Home All The Digital Scrapbook/Portfolio – Self-Reflection, Savoring and Subjective Well-Being

The Digital Scrapbook/Portfolio – Self-Reflection, Savoring and Subjective Well-Being

written by John Yeager 10 April 2007

John M. Yeager, Ed.D, MAPP, is Director of the Center for Character Excellence at The Culver Academies in Culver, Indiana. John consults with Dave Shearon, and Sherri Fisher at www.FlourishingSchools.com, an organization that integrates best practices in education with cutting edge Positive Psychology research. He co-authored the recently published book, Smart Strengths: Building Character, Resilience and Relationships in Youth. Full bio.

John's articles are here.

Scrapbooking has once again become popular.  Many people find that the process of choosing special photos and other memorabilia gives testimony to what matters most. This is evidenced in the powerful work that Caroline Miller is doing with her clients – a process that opens up emotional pathways of the past and present along with anticipation of the future.

With emergence of the digital age, electronic scrapbooks are finding a place in education – for both performance and relational ends.   At The Culver Academies, our seniors construct individual digital portfolios of their high school experience.  The portfolio is a multimedia tool that allows adolescents to capture and reflect on their goals, aspirations, and accomplishments throughout their secondary school career. The document becomes an explicit medium for students to demonstrate and express what matters most to them as they track their academic, leadership, athletic, and wellness development. 

By capturing experiences in a variety of sensory modalities, students may 1) foster self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-analysis; 2)  gain a more explicit and overt awareness of the realization of their goals; and 3) more meaningfully and purposefully  “connect the dots” of their school experience through tracking their life satisfaction.

This process provides students with permission to explore and examine their remembered pleasures in their journey. We provide seniors with their Culver Admissions Essay that was completed with their application.  Without fail, the seniors are astounded at what they wrote and how they have grown over the past four years.  This chronological reflection of where they have come from, what their Culver experience has been like, and their aspirations for college, can be instructive and informative. This becomes a wonderful medium for identifying strengths and the constellation of emotions experienced during their secondary school career.          

The portfolio invites students to access their anticipated memory.  By placing representative documents in the portfolio (i.e. written journals, audio tape, and/or videotape) students may be more readily able to access a proper goal-setting mindset.  By attending to their anticipated memory, students catalog thoughts to the future that help to frame and make real their hopes and dreams.  For example, one of our seniors in the Class of “06” had aspirations to become a Naval fighter pilot.  He placed a vivid video of a jet pilot taking off from an aircraft carrier.  He claims that watching the video reinforced his goal to attend the United States Naval Academy, a step along the way to becoming a Naval pilot.   He is now a recognized plebe leader at Annapolis.

Although, Suh, Diener, & Fujita (1996) claim that subjective well-being is influenced by life events within the last three months, it would be interesting to investigate the relationship between subjective well-being and the construction and reconstruction of goal oriented events in one’s portfolio over a greater period of time. During the high school years, students participate in many events and experiences which help them to establish their autobiographical map.    Stories, pictures and animations of their “best selves”, collected over this time, have the potential to assist young people in developing more meaningful lives.  As students attend to their own stories, they look for cues that uncover their beliefs and sense of purpose.  By doing so, they are more able to identify with their own joys, elations, frustrations and troubles.  The portfolio presents stories of tough calls, illusions, allusions, and residues that form the fodder for the development of healthy life goals.    

            Through examining (and taking license with) Waymack’s (1996) conception of narrative, one may glean a greater perspective of the power of the portfolio:   “If, however, we can ‘learn’ the (student’s) story, we learn what drives the biography.  The things of greatest in importance to the (students), his or her hopes, fears, and ambitions, are within the story.  And as we hear the preceding chapters, it begins to discern how the next chapter should be written.” (p.125)

            The portfolio becomes a vehicle in which the student can paint a multi-faceted picture of aspiring to become a “whole person”.  It allows people to bask and marvel in who they are, what they have done and what they hope to become.



Suh, E., Diener, E., & Fujita, F. (1996) Events and subjective well-being: only recent events matter.  Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 71(5), 842.

Miller, C. A. & Frisch, M. B. (2009), Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide. New York: Sterling.

Waymack,  M.H. (1996). Narrative ethics in the clinical setting.  In M. E. Marty (Ed.), Making the Rounds in Health, Faith and Ethics, (pp. 125-128).  Newsletter. Chicago: The Free Press.

Scrapbooking courtesy of benthecube
USS Nimitz Continues Operations courtesy of DVIDSHUB

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1 comment

Senia 11 April 2007 - 12:38 pm

Hi John,

This sounds so true! “During the high school years, students participate in many events and experiences which help them to establish their autobiographical map.” It seems that the memories of high school are DEEPER. If I meet someone from high school whom I haven’t seen in years, I’ll know that person’s firstname, lastname, favorite food, favorite sport, etc. And if I meet a new work colleague from months ago, I may not remember all that. There’s something DEEPER about high school, it seems to me.

Also, thanks for the Suh, Diener, Fujita research about the past three months being a strong influence on answers of subjective well-being. I had forgotten about that.

And great story about the Naval pilot video in the portfolio!

Thanks, John,

p.s. When I read your articles, they are to me a constantly neat, new spin on applying pos psych to education – for another example, the detail of “anticipated” memory – NICE!


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