Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Digitizing an Elementary Writing Portfolio

Today my fifth grade daughter, Sarah, brought home her elementary writing folder. This folder includes samples of her writing dating all the way back to first grade, and she’s never been able to bring it home previously. She was excited to read me several of her essays, so I suggested we record them on the iPad so they’d be preserved digitally. I’m sure at least her grandparents will be interested in listening to her read these expressively! My desire to digitally document these “evidences” of her learning in elementary school are strongly influenced by H. Songhai‘s 2008 K-12 Online Conference presentation, “What Did You Do in School Yesterday, Today, and Three Years Ago,” and my experiences last May with my son documented in the post, “Throwing away 6th grade – OR – The case for online portfolios.” Tonight we needed a fast way to photograph Sarah’s work, audio record her reading of different essays, and share both media artifacts online. To do this, we utilized a free account on AudioBoo, an iPad2, and an iRig microphone.

Digitizing the Elementary Writing Portfolio

In addition to posting these photos and audio recordings to my AudioBoo channel, I also used AudioBoo as we recorded these to Tweet out links and cross-post each AudioBoo page via email on our family learning blog, “Learning Signs.” This two-part sharing process took literally 10 seconds each after she recorded each writing sample.

Recording to Audioboo with an iRig Mic and iPad2

Sarah can read very expressively, and it was not only fun to review her writing progress over the years tonight, but also remember together many of the things that have happened since we moved to Oklahoma from Texas five years ago. Without a doubt the most touching essay Sarah read tonight was “Yellow Cards.” It made us both cry. In it, she recounts a story about Kent Wilson, who was a member of our church and Sunday School teacher who was very dear to Sarah. It is precious to have this story recorded in her voice, at age 10.


Initially I was going to use the Cinch app (also free) on the iPad to record and share these audio recordings with accompanying photos. For some reason, however, the app was crashing on my iPad. I already had AudioBoo downloaded and configured. It worked great for this purpose!

By the time we finished recording all these essays, after about an hour, Sarah was pretty tired! This was my favorite photo of the evening, as she used one of my shoes as a microphone stand for the iRig mic.

Last essay! (Getting a little tired of recording!)

As school wraps up here in the northern hemisphere, consider ways you can digitally document some of your students’ work and the work of your own children or grandchildren from the past academic year. Digital portfolios are wonderful assessment resources, and can provide a rich window into the skills, perceptions, ideas, and knowledge of learners. Mobile devices like the iPad which take photos, record audio, and allow immediate online sharing of those files make the creation of media-rich digital portfolios more “doable” than ever.

For more information about using a free Posterous site to cross-post to a blog, as we did tonight with Learning Signs, see my May 9th post, “Configure Autoposting to a WordPress Blog from Emails via Posterous.”

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7 responses to “Digitizing an Elementary Writing Portfolio”

  1. johnjohnston Avatar

    Lovely stuff, Sarah reads beautifully and really shows how voice adds power to words. 
    Thanks for the follow on audioboo. You and Sarah might be interested in tagging one or two of Sarah’s boos with edutalk . It will then get semi automatically posted to our collaborative educational ‘guerrilla’ posterous podcast 

  2. Jo Hawke Avatar

    I love the “Yellow Cards” story the most; Sarah’s voice breaking brought tears to my eyes. This is an awesome way to compile her work. Great work, Sarah!!

  3. ratzelster Avatar

    Dear Sarah,
    Most of the time I write your dad about how wonderful his posts are at helping be a better teacher.  But tonight I want to leave you a message.  My church doesn’t have yellow cards.  I wish they did because I think we could all use yellow cards….a lot of the time.  I think you had a small taste of what it means to be a blessing to someone…to know what it is like to pass the love of Christ onto to someone else.  What a special moment.  And to hear you read that moment…well, it touched my heart.  It was like giving me a yellow card too. 

    So even though you don’t know me.  You blessed me with that kind, kind heart of yours.  Keep on writing and keep on sharing the love you have with everyone you meet.  It’s a powerful force.  Thank you Sarah.

  4. Cheryl Oakes Avatar

    Wes and Sarah, thanks for sharing this wonderful event. As we create memories every day, it isn’t until we stop and reflect that we actually preserve the memories. I am headed over to Learning Signs right now.

  5. kathy shields Avatar

    I was concerned about this level of transparency at first…then I listened to Yellow Cards and I was touched by an angel!

  6. Mlofi Avatar

    What a wonderful idea!  This would be a great activity for the students in the classroom as well.  As a kindergarten teacher, it would be a creative way to introdue technology into the classroom, and a way to preserve precious memories that could be sent home at the end of the year for parents to cherish.  My students love writing in their journals, and some of their entries are just delightful.  This would be great fun.  Thank you for sharing!!!

  7. msttina Avatar

    Wes, I’ve been recently exploring the ideas of digital portfolios. This post was very timely and expanded my ideas. Thanks so much for sharing. Hearing Sarah’s story about Kent Wilson was very touching. 🙂