When analyzing a student’s growth over time, we often rely on traditional assessment metrics. We look at benchmarks throughout the year and compare standardized test scores from time to time, but do we ever actual “see” growth. Are there ever examples or artifacts where students are explaining their thinking? How do we break away from the grades and tests when that seems to be all we use in education to measure growth?
These were some of the questions we wrestled with in my time as an administrator and teacher. In 2013, my team and I were approached by a start-up company founded by local parents in our district. They were wanting a way to see growth of their own children year-over-year. What they presented to us in bulb changed our own thinking about what we should value in our students’ learning.
This company was co-founded by Erik Petrik and CEO Eric Goldreyer in 2011. We lovingly referred to them as “the Ericks”. We got to work with them and their amazing team in the early design stages of their product and the iOS app. Both men have backgrounds in building successful start-ups outside of the educational space. This background coupled with the motivation of their own kids’ learning drove them to create this unique and user-friendly digital portfolio tool.
While the company does have many Texas roots, it’s based out of Lafayette, Colorado. They received some late stage (Series A) funding in August of 2018 and have built a user-base of over 1.5 million bulb pages published in all 50 states and 110 countries according to the company website.
Bulb makes regular updates to their iOS and web-based apps to improve functionality and integration. The ability to link with Google and Microsoft accounts means onboarding students becomes much easier and integration into those virtual drives. In May of 2020, they added parent access to students’ digital portfolios. With this update, parents can now see real-time updates as well as the ability to leave in-line comments on their kids’ work.
Two weeks ago, bulb announced a powerful new resume feature that will allow users to easily integrate their bulb into their portfolio of work experience and projects. This new resume feature could help young adults looking to stand out in an ever-crowded job market filled with traditional Word templates.
Bulb comes with a free version (bulb FREE) that gives access to all standard features and a limit of 10 portfolio pages and 2GB of content. Beyond that, bulb offers two different paid options. Bulb+ is normally $30/year per individual but is currently offering a 50% off deal for students (so $15/year) and has unlimited storage and Google Classroom integrations. This version is also now available to any educator for a free upgrade. For roughly $2-$4/student, districts can order bulbEd which includes roster and LMS integrations as well as admin and teacher dashboards.
Stand out feature
To me, what makes bulb stand out from other portfolio tools is the look and feel of the program as well as the ease of use. Some districts might try and use Google Sites to create a portfolio page, but it has some limitations and editing challenges on various devices. Tools like Wakelet might seem like a good fit as well, but they lack the wide array of formats you can upload items including HTML codes, PDFs, and videos. I call bulb a “blog on steroids” only without the heavy backend coding needed sometimes with blog platform. The result are stunning collections of learning artifacts that students and teachers can proudly share with the world.
Ideas for classroom use
There really is no limitation on subject area or usage ideas. The platform is user-friendly for all ages and can be used as an addendum for professional learning or a collection site for learning artifacts.
First use idea:
Students and teachers love to customize and put their own flavor on things. When getting started with bulb, have users log in and create their banner and their first “About me” page. They could also start a collection of some of their best work from previous years that they would like to display, regardless of subject area.
Subject Specific Ideas:
As with most tools I share on Carl’s Corner, this one isn’t specific to a grade or subject area. Because it lends itself to reflection, a powerful but often forgotten part of learning, it can really be useful for any subject area.
Art teachers naturally gravitate to bulb because of the extremely visual interface and ability to categorize different work into specific collections like this student here. Science students can use bulb as an interactive notebook, embedding illustrations and video examples of experiments along with observational notes. Math students can document their learning and thinking as well as upload PDF examples of their work. ELA can use it as a
One of the more unique uses I’ve seen for bulb is in Physical Education (PE). As students can upload videos easily, they have the opportunity to showcase their form on a basketball shot or their stance when swinging a bat. Through practice and reflection, they can see growth of their skills and comment on their accomplishments.
Student examples in various subjects – (bulb site)
Showcase Student Work with bulb – (ClassTechTips)
bulb:Digital Porfolios for Students and Teachers – (EdTechRoundUp)
Teacher Portfolio Examples – (bulb site)
Their platform really is an ideal tool for any type of long-form asynchronous assessment. I even used it to create my own collection on assessment you can find here. If you have found success using bulb in your classroom, feel free to comment below with your ideas. Also, if you have a tool or app that you’d like me to look at and review, feel free to fill out this form below. I’ll be sure to give you a shout out (if you like) as well! (Please note – if you are a vendor/company – fill out this link for a sponsored review)