Digital Portfolios in Music Education

Welcome to the second part of a 3-part series about digital portfolios in music.

In part 1  I covered the “what” and “why” of digital portfolios and gave an overview of the “how”.

We looked at the different types of digital artefacts that might make up a portfolio, which were:

  • Video
  • Audio
  • Text
  • Images

In this second instalment, I’ll share the software, tools and other resources your students can use to create these digital artefacts.  When I started writing this post, I discovered I had a lot more information to share than originally planned, so I’m going to split part 2 into two parts (!) – 2A and 2B.

Related: Digital Portfolios in Music Education Part 2B


A video may include recordings of a performance, composition, student analysis, a description of a process, or an original film score.

There are two main types of video:

  • A “live” video recording of a person or process
  • A video file produced by software such as a screencast, an animation, or a movie with a soundtrack

“Live” videos

To record students performing, or demonstrating something, the easiest approach is to use what is at hand.  When making my videos myself, I mostly use my iPhone because it’s always with me, it’s portable and easy to set up and it produces a great result.

Any of these will work:

  • A smartphone
  • An iPad or other tablet
  • A DSLR (or other type) camera

Extra optional things

  • A tripod for your phone, tablet or camera. I have found that a tripod makes a HUGE difference to the quality of video produced by my iPhone. Because it keeps the phone steady, it gives the video a professional touch. I use a standard tripod – I had one at home already for my DSLR camera – and purchased the iStabilizer tripod mount that screws into the top of the tripod and holds my phone in place. Mounts for iPads and other tablet devices are also available.
  • A selfie stick. You may laugh (!), but I have found that a selfie stick can also improve the quality of  videos created with a smartphone.  The selfie stick makes it easier to position the phone at a specific angle, you can shoot video from up high or down low and any wobbles  are decreased.
  • An external microphone is usually a necessity if you’re recording with a DSLR camera, but it can also make a big difference when you attach one to your smartphone or tablet device.  The microphone will pick up the audio close to the source (like the person who is speaking) and will stop the recording of other unwanted surrounding noise. I use the Rode Smartlav which is designed for use with iOS and Android devices

Videos produced by software and apps

A second type of video is one that is produced by software and includes screencasts (video recordings of your computer screen), an animation or existing video coupled with a soundtrack or a video export of a Powerpoint or Keynote slide show.

Screencast software options for desktop computers

Screencasting is an often-overlooked medium for student portfolios but can be a very effective option for students needing to provide a narrative, analysis, or feedback on a project they have created.  or assessment (when used by the teacher).  For example, students can open GarageBand, press record in their screencasting software and then “present” their work while the GarageBand file is playing.  They can talk about their compositional process or describe what their future intentions are for their piece.

Screencasting can also be a useful tool for teachers assessing student work.  Rather than write a list of comments about their work, you can record your comments while their work is displayed on your computer screen.

There are quite a number of free screencasting tools available, but for music students and teachers there’s  one important feature missing from almost all of the free options: the ability to record system audio (the audio produced by your computer, such as the sound coming from a GarageBand file or a Sibelius score) at the same time as the microphone which is picking up your voice, or that of your student.

I won’t go through all of the screencast software options here (Andrew Douch has a great post on his blog ) but I will highlight a few:

  • Camtasia for PC or Screenflow for Mac (Screenflow is the one I use) – both are great paid solutions that allow you to record videos of any length, you can record both system audio and the microphone, you can record both the webcam and screen and you can edit your videos to your heart’s content
  • Screencast-o-matic is free with limited features, or you can pay $15 per year for their pro version which unlocks extra features and allows you to record system audio on PC only.  Recording system audio is not an option offered for Mac users, but there is a workaround involving Soundflower
  • Jing is free and easy to use, records system audio and the microphone but resulting file type (.swf) is really NOT useful (!) and you can’t edit your videos in any way
  • Screencastify (a Chrome extension) and Quicktime on Mac are both free options but can only record EITHER system audio or mic, not both at the same time (unless you use a workaround)

App options for iOS and Android devices

A number of apps for tablet devices allow you to create movies from still images, movies captured by the in-built camera, or from drawing or animation.

  • Explain Everything is my favourite interactive whiteboard/screencasting app is available for both iOS and Android devices.
  • Educreations, DoodlecastPro and Screenchomp are similar interactive whiteboard/screencasting apps but all three are available for iOS only
  • Chatterpix Kids allows students to take a picture and turn it into a talking character.  Simply take a photo with the camera (or use one of the existing images), draw a line to make a mouth and record your voice speaking (or singing).  Chatterpix makes the character come alive.  The recorded video can be saved to the camera roll

Video editing

After creating a video, it’s likely that students will want to do some editing – removing unwanted sections, adding an intro and outro, or adding a soundtrack.  There are decent video editing options on all platforms which range from free to pricey.  Here are just a few of the options (there are many more!):

  • PC and Mac laptops/desktops: WeVideo or Youtube Creator Studio (must have a Youtube Channel to use the editing tools)
  • Mac: iMovie
  • PC: Windows Movie Maker
  • Android: VivaVideo
  • iOS (iPad): iMovie or Videolicious
  • If you’re using Camtasia or Screenflow for screencasting, both of those have all the editing tools you’ll need built into the software


Like video, audio recordings can be created in multiple ways:

Record into portable device

Use a portable device to capture an audio recording on-the-go.  You can use the voice memo app or a more fully-featured app.  Portable devices include:

  • Smartphone
  • iPad
  • Android tablet
  • Handheld recording device such as a Zoom H4n

Record directly onto computer and/or export a multitrack recording

Use a microphone to record audio directly onto a computer into recording software or export an MP3 from a multitrack recording (a song, a film score, a storytelling activity etc) that students have created in a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).

Just a few are listed here. There are many others!:

  • Audacity
  • GarageBand
  • Mixcraft
  • Logic
  • Pro Tools
  • Cubase
  • Abelton Live

Produce an audio recording from notation software

Students can create a composition in notation software and then export the piece as an audio file.  All of these software program can export audio files:

  • Sibelius
  • Finale
  • Noteflight
  • MuseScore
  • Notion

Produce an audio recording from an app on your device

There are literally HUNDREDS of app options for creating music, recording audio and producing MP3s or WAV files on Android and iOS devices.  I’ve chosen just a handful here!



Please note – I have not had experience with these apps since I don’t own an Android device.  These apps have been recommended to me by others, or in online articles.

In Part 2B

In part 2B, of Digital Portfolios in Music Education I’ll be continue the discussion about specific software and tools and will cover images and text. Then in Part 3,  I’ll take a music education project example and show you step-by-step how to capture different types of digital artefacts and how to put them together in a portfolio.

Related: Digital Portfolios in Music Education Part 2B

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