Digital Portfolios in the Music Classroom:
Capturing Your Students Best Work
By Graham Hepburn, sponsored by QuaverMusic
As a music educator, you have a front row seat to witness the growth that your students achieve each year. The challenge comes when translating that growth into hard data. But, that data is what administrators really want to see. Digital portfolios offer an effective and efficient answer to this challenge.
What is a Digital Portfolio?
A digital portfolio is a collection—or portfolio—of student work used to demonstrate evidence of learning. Teachers collect this evidence—or artifacts—from students throughout the school year. Artifacts may be video, audio, or any other digital media created by the student. Teachers then compile the evidence in an accessible location for the teacher, administrator, and even parents to review.
Many states now require performance-based assessment models, and digital portfolios can be a very useful tool.
Digital portfolios are especially effective in the music classroom. Creating, performing, and responding skills are more easily captured in digital form. Teachers are able to see growth and skill level develop over the full length of the school year. Students also take an interest in the process, and can see tangible evidence of their hard work. Many states now require performance-based assessment models, and digital portfolios can be a very useful tool.
Collecting Student Artifacts
What kind of artifacts can you collect in your general music classroom? You can be creative! An artifact can be anything that shows student growth or mastery of a concept or skill. Here are just a few ideas:
- Vocal, recorder, or rhythm assessments
- Group performances or projects
- Student auditions or recitals
- MP3s of student compositions produced from apps like QuaverMusic creatives
- MP3s of a student-produced album
- Student drawings or creative written responses to a piece of music
- Worksheets completed by a student
- Original lyrics written by a student
- Screenshots of a student activity or composition
- A photo log of a musical project completed by a student over time
- Pictures of physical projects built by students (example: recycled instruments)
- An HTML link to a student created web-page
- A PowerPoint presentation from a student’s oral presentation
- A student-produced podcast, iBook, or short film
Compiling Your Digital Portfolio
With these ideas in mind, how can you compile these student artifacts? What’s the best tool for building your digital portfolios? The choice is up to you. Consider these current options:
- A basic folder system in Evernote or Google Drive
- Your existing district LMS (Learning Management System)
- Your classroom blog
- Online tools like QuaverMusic curriculum resources
Teachers with QuaverMusic curriculum resources can now store and organize student work in Custom Lessons. Teachers can also easily share those Custom Lessons with other teachers or administrators to review. QuaverMusic is also developing functionality that will allow students to submit audio and video files documenting their performance in response to assignments created by the teacher. This will enhance the ability to easily create digital portfolios.
Digital Portfolio Project
Imagine your fourth grade students are studying rhythm. A project—using a digital portfolio—would be a great way to show the skills your students have mastered. The sample project detailed below will motivate your students to create and perform an original piece. The project will end in a set of digital artifacts for the student’s portfolio including a music video and two PDF documents.
Phase 1: Project Goals
- Students will compose a rap and backing track addressing a school subject other than music (for example: the Solar System, a moment in history, another country or culture).
- Students will first research important facts about the topic to include in their rap.
- Students will then choreograph movements to their rap and create any props or costume pieces needed.
- Students will finally record a music video using the elements they’ve created.
Phase 2: Composition and Revision
- Students use a digital platform such as GarageBand or Quaver’s QGrooves to compose a 16-measure piece in AB form. Each composition should focus on the Tonic and Dominant chords in a chosen key.
- Students then submit a rhythmic transcription of the original lyrics to fit within the prescribed 16 measures.
- Students then practice, analyze, and revise their rap and choreograph their movements.
Phase 3: Performance and Artifact Collection
- Students perform their original piece over a digital backing track.
- Teacher records each performance as a music video and posts online for students to access.
- Students complete self-evaluation by watching their video, either in class or at home, and responding to a teacher-created rubric.
Final artifacts for portfolio: Recorded music video, PDF of self-evaluation, and optional PDF of graded rubric.
At the end of the year, you can easily return to these portfolios to evaluate student growth over the school year for any standard or skill. Digital portfolios result in more efficient grade collection, more valid and reliable grades, and stronger evidence of student learning. Students will look back fondly at the proof of their great success in music class!
About the author:
Graham Hepburn has a passion for igniting a love of music in the hearts and minds of young people. He received an honor’s degree in Piano Performance from the Colchester School of Music and his musical career has ranged from solo recitals to touring the world as a musical comedy performer to becoming the Director of Music for Grindon Hall Christian School in England. As Co-Founder and Vice President of Content Development at QuaverMusic.com, Hepburn leads a team of music educators and multidisciplinary professionals in the development of teaching resources to engage today’s students. His keynote speech at NAfME’s 2016 In-Service focused on the power and influence of music in the lives of teachers and students. Learn more about Hepburn’s tips for using digital portfolios in QuaverMusic’s September 2017 Webinar: Creating, Composing, and Using Portfolios with Quaver. For more on QuaverMusic resources, visit QuaverMusic.com/Info.
QuaverMusic was a Platinum Sponsor of the 2017 National Conference, which took place November 2017 in Dallas, TX. Sponsorship opportunities are available for the 2018 NAfME National Conference, November 11-14, in Dallas, TX. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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