen Barrett for 2004 book:
Digital Portfolios in Teacher Education by L. Mullen, J. Britten, J. McFadden.
Jist Publishing - Indianapolis IN

I am delighted to write the Foreword to this book on digital portfolios in pre-service teacher education. I have been following the work on digital portfolio development at Ball State University since the early days of the PT3 grants, and from the perspective on the Catalyst Grant I wrote with the International Society for Technology in Education, to provide training and technical assistance to teacher education programs on electronic portfolio development. Recently, I have come to know the authors’ work in more detail, and I agree with the philosophy that I see in action and presented in this book.

Teacher candidates, as you embark on the development of your portfolio, think about your own early experiences with collections. Did you or your parents save some of your school work? Or did you collect special items that reminded you of pleasant experiences or moments of pride from your youth? These "memory boxes" or "scrapbooks" have many similarities to the portfolio that you will be developing, with one significant exception: reflection. The special attributes of portfolios in education include reflective comments on the artifacts that you have saved, as well as your personal and professional goals.

Digital portfolios in teacher education have become very popular, and implemented in many different approaches. I hope that the teacher candidates and faculty who use this book will recognize the power of learner-centered and learner-designed portfolios to transform professional development, document growth and development over time, and become a true living history of a teaching-learning life. A digital portfolio can be built to meet many purposes: it can be a dynamic environment for reflection on your learning, a tool for formative or summative assessment, or a powerful asset in your employment search.

As you go through the process of building your portfolio over your teacher preparation years, you will probably wonder whether all the work you are putting into your portfolio will be worth it. As with most student teachers, your primary purpose for completing this document is to get the job you want. However, that shouldn't be your primary purpose for documenting your learning. As with any learning experience, the more meaning you can find for yourself, the more you will get out of the process. Take control of your portfolio. Make it your own. Let your voice be heard through your words and maybe even your own audio or video clips that you can include. Use the capability of the technology to individualize your portfolio, through images and creative visual layouts. Use the opportunities provided to learn new technologies to build your own multimedia development skills that you can apply in your own classroom with your own students.

I have identified five stages of developing a digital portfolio:

  1. Define your purpose and primary audiences for the different portfolios that you might want to create.
  2. Develop a digital archive of your work. Convert your work into digital form and store it in a digital storage space, preferably web-accessible.
  3. Select specific artifacts that help you tell a story about your learning and reflect on your work, both as you save the individual artifacts, and on the entire collection. You may also be asked to reflect on how you think you have met teaching standards.
  4. Connect the artifacts to your portfolio reflection documents with hyperlinks using an authoring program, adding additional multimedia artifacts or digital stories about your learning or your students'. Conference about your portfolio with a trusted other.
  5. Publish your portfolio in a format that you are most comfortable sharing.

As a follow-up after developing your portfolio, you have a wonderful opportunity to use it as a professional development tool. On a regular basis (annually or semi-annually), review the work in your current archive, to see if there are new items that you want to add to your portfolio. Is there anything that you want to remove? As you review your current work, notice how much you have learned and changed over time! As learners, we often forget what it was like not to know how to do something. Your portfolio is a mirror into your own learning and a map for your professional development, and should provide a boost to your own self-esteem. You will even be well prepared for your first evaluation conference in your new teaching position! And hopefully, you can pass the benefits of the process to your own students. After all, that is why we are developing these portfolios, as assessment FOR learning, for ourselves and our students.

I hope you will approach your portfolios as a story of your own growth and development, and not just as a checklist of your achievements in meeting teaching standards. My best wishes for your continued success as you discover the power of portfolios to transform learning for you and your students. My final wish is that all of your digital portfolios become dynamic celebrations of learning across the lifespan.

Dr. Helen Barrett
International Society for Technology in Education and University of Alaska Anchorage