Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1995-1996 index

Distributed March 22, 1996
Contact: Tracie Sweeney

Digital portfolios will be demonstrated at governors' education summit

At a governors' education summit March 26 and 27, the Annenberg Institute's Technology Group will present work on Digital School and Student Portfolios - a set of multimedia software tools that provide new ways of looking at a school's progress toward reform and a student's progress toward meeting a school's goals. The presentation is one of 11 demonstrations chosen from a national search.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- When the nation's governors and business leaders gather for a national education summit in Palisades, N.Y., on March 26 and 27, they will hear from many voices about education, technology and how all students can meet high standards of achievement. Among those voices will be the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and the Coalition of Essential Schools, based at Brown University.

David Niguidula, who heads the Annenberg Institute's Technology Group, will be presenting work on Digital School and Student Portfolios - a set of multimedia software tools that provide new ways of looking at a school's progress toward reform and a student's progress toward meeting a school's goals. He will be presenting with Michelle Riconscente, who has just been named a senior research associate at the Center for Children and Technology in New York City after working at the Annenberg Institute as the primary developer of these software tools.

The presentation on digital portfolios is one of 11 demonstrations on educational technology that the participants will see at the summit. The 11 were chosen from a national search of educational technology projects.

"We think our tools create new possibilities for accountability and assessment," said Niguidula. "The governors and CEOs at the conference will be discussing the need for higher standards; we are showing tools that can help schools develop those standards so they become part of a school's and student's daily routine, rather than just words on a page."

Theodore R. Sizer, director of the Annenberg Institute and a Brown University professor of education, concurs that standards need to go beyond traditional reliance on standardized test scores. In the briefing paper prepared for the summit, Sizer says that a digital portfolio "is both fairer and more likely to be valid [than standardized tests]. A timed test doesn't really tell me whether [a student] can write, but looking at his writing over time gives me a sense of whether he is getting the habit of writing clear English." Sizer was one of 13 prominent educators, including Secretary of Education Richard Riley and College Board President Donald M. Stewart, who were interviewed for the briefing paper.

Students in six Coalition-member schools (Croton-Harmon High School, Pierre van Cortlandt Middle School and Carrie E. Tompkins Elementary School, all in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.; University Heights High School in the Bronx, N.Y.; Eastern High School in Louisville, Ky.; and Thayer High School in Winchester, N.H.) are using the Digital Student Portfolio. In those schools, students enter their work into computers, using, as needed, text, graphics, audio and video tools. The portfolio then asks the student to show how that work corresponds to the goals of what all students should be able to know and do. Finally, the portfolio allows the student to put the work in context by including additional information such as teacher evaluations or the original assignment.

The Digital School Portfolio similarly combines various media to provide a new image of what happens in a school. "As schools begin to function in radically new ways, it is vital that all stake holders in the school's mission be much better informed," says David Allen, who heads the School Portfolio research at the Annenberg Institute. The prototype, completed at Monroe Middle School in Rochester, N.Y., provides a "virtual tour" of the work the school is doing. This includes traditional information, such as statistics about the school's teacher-student ratio, as well as innovations at the school, such as how the school involves parents in its decision-making or how the school has developed a new "peer conflict mediation" system to make the school a safer place. Additional work on the School Portfolio will take place this year in 24 schools in Chicago.

The research which led to the Digital School and Student Portfolios has been funded primarily by the IBM Corporation and the New York State Education Department. Further work in Chicago is being funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Illinois State Board of Education. This new effort is being headed by David Green, senior research scientist at the Institute for Education and Social Policy at New York University and co-director of the School Change and Inquiry Program of Chicago, with cooperation from the Annenberg Institute, the Center for Children and Technology, and additional support from the Eastman Kodak Corporation.

The Annenberg Institute and the Coalition of Essential Schools can be reached on the World Wide Web beginning this week at