How to Use E-Portfolios (by Işıl Boy)

Why E-Portfolios?

Barrett (2004) defines e-portfolios as “digital stories of deep learning”. Working on the e-portfolios improves students’ learning, and fosters their learner autonomy so that they can feel responsibility for their own learning. Besides, e-portfolios are “inherently motivational” as discussed by Barker (2005). Students do lots of work, like writing essays and keeping vocabulary notebooks. Nonetheless, all their work is separate, and we as teachers can utilize the e-portfolio as a collective tool for collaborative learning (Figure 1), and encourage our students to prepare ‘learning e-portfolios’ which are described as a “classroom-by-classroom phenomenon” by Helen Barrett (2011). I believe e-portfolios should not be developed to assess students like a test but to help them improve their learning. Furthermore, Barrett (2004) holds the view that adding technology to portfolios makes it collaborative and  e-portfolios should promote collaboration.


separative vs collective

Figure 1


Why Wikis?

E-portfolios can be developed on wikis since they both foster collaborative learning. (Figure 2). It is also advantageous to utilize wikis if they have already been explored by the students. Barrett (2000) advises selecting the most suitable software and tools for the e-portfolios to meet the needs of students. Rather than introducing lots of tools it is better to focus on tools that can be utilized in line with the class objectives, and as the aim here is to promote collaborative learning, a wiki serves as a good option. Barrett (2000) further suggests that feedback on e-portfolios should not be public. While working on the wiki, students can work collaboratively and give feedback to each other, and by changing the setting, the wiki can be set as private.


why wikis

Figure 2

What 2.0 Include on E-portfolios

1.            Written works.

2.            Vocabulary notebooks.

3.            Reading lists.

4.            Useful websites students use to improve their English.

5.            Anything students want to share related to learning English by using their imagination.

I have developed the list above according to the needs of my students. Though all the items are important for them to improve their English, and work collaboratively, I advise them to focus on written works and vocabulary notebooks since those are the sections my students find challenging. Hence, I focused on writing and vocabulary skills. As for the written works, I created a wiki page for my students, and encouraged them to work in groups. They all practiced writing wikis, and for the e-portfolio study students collected their works on their e-portfolios, gave feedback to each other, and worked collaboratively. I also gave feedback to them as Barrett (2000) claims e-portfolios should include feedback; otherwise it would be no different from a “digital scrapbook”. By way of vocabulary notebook, since learners are involved directly when they are implementing cognitive strategies, I taught my students cognitive strategies explicitly and let them choose the strategies they want while studying vocabulary. Ultimately, they developed vocabulary notebooks on wikis.

 How 2.0 Evaluate E-portfolios

Barrett (2000) suggests that rather than using e-portfolios as an assessment criterion, they should be regarded as an “ongoing learning tool” which should be evaluated to check if it meets goals. Thus, I utilized formative evaluation, and although my students tend to ignore tasks that will not be graded, their participation in studying and increased motivation showed that e-portfolio study proved its effectiveness.


Barker, K. C. (2005).ePortfolio for the Assessment of Learning. FuturEd White Paper.

Barrett, H. (2000), Electronic Portfolios = Multimedia Development + Portfolio Development The Electronic Portfolio Development Process.

Barrett, H. (2004). Electronic Portfolios as Digital Stories of Deep Learning: Emerging Digital Tools to Support Reflection in Learner-Centered Portfolios.

Helen Barrett, E-Portfolios for Learning, “Why isn’t there more E-Portfolio Development in K-12 schools?” Helen Barrett’s Blog, entry May 16, 2011;

Note: This article by Işıl Boy originally appeared on Teaching Village, and is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non Commercial, No Derivatives 3.0 License. If you wish to share it you must re-publish it “as is”, and retain any credits, acknowledgements, and hyperlinks within it.

About Işıl Boy

Işıl Boy works as an ICT Coordinator and EFL Instructor  at Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul, Turkey. Having taken her BA in TEFL from Istanbul University, she is studying for an MA in Educational Technology and TESOL with the University of Manchester. She is also the IATET representative for Turkey. You can follow Isil on Twitter as @isilboy and on her blog. She also maintains a Ning Network:

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16 Responses

  1. Barbara Barbara says:

    Thanks for this clear explanation, Isil!

    You’ve given me some ideas to use with some of my older children. I think they would really enjoy having a wiki to call their own!

    I also really like your play on words (2.0=to). Made me smile :)

    Thanks also for the reading list!

  2. Isil Boy says:

    Thank you, dear Barb!

    I’m pretty sure they will contribute productively to the study :-)



  3. Very interesting post!
    Can you explain more about the vocabulary notebooks? That sounds intriguing – vocabulary is a sore spot for my students.
    I also wanted to ask about correcting their writing – when the student’s wiki is set to private – are you, the teacher, also able to make changes? or is the correction done elsewhere?

  4. Hello Isil, Naomi and Barbara

    I guess, Naomi, that when Isil talks about vocabulary notebooks, she refers to something quite similar to what I call vocabulary calendars, which are published every month on the class blogs. See this for example:

    I explain more about it here:

    Of course, as I have said, this must be similar to what Isil suggests, perhaps not exactly the same.

    Yes, Isil, I agree with all previous comments; this was a most enlightening post and I am striving to apply most of the things you have mentioned in my classes. I am a firm believer in the use of wikis and blogs during the learning procedure and I would love to learn more about the topic. If you have any examples of work at your disposal or maybe some of your students’ work, it would be very helpful to all of us!

    Thanks again for a wonderful post!

    Your ‘summer’ friend,
    Christina :-)

  5. This is getting more interesting by the minute!
    Christina, thank you for your examples and explanations. What do you with the list after it has been posted? And what level is a C2? Am not familiar with the term.
    Thank you!

    • Christina Markoulaki Christina Markoulaki says:

      I usually provide public feedback (or private, at times). You can see that there is red ‘ink’ in certain sentences- that’s me! The good thing about it is that students seem to welcome the opportunity to receive and understand my corrections in such contexts, whereas they may even not take a second look if these corrections were provided on paper. C2 level (according to the CEF: is the highest level a language learner can reach, something like the ultimate step! Of course this requires a huge amount of work by both students and teachers! Hope I was a clear! :-)


  6. Işıl Boy says:

    Dear Naomi and Christina,

    Thank you so much for your kind words! Here are some examples of my online vocabulary notebook study:

    And, my e-portfolio presentation with sample pages:



    To Christina: Hope to see you again “next summer” :-)

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