JCPS seniors must defend their digital backpacks before the end of the school year.
JCPS seniors must defend their digital backpacks before the end of the school year.

Digital backpack questions answered

By Friday Nov. 30, all students at Manual should have at least one artifact in their digital backpack, according to school administrators and guidance counselors.

Students and parents who may still have lingering questions about the digital backpack can use this list of frequently asked questions to read comprehensive answers about the new Jefferson County Public Schools initiative and graduation requirement.

What is the digital backpack?

The digital backpack is a new JCPS initiative that helps students to archive and create a portfolio of work throughout elementary, middle and high school, that meet standards in five specific categories of: emerging innovator, productive collaborator, effective communicator, globally and culturally competent citizen and prepared and resilient learner.

When the initiative was first introduced this year in August, JCPS said that the backpack “is a chance to give all students engaging learning experiences at every school that will enhance reading and math skills while also preparing them to be good communicators, problem solvers and collaborators.”

What do you do with the digital backpack?

The digital backpack acts as an online portfolio of work that demonstrates certain standards of learning and becoming a student who can move from grade to grade while still enhancing skills in all subjects. The digital backpack is defended when students move from elementary to middle school, from middle school to high school and from high school to various post-graduation destinations. Defense judges, who are often teachers, administrators and members of the community, will determine from submitted pieces of work and the presentation defense whether or not students are ready to move on with their education.

The initiative is relatively new so the repercussions for not being prepared to move from grade to grade and/or not meeting the standards of the success skills are not evident.

How do students access their backpack?

Students access their backpack through Google Drive with their already established JCPS email accounts or with the link After placing “artifacts” like documents, videos, photos or any other piece of media along with written reflections about each piece into the specific folders on Google Drive, students in fifth, eighth and 12th grades will then present and “defend” their backpack in front of a panel of teachers, parents, administrators and other members of the community.  

What is an artifact?

Artifacts are documents, videos, photos and other media that students produce while in attendance of a JCPS school. Students, with the help of teachers and administrators, place the artifacts into appropriate success skill categories in order to demonstrate that they are ready to be promoted to the next grade.

Artifacts can be anything from papers from english, science or social studies classes to posters for math or language classes. These can include but are not limited to: projects created outside of the classroom, service projects, group collaborations, writing pieces, art projects and foreign language presentations. Reflections accompany the pieces and can describe the process of creating the piece, the failures students faced and their successes as well.

To place artifacts in the backpack, students should use the link to access the backpack. Once logged in to a personal account, select “Add Artifact” and follow the steps. 

What are the backpack’s “success skills”?

The success skills are essentially a list of categories, each with their own requirements and set of standards. You can view the standards of each category in the attached PDF above. The five success skills are:

  • Effective communicator
  • Emerging innovator
  • Productive collaborator
  • Prepared and resilient learner
  • Globally and culturally competent citizen

Each artifact will be placed into one or more categories based on the standards and skills in which it applies. Artifacts can be placed in multiple categories with the goal of displaying all aspects of student creation.

What is a backpack defense?

As mentioned, the backpack defense is reserved for students in fifth, eighth and 12th grade as those students transition between schools and education programs. During the defense, students will present their artifacts to a panel of teachers, parents, administrators and other members of the community to demonstrate that they meet the standards of each “success skill.”

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