Pre-College Learning Portfolio Pilot

Using personal expression to document and explore the experience of learning

A Learning Portfolio is an online blog or website where young people evidence the process and product of their varied learning experiences. Learning Portfolio blogs enable students to attach a voice to their work, practice reflective writing, share across an authentic audience of peers and see their learning in a global context. As part of an initial grant in 2012 (and subsequent funding in 2014), seven DreamYard educators (two from DreamYard Art Center and five from the high school DreamYard Prep), assisted by Parsons The New School for Design faculty, worked with over 100 young people to begin the process of collecting learning experiences and reflections on blogs in their classrooms. The project was such a success that DreamYard Prep has set a goal for every student to develop a learning portfolio by 2015.

The first steps for the educators in creating learning portfolios was to develop blogs dedicated to their individual classroom work. These blogs documented their own experiences as educators or served as an online hub for the class that offered inspiration, explanation or activities to prompt student response. Next they applied their new skills to help their young people engage in a similar process. Using Blogger and Tumblr to publish student weblogs, educators helped students to develop content by assigning exercises to create posts about what they were learning and doing in class.  It took a several weeks for the educators to create their own blogs over the summer and then several more for them to help their students create individual blogs and fashion individual blog posts. After students had accumulated several posts about different activities or projects, they could begin to pick their best work and add it to a separate portfolio site or redesign their blog to easily navigate to their best work using tags and tabs. For some examples of the resources that were created during the pilot, including presentations and templates, please visit the Resources page in the project website. For examples of the blogs the educators and young people created, visit the Portfolio page.

Project Discovery and Impact

Over the six months of the pilot program the DreamYard-Parsons team came across several challenges that helped strengthen the focus and implementation of the learning portfolio development process. One important discovery was the benefit of dividing the process into two separate phases. The team came to believe that the more generative act of blogging should be identified as the first step in the process followed by a second more editorial phase in which blog contents are revised. Another challenge faced by both educators and young people was their varying levels of digital literacy specifically their familiarity with using computers and blogging platforms. Moving forward, it will be imperative to integrate the teaching of web and digital literacy skills into the blogging and portfolio development phases.

Over the pilot period the educators and Parsons faculty met monthly to share their best practices and challenges. These meetings are documented on the comprehensive project website and were crucial to supporting the collaboration and learning how to best facilitate the learning portfolio development process. During summer 2014, DreamYard began the next phase of the project via a follow-up grant from the Hive Digital Media Learning Fund in The New York Community Trust. During this next phase, DreamYard will expand the project to include more educators from the DreamYard Art Center, DreamYard Prep, and from the Pre-College Design Academy at Parsons The New School for Design.

Participant Feedback

“Blogging has helped me to promote my artwork more broadly without being ashamed that it wasn’t good enough.” – Michela

“A class that doesn’t blog usually keeps the art within the room. Through blogging, we learn how to network, if just slightly at first. When I’m going through my dashboard, I usually find so many interesting artists and artworks, I end up becoming inspired and keep my creative process flowing for much longer!” – George

“Blogging has helped me improve my learning in class because I could be more organized with my work and actually have other classmates or teachers comment on what they think about my hard work. Blogging can connect your personal life with your academic life because the ideas that it exposes you to and the ideas that you post on blogger really can be used outside of school and can really help you in your future later in life.” – David

 Educator Feedback

“It almost felt like we were not only exploring Digital Learning Portfolios, but baseline, simple technology use and ways to improve our students’ digital competencies.” – Jessica Altounian, Digital Media Teacher

“Progress in school (and life) is often intangible. We get a sense of how things are going but we often lack concrete evidence of our trajectory. Digital student portfolios that chronicled their high school years would enable students to see the growth they’ve made.” – Terrence Burke, History Teacher

“By doing blogs in class it made me more comfortable with teaching other technology. If it wasn’t for this portfolio project I would not have found other tech resources or had the confidence to bring them into my class.” – Emily McLaughlin, Science Teacher

Lead Organization:

Partner Organizations:
Parsons The New School for Design

Project Goal:
To shift the culture of portfolio development from one that favors final products or artifacts to one that is focused on contexts of personal growth, skill-building and learning over time.

Project Tags:
Arts, Media Literacy & Production, Webmaking

Project Portfolio

  • documentation

    The Learning Portfolio Project Website

    Main hub for the Learning Portfolio project which includes progress reports, resources and a youth-created portfolio gallery.

  • tools

    Teaching Resources

    A collection of resources compiled for educators to integrate learning portfolios into individual classrooms.



  • sample works

    Youth Portfolio Samples

    Youth created individual portfolios during the pilot. For many it was their first time authoring a blog or designing a forum for the presentation of their own work.



  • media

  • media

  • tools


    Blogger is one of the blogging platforms youth used to create their learning portfolio.

  • tools


    Tumblr is one of the blogging platforms youth used to create their learning portfolio.

  • tools


    Pixlr is an online photo editor youth used to tweak images for their learning portfolio.

  • tools


    Scribd is a tool that lets you create a digital library.

  • tools


    Wix is a free website builder. While the project was documented while it was in progress, a website was deemed the best way to compile resources and document the project.