supporting students at Design Tech High School

10 March, 2017

Design Tech High School is a free public charter school open to residents of California. They have selected as their student portfolio tool to improve the assessment, collection, and archiving of student work.

View the Case Study [pdf]

About Design Tech: an innovative public High School

Design Tech High School is a free public charter school open to residents of California. The school was founded in 2014, and the first class of seniors will graduate in 2018. The Oracle Education Foundation recently selected Design Tech to become the first public high school to have a new state-of-the-art campus funded by a Silicon Valley company.

Design Tech, or '' as it's known among the students, has an explicit focus on the skills that help students forge an identity as caring citizens and future young professionals. The school has a diverse student body with wide-ranging interests that span the arts, music and dance, to the sciences and technology. A education offers an opportunity to practice collaborative problem-solving strategies (Design) as well as build confidence handling ever-evolving technological tools (Tech).

Design Tech High School’s credo is that students are most successful when their education is personalized to their needs, and they are asked to use their knowledge to improve the world around them.

The search for a showcasing tool were looking to improve the assessment, collection, and archiving of student work. They'd been working with a range of free, well-known and well-regarded web applications (web presentation tools, website builders, slideshow tools etc) to record student’s project feedback, but teachers found it hard to access the students’ work and students found that the design and functionality of the tools could distract them from their educational objectives. were looking for a tool that would be easier to maintain but which preserved some of the benefits of this diverse approach, and that could be used throughout a student’s tenure at the high school. A particular focus for showcasing activity are the Design Lab classes, where students learn design thinking, engineering and entrepreneurial skills with high-tech tools in the fabrication lab: 3D printers, laser cutters, routers, and programming tools. wanted something with an easy user interface, which nevertheless enabled students to collect and showcase achievements in a professional and academic way.


After a rigorous selection process, selected as their ideal solution: a digital portfolio tool for students to collect, document, reflect, and showcase their design thinking process for all projects. Some of the key attractions of for were:

  • Its elegant user interface, which allowed students to bring in content (documents, video and other files) and manage it alongside new reflections that they’d created within
  • Its form functionality, which enabled to provide self-assessments and a structured reflective process to support their students
  • The control that students have over the review process, which allows them to keep showcases private but to share them with peers who can review them and post comments and feedback
  • The easy showcasing workflow and powerful templating, which enable’s students to tailor their portfolios for a diverse audience including parents, employers, college admissions etc.
  • Its administrative functions, which make managing groups and reporting visually on student progress very simple, and give rich insights into students' progress and support needs

Taking it forward

Students have found easy to engage with and have begun using it with enthusiasm on their Chromebooks, with the initial users comprising 144 juniors, followed by uptake from the rest of the 450-strong student body.

Nicole Cerra, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Design Tech High School, said:

“We are pleased with the ease of use of, and the tool is working out very well. It is easy for students to use and the set up allows us to meet multiple goals, from encouraging reflection to engendering critical thought.
Documenting both work process and work product from their design lab has always been a struggle for students. Many of the portfolios or showcases they submitted previously lacked substantial artifacts. With, because of the "my stuff" feature, it is easier for students to upload their artifacts as they go. Therefore, when it comes time to make  a portfolio, they have sufficient evidence to describe their work and their growth.  We wanted students to focus on evidence in creating their portfolios and has forced that focus.

Some things we'll be experimenting with more in the next semester and/or the next year include the frameworks and the badges.”