Electronic Sketchbook and Electronic Portfolios.
Electronic Sketchbook and Electronic Portfolios


Teachers of Art & Design are already very familiar with the concepts of sketchbooks and portfolios. While sketchbooks are used to record observations, ideas, reference material, sources of information and inspiration, etc., portfolios serve to collect together examples of exploratory and finished work that can be presented to others for discussion, evaluation and assessment.

Developing electronic sketchbooks

An e-sketchbook is an electronic version of a traditional sketchbook. It might include:
  • a compendium of images and related texts;
  • references to the work of other artists and designers;
  • original visual material created by the pupil;
  • sources of reference material gathered from the internet and elsewhere;
  • comments made about the work by others;

The images may be scanned in from original drawings or paintings or could be digital photographs, or generated directly on a computer. The content could also include animations, video and sound and interactive web pages.

Electronic sketchbooks should not be seen as replacing or detracting from the importance of conventional sketchbooks, but as an extension to them. Paper and electronic sketchbooks can be used together to record responses. The process of assembling content is similar in both, but as well as traditional media the paper sketchbook can include:
  • print outs of scanned or digital pictures of ideas and responses;
  • word processed text and scanned articles / images;
  • collage samples of digitally produced images, for example, pastel, or pencil overlay and scanned and printed again before adding to the sketchbook;

Teachers can encourage the regular use of e-sketchbooks by:
  • creating a separate electronic folder in advance for each pupil, topic and class;
  • reminding pupils that they should save all source materials to this, as well as regularly saving work at different stages of development as a record of process and progress;
  • encouraging pupils to add any word-processed homework or on-line research to the appropriate folder;

As well as getting pupils to name files and folders appropriately It is also important to develop their skills in describing their work using keywords, or 'tags'. With the high volume of digital files being produced and saved, intelligent keywording is essential to enable pupils, teachers and managers to locate pieces of work at a later date without difficulty.

An electonic sketchbook needs to be a resource that pupils can use all the time they study art and design. This means they must each have file storage space on the school or department network to save their experimental and final work. There may be considerations of space, depending on the capacity of the school network, so it is worthwhile talking to the school ICT network manager before encouraging pupils to save large amounts of 'memory hungry' images!

Virtual galleries

Meanwhile teachers might wish to consider creating or contributing to 'virtual galleries', on either the school intranet or the internet itself. This provides an opportunity to showcase your pupils' achievements. Pupils can participate in the selection of their work and in the on-screen design of the gallery, and can be invited to add explanatory texts to them. Remember that, like any gallery, it will need to change over time if it is to sustain interest, so plan ahead for new work to be added on a regular basis, and aim to involve other staff and senior pupils as much as possible. Some examples of successful virtual galleries can be found at:

What is an Electronic-Portfolio?

Although in many ways similar to a virtual gallery, an e-Portfolio, like a traditional portfolio, is a very personal affair. It's a lot more than just a collection of pieces of work - it's a complete record of an individual's growth and development that brings together the contexts, influences and experiences that have led to a particular point in life and their learning, and provides a sense of direction for further progress. From such an archive it needs to be easy to select and re-present examples of work for different audiences, such as peers, teachers, assessors and potential employers. In contrast to the traditional portfolio, the chances are the individual won't be there to explain an e-portfolio to the viewer, so the use of text and navigation routes need to be very carefully considered.

It is important to be aware that awarding bodies and government agencies are currently very keen on the idea of using e-Portfolios as the basis for submission of work for assessment for national accreditation across all subjects, and also that the major software companies are pushing 'ready-made' products as so-called e-Portfolio data management solutions. The majority of these are quite unsuitable for Art & Design work as they tend to offer inflexible structures and layouts, limited storage space and are restricted to individual school networks. They can also be heavily assessment criteria or target based, promoting a formulaic, mechanistic approach to learning.


"Eportfolios can best be viewed as a reactionary response to fundamental shifts in learning, teaching, technology, and learner needs in a climate where learning is no longer perceived as confined to formal education."
December 16, 2004
George Siemens


Software matters

There is no getting away from the fact that creating digital sketchbooks, virtual galleries and e-Portfolios requires some expertise in using computer programs that extend beyond Microsoft Word! A starting point for some people is a 'presentation' programs such as Microsoft Powerpoint, or 'Keynote', the Mac equivalent which is part of the iWork package. These are relatively simple to use and enable images and text to be assembled together in a sequence of screens. The programs are intended for pre-prepared live 'presentations' however, and therefore are far from ideal as digital sketchbooks, galleries or portfolios.

Many of the photography and illustration programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, Apple iPhoto, iDVD, etc., have facilities for producing galleries of images and supporting texts that are template based and are fairly easy to master. These can be saved to a hard-drive, CD or DVD, or up-loaded onto the web. There are also web-sites where images can be uploaded into on-line templates, for example: www.flikr.com

At present there isn't a ready-made program that provides the perfect solution for the creation of really effective digital sketchbooks or portfolios. However, new web-based applications are appearing all the time - the exciting challenge is to find ways to adapt and modify them to make them appropriate and compelling for the Art & Design community.


E-sketchbooks and e-portfolios are gradually taking their place alongside traditional ways of recording ideas and presenting work in art and design.