by Lisa Johnson
Online portfolios are an integral tool for education—period. I could go into all of the benefits of a student portfolio (just ask me and I’ll tell you). But in the spirit of summer, I’d like to focus on the pedagogy and practices that make me a better learner and therefore a more effective educator for my students.
As educators, it’s important that we model the skills we ask our students to utilize in the classroom and the curriculum—skills like curation, reflection, goal-setting and devising personal pathways for organization and more. So without further ado, here is some food for thought as you consider investing in your own professional portfolio.
Consider Your Purpose
Why are portfolios important for educators? Great question. Beyond modeling a skill or set of skills that you might like to have your students adopt, I found that a portfolio helped me in a variety of unexpected ways. It allowed me to create a central hub of resources, showcase accomplishments, gather and curate pertinent info, and reflect and plan:
- Create a Central Hub: Over the years, I cannot tell you how many sites I have created accounts for (e.g. Haiku Deck, Quizlet, Smore, Snapguide, Thinglink, Padlet, to name a few). Creating a one-stop-shop to access all of your links and resources is personally helpful but also a bonus if you are using these tools with students and/or sharing them with parents. Showcasing the work you have created with these tools is another reason for those of you that might be looking for jobs or wanting to share your digital curricular prowess.
- Showcase Accomplishments: A portfolio is a way that you can share accolades and achievements (e.g. awards that you have received, professional training you have delivered, a link to a Twitter chat you may have led, or even quotes from students—with student and parent permission, of course).
- Gather and Curate Pertinent Info: As an educator, I have to document my professional learning. One easy way to do that is to have a list or running record of all of the sessions, courses and conferences I have attended and/or presented at. Something else to include might be any certifications or digital partnerships you’ve attained (e.g. Apple Teacher, Google Certified, bulbhead, Thinglink expert, PBS Educator, etc.).
- Reflect and Plan: If you are looking to explore portfolios this summer, I would highly recommend one with a blogging platform or a tool that offers the ability to include text and multimedia in one asset. This allows you to process a lesson, digitally archive it for easy access, and readily access it years from now. I have been blogging since 2011 and I am so thankful for the time that I devoted to reflecting on lessons and pedagogies because it has allowed me to truly absorb these ideas into my practice in a way I don’t think I would have had I not taken the time to write about them.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of reasons to create a professional portfolio, but it’s a start.
Know Your Audience
While there are a myriad of reasons that a professional portfolio may be right for you, you also will want to consider your audience before you dive in. This will help you understand how visible you want the site to be and also how you want to organize it.
- You: If you are using it as a means of professional reflection, you may decide to keep it private and only publish the pieces you would like someone to see. You might also consider limiting the access to yourself, your team and/or your administrator. Organization of this portfolio might be by schema (e.g. student learning goals, professional learning goals, campus/district learning goals) and how you feel like your lessons and/or professional growth relate to that schema.
- You, Your Team, Professional Learning Community and Administrator: If this is the case, then most likely you are looking to create a personal digital housekeeping site that doesn’t have to be public and has a limited audience. You may also want to make sure that this audience has editing and/or collaborative rights if they plan on adding information to the site as well. With this audience, you would most likely organize information by topic, chapter, unit, learning target, etc.
- Parents: If parents are your audience, then the site will probably need to be public and your purpose will be sharing out news about your classroom. If you are organizing it for parents, then you would want it to have class news in chronological order with easy to find collections for school supplies, field trip info, tutoring schedules, parent-teacher conference sign up and more.
- Students: If students are your audience, then you are looking to create a one-stop-shop of resources to support their academic and curricular needs. If you are organizing content for students, it might be by unit, chapter, topic or project (e.g. Shakespeare, Grammar and Editing, Persuasive Essay).
- Attendees at a Conference: If you are creating a portfolio as a hub of resources for presenting and sharing at conferences, then you will want the site to be public and organized by conference title, date or the title of your presentations.
- Prospective Employers: If you are using a portfolio to create a showcase of your talents and skills, or add as a link on a resume, then you will want to create a polished public piece that any prospective employer could easily access. If you are creating a career portfolio, consider including exemplars, a resume or a list of teaching experience, certifications, etc.
These are all things I encourage you to consider before you embark on creating a professional portfolio this summer. Knowing your why (purpose) and your who (audience) will allow you to be intentional with how you design the structure and flow of your portfolio and how you create and curate the content you choose to share.
If you would like to learn more about portfolios, here are some additional resources I’ve curated:
- Cultivating Communication in the Classroom: If you are interested in student portfolios, I go deeper into the why, how and what of student portfolios and resumes in chapter 5 of my first book, Cultivating Communication in the Classroom. If you are curious as to what I cover, here are a few free support resources for that chapter.
- Creatively Productive: If you are interested in processes for clearing the digital clutter, I dig deeper into these processes in chapter 1 of my second book, Creatively Productive. In that book, I highlight a portfolio index as an easy way to break into portfolios – that index can be found right here. If this topic intrigues you, you can read the intro of this book and most of chapter 1 here for free.
Stay tuned in to the bulb blog this summer for more tips, tricks and tactics for creating professional portfolios for educators, by yours truly.
Lisa Johnson is the author of Creatively Productive: Essential Skills for Tackling Time Wasters, Clearing the Clutter and Succeeding in School and Life. She is also an Educational Technologist at Eanes ISD.