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Portfolio Instructions and Ideas

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Online Skills Portfolio

The Skills Library
Student Portfolios

Instructions and Tips for Student Portfolios

Planning the Portfolio and Gathering Portfolio Ideas
Creating the Portfolio Online
Creating a Welcome Message
Portfolio Product Ideas
Integrity and Online Safety
Portfolios and Job Search
Technical Tips
Using HTML in an essay/narrative


The purpose of a portfolio is to help students to document their skills and achievements, to challenge students to create their best work, and to help students to reflect on what they have accomplished. The Online Skills Portfolio is an online portfolio that allows students to display a wide variety of products, including documents, presentations, spreadsheets, photos and artwork. For each portfolio product, students write a brief description and complete a skills checklist.

Students create the portfolio online, using an online form to describe the project and to upload files for the portfolio. No HTML coding is needed.

The Skills Portfolio is found at http://www.skillslibrary.com/skills1. It was created by Jennifer Leonard, The Skills Library, Inc. For technical assistance with the portfolio, students and teachers may contact Jennifer Leonard at jleonard@skillslibrary.com.

Planning the Portfolio and Gathering Portfolio Items

Think about the projects and accomplishments that you would like to highlight in your portfolio. Think about projects you've completed in each of your classes, as well as projects you have done outside of school, through jobs or internships, community organizations, church/religious groups or on your own. For each project, identify one or more products that you can display in the portfolio. Products can include:

  • Word documents
  • Excel spreadsheets
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Access databases
  • Photos, graphics or scanned or photographed artwork (*.gif or *.jpg format)
  • PDF files
  • Short sound clips (*.wav or *.mid format)
  • Links to webpages, including webpages you have created or webpages related to a school or community project you've worked on.
  • Documents may include resumes, personal reflections, essays, reports, science fair projects, etc.

Look at the sample portfolios online for ideas. You'll see a welcome message, welcome photo, and a table of contents. Click on some of the items in the table of contents to get ideas for your portfolio. This sample portfolio includes work by people of all ages, from elementary school students to middle school and high school students to adults. Some items may give you ideas for your own portfolio even if they are created by someone younger or older than you. These instructions also provides a variety of portfolio product ideas.

Once you have some ideas, start gathering and creating materials for the portfolio. Keep a file folder of print materials and gather electronic products in a folder on your classroom or home computer or on a memory stick. You can use the paper Portfolio Item Information Sheet [Word] to organize your materials as you work. This worksheet is useful for organizing your information before creating the online portfolio. This worksheet can also be used as a cover sheet for portfolio items in a print version of your portfolio.

As you start gathering and creating materials, try to keep files small, so that your portfolio will be easy to view at any connection speed. The portfolio has a maximum size limit for files, at about 2MB, but much smaller files are recommended. The portfolio program will let you know if the file is too large to upload.

Photos and other images should be sized using a drawing or photo editing software package. For a "welcome picture" a width of 200-400 pixels is ideal, For other images, a width of about 500-600 pixels for a large photo or 280 pixels for a smaller photo that will be displayed alongside an essay or other product.

Creating the Portfolio Online

Once you have gathered some portfolio materials, you can start creating the portfolio online. You will be given a password to sign-in. Click the link to Sign In on the left side of the portfolio webpage.

Click Create New Portfolio Item. Then you'll see an online form titled Create Portfolio Item - Step 1 - Describe the Project. Fill in the following information:

  • Project Name. Choose a unique name for each item in your portfolio, such as "Science Fair Project: Photosynthesis" or "Excel Worksheet: Chemistry Formulas" or "Resume" or "Personal Reflection." This project name will appear in the table of contents.

  • Project Date. Fill in the date that you completed the project. By default, today's date appears in this space, but you can change this date. Use standard date format, such as 3/31/2009.

  • Your Name. Your name is filled in automatically.

  • Project Description. Write a description of the project. The description should be about one or two paragraphs long. If necessary, you can use this description to provide instructions to your reader about how to view the portfolio item. For example, you might want to tell readers to visit a particular website and then use the "BACK" button on their browser to come back to the portfolio. If you worked with other people on the project, use the project description to describe your role and the roles of others on the project.

  • Skills Checklist. Check the skills that you used in this project. Check as many as apply for each project.

  • Optional weblink. If you would like readers to view a webpage, type the link here. Type the full address, such as http://skillslibrary.com. You may also copy and paste a link from the address bar of the website into this box. Later you will have the option to display the webpage in a frame in your portfolio or simply display a link to the page.

  • Optional essay/narrative. The boxes on the right side of the form are for an optional essay or narrative. Type or paste the narrative in the box, using the first box for a title and the second box for the essay/narrative. You can copy and paste text from any format into this narrative box. If you are familiar with HTML, you may use some basic HTML to add formatting, such as marking text to be bold, italics, or adding inline styles.

Once this form is complete, click the button to SUBMIT. You'll see a screen that confirms that your information is saved. Click on the button to proceed to Step 2.

In Step 2 you'll see a form titled Step 2 – Attach Files. This form will help you to attach (upload) your files. There are three boxes or frames where you can upload files. Box 1 presents an image on the right side of the screen; Box 2 presents a small image on the left side of the screen; and Box 3 can contain any of the allowed file types, such as PDF documents, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, sound clips or images. These items will be displayed as links or, in the case of images, PDFs or sound files, displayed in a frame on the right side of the page. Use the BROWSE button to find your files on your computer. Fill in the appropriate choice to indicate what type of file it is, such as *.doc for a Word document or *.jpg for a photo. Then click the button to SUBMIT.

You may have any combination of attached files, website link and/or essay/narrative in each portfolio item. Some portfolio items may have just an image and a brief project description. Others may have several different items, such as an essay/narrative plus an image, or a PowerPoint presentation plus an image from the presentation.

Use the buttons along the top of this screen (or any portfolio item screen) to preview the portfolio item, edit the portfolio item as needed, and to re-attach files, attach a different file, or re-size the images. Buttons include:

  • Preview Portfolio Item.

  • Edit Portfolio Item (change text of the project title, date, project description, website link, or essay/narrative).

  • Attach Box 1 Image (full-sized image on right side of screen)

  • Attach Box 2 Image (small image along the left side of screen)

  • Attach Box 3 Item (any portfolio item)

  • Re-size, re-arrange or remove items (this opens a screen that allows you to change the width of any item, change the position - such as from Box 1 to Box 2 - or remove the item from display. It also allows you to specify whether to display a website on the page or just display the link.)

  • Delete this portfolio item (delete the current item; you will be prompted to confirm that you want to delete)

  • Go to the next item (go to the next item, or, if at the end of the portfolio, back to the Table of Contents)

  • Go to the Table of Contents

A screen available from the table of contents also allows you to re-number the portfolio items, so that they appear in whatever order you choose.

Creating the Welcome Message

From the working table of contents, click the links to write a welcome message and attach a welcome photo. The welcome photo should be fairly small (about 200-400 pixels wide) and the welcome message should be about one paragraph. These will appear at the top of the table of contents of your portfolio.

Portfolio Product Ideas

Your portfolio should include information on school, community, individual, work and volunteer activities.

Many of your projects will already be in electronic format, such as a resume or personal reflection in Microsoft Word or PDF format, a PowerPoint presentation that you created for a science project or an Access database or Excel spreadsheet that you created in your technology class. Other items, such as a job description or short handwritten report can be easily typed or re-typed.

For other projects, you may not have any electronic products. In some cases, you might just write a narrative describing the project and perhaps include an appropriate clipart image or photo in your portfolio. In other cases, you may want to create an electronic product especially for the portfolio. Here are some ideas.

Use digital photography. Take digital photos of artwork, science projects, performances, community events or sports events.

Scan artwork or photos. Use a scanner to scan some of your artwork or photos. Use a drawing program or photo editing software package to adjust the file size and image size so that the file will fit in the portfolio. (Comment: scanning is not as suitable for text or handwritten material, since it is hard to get a clearly readable product with a reasonable file size.)

Create a spreadsheet. Use Excel or another spreadsheet program to create a spreadsheet based on something you have studied or worked on. For example, if you are studying nutrition, you could create a spreadsheet that shows the nutritional content of various menus. If you are studying physics, you could create a spreadsheet that uses the formulas for gravity and acceleration. If you are a member of sports team, you could create a spreadsheet showing statistics for your team.

Create a database. Use Access or another database program to create a database based on something you have studied or worked on. For example, if you are studying nutrition, you could create a database of nutritional information. If you are studying geography, you could create a database of statistics about selected countries. If you are studying history, you could create a database of historic dates or a database of profiles of famous people. If you are studying Spanish, you could use a database to create a mini Spanish-English dictionary.

Create a presentation. Use PowerPoint or another presentation software to create a presentation based on something you have studied or worked on. For example, if you helped to organize a community, church or school event, you could create a PowerPoint presentation about the event. You could use PowerPoint to illustrate a math or science concept. For example, a PowerPoint presentation could guide viewers through a geometry problem or proof using graphs or simple drawings.

Use a drawing program. Consider using a drawing program to create original artwork, charts or diagrams to illustrate a project. Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Microsoft PhotoDraw and others allow you to use the mouse or a tablet to draw and edit images. And although PowerPoint is not a formal drawing program, the AutoShapes feature allows you to create simple drawings and diagrams.

Use music notation software. Consider downloading a free trial of music notation software and consider purchasing the software if you like it. For example, Noteworthy Composer™, Melody Assistant™ or Music MasterWorks™ allow you to compose, print and play music. You can export the music to a *.mid file, suitable for the portfolio, and you can save the score as a *.jpg file, also suitable for the portfolio.

Use computerized career exploration tools. Use a variety of computerized career exploration tools to explore your personal career interests and learn about career opportunities and include information from your exploration in your portfolio. For example, the MassCIS system, which is available free to Massachusetts residents through the Massachusetts Division of Career Services (DCS), provides career interest assessment and career information. Visit http://www.intocareers/masscis to find MassCIS. Use Microsoft Word or other software to type a summary of what you've learned from your career search and keep it in your portfolio. If you copy and paste information from any computerized source, be sure to use an appropriate citation.

Explore your employer's or community organization's website. If you have a job or internship or if you volunteer with a community organization, explore the employer's or community organization's website to learn more about the mission and work of the company or organization. Include a link to the website in your portfolio, along with a description of your job, internship or volunteer work.

Integrity and Online Safety

Because this is an online portfolio, please carefully observe the following integrity and online safety guidelines. If you have materials that might not be suitable for the online portfolio, you can include these in your print portfolio but please omit from the online portfolio. Note that some of these guidelines are stricter than the guidelines provided by other websites, but are appropriate because it is a school-sponsored online portfolio.

  1. All materials – including language, content and images – must be suitable for all audiences, including young children who may view the portfolios.
  2. Please do not include negative or damaging comments about employers, teachers, community leaders or other individuals in your portfolio.
  3. Do not include personal contact information, including phone numbers or addresses. If you want to include an email address on your resume for potential employers to contact you, you may do so, but if are under 18, please obtain your parent or guardian's permission. When you post your resume in the portfolio, you should include just your name, the name of your school and, with your parent or guardian's permission, your email address.
  4. Don't include any personal information about yourself or others in a database or other portfolio product. Remember that users can download files from the web, so they could download a copy of your database.

In any portfolio – whether print or online – it is also important to follow guidelines of academic integrity. Please carefully cite any print or online source materials that you use. Please acknowledge the role of other people in any of your projects and explain your role if you were a member of a team. Today's workplace requires collaboration and teamwork, and so readers will be interested in seeing how you were able to work with others to complete projects.

Portfolios and Job Search

If you would like potential employers to view your portfolio, you may direct them to the Skills Portfolio home page and ask them to select your name from the dropdown list or you may give them a direct link to your portfolio table of contents.

Portfolios will remain online for approximately 16 months after your graduation, until the September one year after your graduation. If you would like the portfolio removed sooner or kept online longer, please contact Jennifer Leonard at jleonard@skillslibrary.com. Once you graduate, you and others will be able to view your portfolio but, because of space limitations, you will not be able to add additional portfolio items. However, if you are using the portfolio for job search purposes during the year after your graduation, you may email an updated resume to jleonard@skillslibrary.com for posting.

Technical Tips

Before uploading portfolio items, SAVE the item in the format you would like it displayed. For example, for an Excel spreadsheet, go to the top left cell, (A1) before saving. Or, for example, for a PowerPoint presentation, click on "Slide Show, Set Up Show" on the PowerPoint menu bar to specify whether you want the show browsed full screen or in a window (by an individual) and whether you want automatic timings used.

Items may display differently in different browsers, such as Internet Explorer vs. Firefox. Try the different browsers to see how your portfolio looks in each. If you will be presenting the portfolio to an audience you should open Word, Excel, or PowerPoint before you start the presentation, so that products using these programs will launch more quickly.

For attached documents, spreadsheets and presentations, the portfolio offers options to "view in frame below" or "open in new window." The option to "view in frame below" opens the item in a popup window in the space along the right side of the screen. This function may work differently in different browsers (but is ideal in Internet Explorer).

Using HTML in an essay/narrative

If you are familiar with HTML, you may use some basic HTML tags to format the text in the essay/narrative box. Here are suggested HTML tags to use. Note that most tags must be used in pairs - such as <b> and </b> to start and end bold text.

<b>Bold text</b>

<i>Italics </i>

<b style='color: teal'>Inline styles</b>

<b style='background-color: silver'>More Inline styles</b>


<a target="new" href="http://skillslibrary.com">LINKS</a>

<hr> (horizontal rule)

Bullet point lists:


  • <li>Bullet point #1</li>
  • <li>Bullet point #2</li>
  • <li>Bullet point #3</li>


Note: Do not use <head> or <body> or <html> tags within the essay/narrative.