Digital Portfolios: Assessment in the iPad Classroom

digport_cover_400In 2015 I have been presenting this workshop around Australia and New Zealand receiving great feedback from those who
have attended.

At the beginning of October 2015 I launched the above title as the first in my series of Virtual PD publications. It is 90 Minutes of accredited Professional development containing video tutorials, step by step instructions on creating Digital Portfolios using Explain Everything, Book Creator, GarageBand, iMovie, Dropbox and QR Codes. All extra resources needed to complete the same examples are provided on a USB.

Below you can view the introduction video and read all about creating Digital Portfolios.

Being a primary/elementary teacher, the examples I use are straight from my classroom with real examples from my students. While the examples are music and at a primary/elementary grade level, having taught as a primary classroom teacher, I believe you can take the same structure and apply it to other subjects and grade levels too.



Digital Portfolios grew out of the following two needs:

The need in my music classroom to gather evidence of student work that I could assess after class and provide for parent viewing.

For gathering evidence I found in the lower grades that Book Creator was the perfect app for students to write, take photos, audio record and video record in, and now we can even insert the GarageBand songs we create as well. This gives myself as a music teacher a perfect way to gather evidence in a performance based subject. The evidence I gather I can view directly after the lesson and then later to assess for mid year and final year grades.

One of the best outcomes and feedback I’ve had from using Book Creator, is being able to provide parents with comprehensive evidence as to why their child has been given a certain grade.

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The a request from a teacher to display my Year 6/7’s music projects at their IB Exhibition

To achieve this request I looked at the apps on the student iPad’s and found that Explain Everything allowed the students to display on 1 screen:

  • a pages document showing their rewritten song lyrics
  • a screenshot of their GarageBand arrangement
  • the GarageBand sound file to play their recording for people to listen to

IMG_0969What this iPad set up in Explain Everything also allowed the students to do was have an interactive display on their Exhibition stall, where parents could play and listen to the student’s song.

This project started me on a journey to implement Digital Portfolios for all my classes.

So what are Digital Portfolios? 

Digital portfolios, electronic portfolios or e-portfolios, are the latest trend in education. They are a way of collating or presenting digital work samples.

The positive outcomes of Digital Portfolios:

  • all work samples and files can be placed in one spot for assessment and viewing accessibility
  • students have different modes available to them for creating/collecting work samples; word processing, photos, images, audio & video recording
  • they provide the opportunity for assessment samples to include not only written samples but also visual performances of their work or skills in the subject areas that require demonstration of skills (such as The Arts, Physical Education and Science)
  • students with learning difficulties can engage better in their assessment opportunities due to the multiple options available to them
  • sharing files via email or apps such as dropbox and google drive means that not only can the teacher and school have access to them but parents can also have access
  • they provide students the opportunity to increase their technology skills in every subject area
  • they provide educators a wider scope for integration of general capabilities across the curriculum

Digital Portfolios have different uses in the classroom. They can be used for formative and summative assessment and to present work.

Formative Assessment Digital Portfolio

To collate and show the student’s progressive learning throughout the unit of work.

This is used to inform your teaching and planning for subsequent lessons.

Summative Assessment Digital Portfolio

A collection of work samples and files for students to be assessed by, at the end of a unit of work, against the learning outcome and curriculum used. This often results in a final mark for reporting.

Presenting Work to an Audience

Digital Portfolios are a great way of presenting work for display or sharing with parents.

Collating work into one app by sharing files into the one presentation allows for easy sharing of the entire project without the audience having to move between multiple apps.

The types of work samples you can gather are

  • written/word processed work
  • photos
  • screenshots
  • audio
  • video

There are many ways teachers and students can create digital Portfolios. Here are some apps that are available.

Collect/Collate Files

Class Management (LMS) Apps

Presentation Apps

When using the presentation type of apps in the classroom there are 3 different types of Digital Portfolios.

Individual Portfolios

In a 1 to 1 device or BYOD classroom, students create individual portfolios of their work. If you have shared devices, e.g. 1 between 2 or 3 students, it is still possible to do individual portfolios. Pair students up to work always on the same iPad. Some activities allow for working together on the same task, e.g. videoing each other. Alternately have 2 tasks on the go, i.e. one student on the iPad; one student performing another set task.

Group Portfolios

Use the portfolio method to share and record group work, e.g. group compositions.

Class Portfolios

Instead of students creating individual portfolios for a project, the teacher can create a class portfolio for a specific activity or a summative task with a sample of work from each student on each page/slide.

In My Classroom digital portfolios have transformed the way I gather evidence. They have also made assessment and reporting so much easier as I can review the work samples multiple times. Another positive outcome to gathering work samples in this way has been when parents have questioned their child’s semester grade. In this instance I have been able to email them the Digital Portfolio for them to view and my assessment along with it, the parents really appreciated it as it gave them an insight into their child’s development.

If you would like to learn more about how to create Digital Portfolios in your classroom go to my Music Room Tech page at Bushfire Press.



Teach to transform!


Help I lost my video & photo assessment on my iPad!

It’s that embarrassing & sickening moment when you realise that even though you may be seen as tech savvy by your peers, you make the mistake of deleting a file before confirming you had a backup. Really it has been a miracle I haven’t made this mistake earlier! I got a new iPad last week and set about transferring all my files from my old one to my new one. I used iTunes file sharing and thought I had transferred all files before deleting them, however one Book Creator file, the one with 4 weeks of video assessment in it somehow didn’t make it to iTunes before I deleted it. Red faced I had not double checked it was there either, nor had I exported the ePub to iBooks, so no backup and no way that Apple themselves could retrieve it. So I hit Google, note this is not endorsed by Apple themselves as they do not encourage the download of ‘third party software’. What you need to google is “iPad backup extractor”, you will find lots of hits to wade through. Almost all I looked at had a free download trial, that allowed for scanning your iTunes backup to show you what files you could recover, however to actually recover the files you need to pay for the software. NB Each software had differing levels of ability to recover files so if you are going to do this it is best to do the research. After quite a number of hours searching and downloading many trial versions of software I realised that there was no way to recover my actual Book Creator file as I had never saved it as an ePub outside of the app, however I found that the videos I had taken within the app I could recover. Cost wise, I always look for a bargain, but also because I am in Australia the exchange rate right now is crazy, so the more professional looking ones with more features and higher levels of file recovery, were going to cost me in excess of $60 AUD. The best one I found for recovering the most data was Wondershare Dr.Fone for iOS $79 USD ($100+AUD at present) This I was not willing to pay for just recovering video footage. Maybe I’ll buy it later when I lose Explain Everything files, however I finally found one for $20AUD, it is not a fancy looking software and for me it did the job of recovering all my videos and photos taken and so now I can reconstruct my assessment, sometimes simple is all you need! ThMSB4_256e software I bought is MobileSyncBrowser. It safely installed on my Mac (also available for PC) and I am very happy with the results. Lesson learned for me is ALWAYS back up your most important files on an iPad via cloud storage such as Dropbox. Because while you ‘Backup’ and ‘Sync’ your iPad, unless the actual file is saved elsewhere, it is a costly exercise to recover something!



Teach to transform!


iPads in the Music Classroom Professional Development Workshop

This month I presented my first PD workshop titled ‘iPads in the Middle Primary Music Classroom’  at the Music Technology in Education Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

I had really great feedback from the participants and comments that the information I shared is not only relevant to Middle Primary but all the way through K-12.


imoviepagesdropbox_229x128inigma qr code readerAirDisplay_MacClient_iconreflectordoceri


The topics and apps I presented on were:

  1. Remotely controlling your computer with your iPad using Doceri or Air Display
  2. Displaying your iPad screen via Airplay using Reflector or Apple TV
  3. Using Dropbox in the classroom (click link to see notes)
  4. Using QR codes in the classroom (click link to see notes)
  5. Using Pages as a tool for your teaching
  6. Creating Interactive Posters
  7. Book Creator for projects and digital portfolios
  8. Music Room Tech: Signature Ringtones, my upcoming publication, an 8 week unit of work using iPad apps to create a personalised ringtone.

I hope to do more presentations around Australia in the next 12 months.

While I am a Specialist Classroom Music teacher, I am also trained and have taught  JP/P generalist classroom, so can modify the above topics for general classroom use.

If you are interested in booking me please email



Teach to transform!


iPads and Dropbox in the classroom

This month I presented my first ever Professional Development workshop at the Music Technology in Education Conference in Melbourne, Australia, on using iPad’s in the music classroom.

I had really great feedback from the participants and hope to do more presentations around Australia in the next 12 months.

dropbox_229x128iPad’s and Dropbox

Part of my presentation was on using Dropbox to provide files and information to students and to gather work samples from them.

Where I teach, students don’t have individual email addresses so to ask them to email me files for assessment is impossible. I also have the problem that not all iPad’s in the classroom are airdrop compatible so that option to collect work is also eliminated.

I came up with the idea of creating a class dropbox account that students can log in to (and out of) on their iPad.

The iPad app allows you to log in and out of  different dropbox accounts, so if you have a personal one it is quite simple to log out of that and then into the class one to upload or download content.

This has worked extremely well for me and my students as it allows me to

  1.  access their work samples to assess at home
  2. upload files for them to download to their iPad

Below is a set of instructions on 3 different ways you can set up Dropbox to work in your classroom.

Alternately download a pdf of these instructions here dropbox_instructions_10_2014.

Description: Dropbox is a way you can share files between devices and computers. Upload templates, music tracks, videos and photos for students to open in apps on their iPad. You can open Dropbox accounts in the internet browser on your computer to upload files from your computer, or on your iPad, directly from any apps that allow files to be opened in Dropbox.

3 Different Classroom Uses:

  1. Have a class Dropbox account that everyone logs in and out of.


  1. Download the free Dropbox app onto all student iPad’s
  2. Create a dropbox account with a class school email address or create a free account such as yahoo
  3. Go to the class email inbox and verify the account
  4. Open Dropbox app and Login to the account you created.
  5. Go back into the app you were working in select your file/project, select ‘Open in’, in the app options select Dropbox. This will take you to Dropbox
  6. Select ‘Choose a different folder’
  7. Select the specified folder
  8. Select choose (down the bottom)
  9. Select Save.
  10. Wait for document to upload
  11. If you don’t want the students to have access everyday to this account ask them to log out before leaving the classroom and change the password.


  1. Each student has an individual account and shares the download link via email to you.


  1. Download the free Dropbox app onto all student iPad’s
  2. Each student creates a dropbox account with an individual email address
  3. Go to their email inbox and verify the account
  4. Go back into the app you were working in select your file/project, select ‘Open in’, in the app options select Dropbox. This will take you to Dropbox
  5. Select ‘Choose a different folder’
  6. Select the specified folder
  7. Select choose (down the bottom)
  8. Select Save
  9. Wait for document to upload
  10. Select uploaded document (wait for the preview to come up in the window)
  11. Select the export button above the preview window
  12. Select mail and email link to teacher




  1. Each student has an individual account and has shared folders with you.


  1. Download the free Dropbox app onto all student iPad’s
  2. Create a dropbox account with an individual email address
  3. Go to their email inbox and verify the account
  4. To create shared folders, on student iPad,
  • select the 3 dots
  • select create folder
  • name your folder (ie students name & subject)
  • select export (which is next to the 3 dots)
  • ‘invite people to folder’
  • type email address of dropbox account you want them to share to
  • select invite
  • Teacher logs into their account on the internet, not in the app (the app doesn’t yet allow you to accept invitations within the app)
  • Select the ‘sharing’ tab down the side, it will have a number in a red box showing how many invites you have to accept
  • Select the ‘folder invitation’
  • Select ‘Accept’ the folder will now appear both on the internet and in your app.
  1. To save a file from the iPad to Dropbox, ensure you are logged into the Dropbox app.
  2. Go back into the app you were working in select your file/project, select ‘Open in’, in the app options select Dropbox. This will take you to Dropbox
  3. Select ‘Choose a different folder’
  4. Select the shared folder
  5. Select choose (down the bottom)
  6. Select Save
  7. Wait for document to upload then it will be accessible on the teacher’s dropbox.

To invite students to a folder you have created just follow the above steps and ask the students to log into their Dropbox account online to accept the invitation.

How to open the student files on your iPad

  1. If it was emailed select the link in the email to open it, follow the instructions in Safari. Tap the top of the page to ‘Open in’.
  2. If saved to Dropbox, open the app on your iPad, and either open the shared folder or log in to the class account
  3. Select the uploaded document
  4. Select the export button (above the preview window)
  5. Select ‘Open in’
  6. Choose the app you wish to open it in



Teach to transform!


Music as Non Verbal Cues in the Classroom

Do you grab kids attention without having to speak?

music_teacher_poster-r58d48b53b63c41418316df56c0b436b3_w2j_8byvr_324As music teachers our voice is our instrument, we need to care for it and therefore we need to be diligent in finding ways we can communicate using non verbal cues to conserve the use of our voice. Not only this, but it lightens the mood in our classroom and creates positive behaviour cues.

before I get to the use of music here are a few VISUAL CUES I’ve found helpful:

  • hand in the air and count down from five using your fingers (my students know if they do not have their attention on me by the end they get a warning)
  • hands on heads
  • using actions – pat head, roll hands


Have you tried RHYTHM PATTERNS to grab attention?

  • clap a rhythm and the students repeat it
  • use an action song – without singing it e.g. Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • as students come back from grabbing instruments teacher plays rhythms & students copy until all students are seated every so often changing the rhythm or playing the side of the instrument or even stopping and placing mallets or instruments on head or shoulders and eventually on the floor in front of them to indicate it’s time to listen


My Favourite – use a MUSIC TRACK as a cue for a specific task

Sit Down Songs

To come back from a group activity play a song it could be any song that you have told the kids to listen for and when they hear it they need to be sitting on the floor by the end of the song or extract. For example:

  • maybe the latest popular song like Katie Perry’s “Roar”
  • The theme song for the lesson you are teaching – “12 Bar Blues”
  • A ‘sit down’ song  you establish for the school term. Some examples could be:
  1. Stand Up, Sit Down” from Roar Like A Lion by Patty Shukla
  2. Stand Up, Sit Down” from Action Songs: Wiggle and Shake by Tumble Tots

Pack Up Songs

Havin fun with Bert & ErnieAt the end of my music lesson I have a pack up song: “Put It Away” from Havin’ Fun With Ernie & Bert – a 1972 children’s classic. It goes for 2min20sec and the kids love it – and are always finished packing up by the end & sitting down singing along. Unfortunately this song is extremely hard to get hold of and I picked it up on Ebay as a cassette. It is not available to download in mp3 so I converted it from cassette to mp3.

some other songs you could use instead are:

  1. Clean Up, Pack Away” from Let’s Learn by Debbie Doo
  2. Pack Up Time” from Cave Baby by The Mudcakes

How to cut an extract from a song

I use a free software called Audacity:

Audacity is available for both Windows & Mac it is a fantastic tool which I use all the time to edit songs.


It’s features include

  • Record live audio.
  • Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.
  • Edit WAV, AIFF, FLAC, MP2, MP3 or Ogg Vorbis sound files.
  • Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together.
  • Change the speed or pitch of a recording.

learn more about it:

You could also use other programs like Garage Band on Macs & Apple devices.

Have some fun creating non verbal cues for you students and see how it brightens your classroom.



Teach to transform!


The YouTube Classroom: using videos to grab attention


Our children are now growing up wired for visual and sound with all the technology that is available to them.

We as teachers are need to learn how to embrace this shift in our classrooms as well.

TV adverts are full of quick visual stimuli and attention grabbing music and this is what our children are being taught as the medium to grab people’s attention.

My son spends as much time searching YouTube for his favourite music or TV program as he does playing games.

Have you thought of  utilising this in your classroom?

Video as Attention Grabbers

Put a YouTube clip or TV Advert at the beginning as a lesson starter to grab their attention. 

We’ve all gone to conferences where presenters do this – and the attention grabber helps us to connect that visual stimuli to the learning we did that day.

Here’s one played at a recent PD day I went to: 

Play one in the middle to give them a break from work or re-grab their attention – just like a TV advert.

I love showing snippets of music concerts or music videos that relate to our Unit of Inquiry, the students seem to respond to this better than just listening to a music track.

Do you have the issue where the internet isn’t reliable or, like I do, you have been moved to a room without internet access?

The simple fix to this is download a YouTube ripper. These programs can, in some instances, not only download from YouTube but from any website that has a video embedded in it. This will mean you can play the video without having to connect to the internet.

The 3 FREE programs I use are:


YTD (both PC & MAC):


VDownloader (iPad):


Videoder (Android):

Without fail I always get asked to play the video again – and this is where I use it as a reward for the students to complete their work for me in the allotted time.

I don’t believe in using video or technology ONLY as a reward. There will, at most times, be a student in the class who can’t help but muck around and then we are punishing the good students for one student’s poor behaviour.

Therefore, play it once, wet their appetite for more, and use video as a motivator to start and finish work.

Some teachers in the high school classroom play video clips at the start of the lesson as not only an introduction for their topic but to motivate students to get to their lesson on time so as not to miss out on the video.

Some use YouTube tutorials to not only give the teacher a break in teaching but the students some variety in delivery – and why reinvent the wheel! And lets admit it, we can’t be the expert at everything so why not bring the expert into the classroom via YouTube. Also set a YouTube tutorial as homework – using the ‘Flipped Classroom’ method of delivery.

These are all great and efficient use of video in the classroom.

I hope this inspires you to utilise video in your own teaching.



Teach to transform!


Free Music Advocacy Resource: Six things every parent should know about music


I have been thinking about writing an article to give out to my parents at school about why it is important that we have Music as a specialist subject.

However why reinvent the wheel when a wonderful colleague of mine, Janice Tuck, from The Fun Music Company emailed one to me this morning.

She has written an article advocating the 6 things parents should know about music and why it is important children take part in it.

Download Janice’s article here: sixthingsparentsshouldknowaboutmusiceducation

If the research is there to say that music education not only exercises both sides of the brain but enables our students to work at a higher standard in other curriculum areas, isn’t it a no-brainer that we as parents and educators advocate for Music to be a vital part of our weekly curriculum?

Anxious about teaching music in the classroom? see my previous post on Teaching Music Made Easy for the Classroom Teacher



Teach to transform!


Teaching Music Made Easy for the Classroom Teacher

If you are a classroom teacher I understand how teaching music can be very daunting but I can tell you that I was in your shoes 10 years ago.

Without having any university training in teaching music I just happened to be the closest there could be to a Classroom Music Teacher in my rural school because I had learnt Piano, Clarinet & Saxophone in High School. To make things easy on myself I went about finding a developmental curriculum that was easy to use and understand with minimal background in music teaching.

Musicroom_Book7_cover_300I stumbled across a fantastic Australian resource ‘Music Room: A developmental classroom music program‘ by Bushfire Press. At the time they had only published level 1 & 2, now seven years later we have 7 levels in the series and Book 7 was awarded ‘The Best Primary Teaching Resource’ at the Australian Educational Publishing Awards 2012.

This program has been a saviour for many classroom teachers & starting our specialist music teachers to help us teach music across the Primary Years. Many experienced Music Educators also use it compliment their program and as a relief teacher resource. I know from personal experience my relief teachers always comment how easy the resource is to use and that it puts them at ease because of the simple layout & instructions.

I a previous paragraph I used the word ‘we’, this is because six years ago I contacted Bushfire Press when I got an Interactive Whiteboard in my classroom and asked them if they were putting Music Room into an interactive resource or if they knew of anyone who had. I had started creating some presentations using their books to try and streamline the resources so…

  1. I didn’t have fiddle with a CD player, DVD player & Data projector to project the charts
  2. I had some interactivity in my lessons and didn’t waste the $8000 resource hanging on my wall

Out of this question to Bushfire Press birthed my 3 publications ‘The Interactive Music Room: A classroom music program for the interactive whiteboardEasy Teach MR1 COVER Levels 1, 2 & 3 (Level 4 will be out early 2014 and 5-7 to follow).

My aim with these publications, apart from the 2 reasons above, was to make the resource even more easy for classroom teachers to use and to capture those hard to engage students. The comment from my Principal at the time when he saw my published work was “Cheryl I think you have actually put yourself out of a job, this resource is so easy to use”.

Have I achieved engaging those challenging students? YES!

I recently have taken parenting leave to allow me time to focus on my children while keeping up with a publishing schedule. I have been shocked by the number of students who have approached me asking when I am coming back because they miss my music lessons and what breaks my heart is when I tell them not until the end of 2014 their faces drop. However the best part in these situations is that over 50% of these students have been the ones we struggle to engage with in the classroom – and these are the moments we live for as a teacher.

I’d like to encourage you to check out my resource and the rest of the great curriculum resources we have for Music and The Arts at



Teach to transform!


A great read if you are implementing the use of iPad’s in your classroom

I’ve just read this article on my favourite website Edudemic (it’s now set as my homepage!).

the part I love the most about in this article is where it talks about the use of technology and the shift we as teachers need to grasp in moving from enhancement to transformation in our teaching. This is explained using the SAMR model below.


This SAMR model really spoke to me because it is what I strive for when creating my lessons for publishing The Interactive Music Room. It started off with creating for the interactive whiteboard BUT now while writing/creating level 4 I am now constantly thinking of how I can redefine the activties to flow across all platforms… data projection, interactive whiteboards & tablets. When I say redefine I don’t just mean something that looks pretty and is “cool” to use BUT an activity that is going to increase the scope and opportunity for students to focus more on being creative than a gimmick of using a piece of technology in school.

This is the challenge we as teachers need to take on in redefining the methodology we use when implementing technology in the classroom.



Teach to transform!


10 things I love about using iPad’s in my classroom

Introducing one-to-one iPad’s into classrooms has become one of the hottest topics of conversation. I thought I would share with you the benefits I see of this new form of technology in schools. The 10 things I love about using iPad’s in my classroom is written through the lens of the Learner Profiles from International Baccalaureate (IB), in the context of the Primary Years Program (PYP).

In my teaching and research I see iPad’s developing students to be…



  • They are able to ask and present questions verbally and in written form (Siri, search engines, word processing, voice recording apps eg notability)
  • with one-to-one devices students are able to be independent in their learning, not only working in working by themselves instead of sharing devices/computers, but teachers are able to tailor the use of apps and activities to cater for individual needs. This provides excellent opportunity for differentiation in learning. For example iPad’s give students the opportunity to watch a video, listen to text or read text and then respond through a video diary (iMovie), voice recording (Garage Band), word processing (Pages) or even just presenting dot points or observation/key words (Visual Poetry).
  • students are quicker to engage with technology and don’t give up as easily on tasks set using iPad’s


  • They use what they know to research, create, write & publish
  • They use their prior knowledge to link with new; technology, information, and understanding how to use universal & content specific apps
  • they make decisions on content they view and create



  • follow directions eg. how to use an app
  • express ideas in more than one mode; visual (art, photo, video) , aural (video, voice recording), written (word processing, note taking, visual poetry)
  • work together with others eg one group creating sound in Garage Band while another group works in iMovie and then merging the 2 projects for final presentation


  • explore; locally using note taking apps, videoing or voice recording interviews, viewing local websites or globally using the internet or You Tube
  • use a range of disciplines to get an in-depth understanding (viewing, reading, listening, interviewing)


Risk takers

  • iPad’s enable students to make mistakes, there is always the ‘back’ or ‘undo’ function
  • they encourage students to explore and do or present things in new ways (written, video, image, oral)



  • the opportunity to learn how to act with integrity and honesty in their use of iPad’s (publishing content, social media, taking photo’s and video)
  • the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and use of the device, accepting any consequences that come along with misuse



  • the opportunity to show responsibility for an expensive piece of equipment
  • the opportunity to act thoughtfully using blogs and social media in critiquing peers work (Edmodo, Social media, Instagram)


Open minded

  • listening to, viewing and commenting on other’s work (Edmodo, Web browsers, Youtube, blogs)
  • accepting that you can present information in a variety of ways (written, oral, visual)
  • acknowledging that you can look at things and interpret different meanings or points of view (eg Youtube, music)



  • understanding that not all your time and all your learning should be spent on the iPad
  • being organised and using time wisely (organisation apps eg calendars, time logs, timers)


  • about their learning (blogs, video diaries, written diaries, Edmodo, social media)
  • thinking about how things could have been done better eg. could we use a different app

Using iPad’s in my classroom has enriched and diversified my teaching program. I believe they are definitely a fantastic tool if used to their full potential in catering for students needs.



Teach to transform!