Planting a New Bulb
Face it, the traditional report card with its series of letter or numeric grades hides as much as it reveals to principals, students and parents alike. Bulb attempts to change that dynamic with the ability to bring together a variety of documents, video and images to create a better picture of each student’s time at school and more.
Equally good for letting parents know of their child’s success, problems and progress, the Bulb portfolio can be shared with a variety of third parties, from guidance counselors to college admissions officials. Best of all, it’s quick, easy and can be free to use.
To get started, there’s a free trial, which includes 1GB of storage space. While this might be good for a year’s worth of schoolwork, it limits you to a single group, like one class, extracurricular activity or sports team.
The upgrade Bulb plan costs $9 a year and includes 9GB of storage space, probably enough for a student’s time at primary or secondary school. It allows users to join up to 9 groups, can embed Web pages and there’s a cool presentation mode for showing off a project.
Most important to schools and districts, Bulb has discounts and special features for educational institutions. It not only allows the use of Google log in but you can grab items from a Google Drive account. Best of all, the school package lets students and teachers set up an unlimited number of groups, so that you can create ad hoc groups for things like field trips, homework assignments or graduation.
Getting started couldn’t be easier with a slew of online resources, tips and samples to get you and the class up to speed. Once you have material to arrange, it takes a minute to create your first pages. In a fresh page, type in a title and explanation of what its contents are, both of which can be corrected and updated later.
Start adding anything from images and video to documents and Web address into the emerging portfolio. Items can reside in an Asset Library or on GoogleDrive, but not Box or DropBox. They need to be selected one at a time, which can be tedious for filling out a page with artwork or photos.
The system’s response was good with minimal lag time and seemed more like a local app that one that’s composed in the cloud. It works with a range of file types and anything on the portfolio page can be arranged as left- or right-justified or centered. Images can be cropped and resized as well as have captions below. It took about three minutes to make a competent portfolio with dozens of items, much quicker than PowerPoint could have accomplished the task.
Bulb is great at arranging and showing items, but lacks tools for creating or altering content. For instance, there’s nothing for marking up an item or adding a frame around a video or image. It lacks an audio recorder for creating voice notes to explain or elaborate on items.
When you’re ready, click on Preview to see what you’ve created, then click on Presentation to show it to others full screen. You can also share the material through a variety of social media outlets or by emailing it. You can’t export the Bulb portfolio, though, to send someone a flash drive or DVD or to archive.
The school edition allows teachers to view and monitor a class’s portfolios. There’s also an innovative box at the bottom of the screen that lets anyone viewing a page to type questions directly to the author.
Rather than having to load apps and keep them updated, the beauty is that Bulb is 100-percent Web-based and works with popular browsers and a variety of platforms. It works equally well on an iPad or PC as it does on a Chromebook or Mac.
That said, Bulb takes some getting used to. For instance, there’s no Save button. A big step forward is that nothing can ever be unintentionally lost because Bulb stores everything put into its interface. Everything is securely stored online in Bulb’s Asset Library.
From videos of the spring concert to a programming project, Bulb makes it incredibly easy to accumulate everything digital that a student accomplishes. By the time graduation day comes around, it’s a great way to show a student’s range of achievements and skills or just keep a class on the same page.
$9/year (9GB limit); district pricing available
+ Free trial
+ Easy to add items
+ Shareable content
+ Can consolidate a variety of material
+ Large storage potential
- Can’t export portfolio
- Lacks creation tools