Personal and social learning at your fingertips

(Last Updated On: April 28, 2015)

How can educators support ‘personalised’ and ‘social’ learning for both their learners and themselves? Kristina Hoeppner believes she has the answer: MyPortfolio.


The New Zealand Curriculum encourages social and personalised learning as it emphasises community engagement, collaboration among students, relationship building, and learning to manage oneself.

There are many ways to support the building of personal learning environments and plans, and engage learners in collaborative activities. MyPortfolio, an online ePortfolio tool available for free to New Zealand schools, is one of the best ways available.

The solution is based on Mahara, whose development began several years ago in New Zealand to provide tertiary students with an online space where they could set up their own personal learning environment. Teachers soon discovered Mahara as well. They started introducing it in their schools in 2008, because they saw benefits for their learners and themselves in using an electronic platform where the learner is at the centre of attention.

Students and MyPortfolio

While learning management systems focus on classroom management, assessment, and teacher control over content creation, Mahara/MyPortfolio gives the control to the learners. This allows them to make decisions about what learning they want to record and how, including whether they want to create on their own or with others. And, even though MyPortfolio can be used for assessment purposes, which requires students to follow certain guidelines, they also use it for many other purposes in and beyond the classroom. They can for example:

  • Gather learning experiences in text or multi-media formats to keep for themselves;
  • Set goals and record them in a learning plan that they can review and share with others at any time, update regularly and expand on;
  • Reflect on their learning and make decisions on what they want to do next;
  • Showcase their learning experiences and reflections, and share them with their teachers, classmates or family;
  • Use templates provided by their teachers to get started on recording their learning journey in a scaffolded way;
  • Document and showcase their interests; and
  • Work on projects with other students collaboratively and record learning results and the project itself online.

Teachers and MyPortfolio

MyPortfolio also provides numerous benefits to teachers, who can use MyPortfolio in various ways, including to:

  • Reflect on their practices, either entirely for themselves, or to share with colleagues to receive feedback;
  •  Prepare for performance appraisals incrementally, gathering evidence and reflections throughout the school year;
  • Engage with teachers at their school and beyond to share effective practices (not only portfolio-related) and discuss them online in a place everyone has access to;
  • Provide feedback about students’ work;
  • Collaborate with others on creating resources for working with portfolios in effective ways;
  • Prepare student content for NZQA moderation and submit it directly through MyPortfolio; and
  • Collect learning evidence and reflections when participating in the National Aspiring Principals Programme.

Teachers scaffold the learning of their students, especially when introducing new teaching methods and tools, but who supports the teachers in their exploration, sense-making and discovery? On MyPortfolio, teachers can find numerous resources that support them working in this electronic environment that’s part of the wider learning environment used at school.

MyPortfolio as aggregator

MyPortfolio does not try to replace other tools that schools use on a regular basis. Instead, it’s a component of a school’s Managed Learning Environment that allows students and teachers to aggregate learning evidence produced in other online environments in one place to showcase it, reflect on it, mix and match, and expand on it. By doing that, learning evidence from different sources is brought together and can be reflected on in context.

Connections can be drawn more easily and a teacher has a central place for giving feedback if the portfolio is shared with them. Students and teachers continue to use other tools as they have distinct benefits and then bring everything together in MyPortfolio.

Support for working with MyPortfolio

In 2014, the Ministry of Education supported the creation of a series of webinars to introduce MyPortfolio to teachers and provide them with professional development. The webinars have been recorded and are available to all MyPortfolio users ( or via the Training Services website ( The webinars and their resources, along with brief summaries of the sessions, will be made public in the coming months.

A total of 19 webinars were held (see right). The topics for the sessions were decided together with MyPortfolio users and covered a large range of areas, from deciding to use an ePortfolio tool and using it with students, to teacher appraisal and collaboration. They also answered questions to enable schools to become more proficient in administering their schools on the platform.

As well as watching these webinars, which were facilitated by experienced educators and MyPortfolio facilitators, teachers can join numerous groups on MyPortfolio, and discuss teaching practices, common questions around the Curriculum and effective ways of preparing material on MyPortfolio for moderation purposes. They can also share their own portfolios, templates for students or appraisal purposes with others.

Learn more and get involved

This year, support through office hours started in Term 1 and continues in Term 2. You can sign up for an office hour that focuses on content questions or one that helps with administrative and content questions – go to

These sessions give teachers the chance to talk with a member of the MyPortfolio support team about specific questions they have. These can cover pedagogical as well as technical how-to questions. This offering supplements the forums ( that are open to every MyPortfolio user to post their questions and receive answers from other teachers and the MyPortfolio team. The group ‘MyPortfolio Discussions’ contains a wealth of advice from teachers as well as shared pages that provide ideas for employing innovative teaching methods in the classroom.

If you are not yet registered on MyPortfolio, ask someone at your school if it’s registered. More than 1,500 schools already have access. If your school is not among them, you can easily sign it up on MyPortfolio, as it is provided for free to New Zealand schools.   

Kristina Hoeppner is the Mahara Project Lead at Catalyst IT.

MyPortfolio is a nationwide ePortfolio service for schools offered by the Ministry of Education. It’s managed and supported by Catalyst IT. Find out more at

Webinars introducing MyPortfolio

Setting the stage – Getting started with MyPortfolio and common practices:

  • The MyPortfolio mindset
  • Developing a school-wide plan for the implementation of MyPortfolio
  • MyPortfolio within the Managed Learning Environment
  • Providing feedback on MyPortfolio
  • Using MyPortfolio for reflection
  • Integrating MyPortfolio and other tools
  • Using groups effectively

Working with students on MyPortfolio:

  • Student ePortfolios: What do they look like on MyPortfolio
  • Using MyPortfolio to provide evidence: NCEA standards
  • Making the most of MyPortfolio in the primary classroom
  • Student goal setting: An approach to using MyPortfolio as a vehicle for creating self-managing students
  • Students’ ePortfolio: Involving parents/wha-nau

Supporting teachers on their professional development:

  • Using MyPortfolio to support the Teaching as Inquiry process
  • Using MyPortfolio to support PRT
  • Using MyPortfolio for teacher appraisal and Registered Teacher Criteria
  • Coaching and mentoring: Use MyPortfolio to support teachers and coaches

Administering a school on MyPortfolio:

  • Basics of administering a school on MyPortfolio
  • Advanced administrative tasks
  • Hidden features in MyPortfolio

Key features of MyPortfolio

  • Keep learning journals
  • Upload files
  • Embed audio, video and PDF
  • Create simple to complex portfolios
  • Keep portfolios private or share them with others
  • Decide flexibly with whom you want to share your portfolios
  • Embed content from other sites
  • Collaborate with others on projects
  • Connect to Moodle for assessment purposes
  • Secure, advertisement-free place for students and teachers to engage
  • Data is stored in New Zealand

Further reading

Digital portfolios: Guidelines for beginners

Increasing opportunities to learn using MyPortfolio

Fostering collaboration and ownership of learning using MyPortfolio

Increasing opportunities for student reflection and ownership of learning with MyPortfolio

Categories: Article, Issue 63