Reflections and Tips by Thanh Tran
In my first serious job interview for a teaching position, I brought a binder that held my best works as a student-teacher. It was two inches thick and quite heavy, but it helped my future teammates understand what kind of teacher I could be. I did get the job, and I partly owed it to having a portfolio.
My old portfolio still sits on my shelf, but it is collecting dust. Yes, that is it above.
I switched to building an online portfolio in my third year of teaching, and I had started on two or three e-portfolios since then, but I gave up on all of them even when I was halfway finished. In the past, I modeled my binder portfolio after my cooperating teacher’s, and when I switched to an online one, I did no research, looked at no models, and lost interest. Now, I realized that part of the problem was that I did not have a clear purpose or audience for them, so I abandoned my work. Recently, I’ve been more motivated because we have been covering this assignment in class, and because I really could use a complete e-portfolio. In this reflection I will discuss the different purposes and values of e-portfolios as well as share my experiences finally completing one.
Major Purposes for E-Portfolios
When I think of an e-portfolio, I think of a digital professional portfolio that showcases skills and experiences. That is one way of using online portfolios. There are many reasons why people use online or e-portfolios. For some, it is like a digital scrapbook. For others, it is a place to archive and exchange information.
Major Purposes of E-Portfolios:
(Center for Experiential Learning, n.d.)
- To store or archive work
- To engage in reflection
- To demonstrate competency in an area of interest
- To showcase work
- To connect with others
E-Portfolios in the Classroom
- A display of student work over a course of time such as a semester or school year
- A documentation of learning over time for holistic assessment
- A place to select and display one's personal classroom achievements
Types of Things in an E-Portfolio
At first, it took some time to brainstorm what I wanted in my eportfolio. As suggested in the reading by the Center for Experiential Learning (n.d.), I decided that my eportfolio would be a "Professional/Showcase" one in which the purpose would be to paint a picture of my instructional experience and show technology-related projects that I thought my audience, a future employer, might be interested in seeing.
Image below (Center for Experiential Learning, n.d.):
I had to filter out what I wanted to put in and leave out of the portfolio. Different experts suggest different artifacts to display. It all depends on the purpose of the portfolio. For example, a classmate, Yen Vu, wants to be an English Instructor, so her e-portfolio has several samples of formal papers written in English. Adrienne Smith, another classmate, is an instructional designer, so she has a page dedicated to just her multimedia projects. Since I wanted to display my technology skills, I decided to primarily display my multimedia creations.
Dr. Helen Barrett’s (n.d.) course web page, Introduction to K-12 ePortfolios Level 1: Digital Archive, suggests the following items to display:
- Digital audio clips
- Digital images
- Digital video clips
- Cloud documents such as those from Google Docs
Image below (Barrett, n.d.):
Likewise, the Center for Experiential Learning (n.d.) also suggests related items:
- Writing samples
- Slideshows / Presentations
- References / Recommendations
- Blogs / Reflections
One of the challenges of building the portfolio was going through all of my past folders to find my best work. Dr. Helen Barrett (n.d.) suggests to use a digital archive such as Google Drive to store everything into one manageable place. I wanted to make sure that I could easily access the items I uploaded onto my website, so I organized most of it in a folder on my Google Drive.
Flexible Perspectives of the E-Portfolio
When I was building my portfolio, I had a pleasant realization. Although I did not have any websites that I could formally call my e-portfolio, I had a few that were similar. They were websites that I used to archive information and reflect on my experiences. In Level 2: Reflective Journal / Blog, Dr. Barrett (n.d.) uses blogs as an example of of a type of collective and reflective portfolio that could receive feedback. I realized that this described my blog on technology in education and my web site about teaching in Japan! These websites were places where I talked to the audience informally, and sometimes, they talked back by leaving comments or sending me an email. It showed a different, but still reflective side of me, so I hopped over to these separate sites and scanned them to see if they were appropriate. Then I linked to them as additions to my e-portfolio.
Since we had just finished our unit on Universal Design for Learning, I had to look at my website a few times and wondered if it was universally accessible. I went through my videos and watched it with Closed Captioning, and realized how many things were captioned incorrectly. As a result, I have just learned how to edit YouTube captions so that I could do that some time in the future. Karen Webster also made an excellent point in a recent discussion post about the website being accessible on a mobile or tablet device. It dawned on me that there was a large possibility that someone could view my site on a phone, so I had to check on that and add directions for mobile users.
I can honestly say that I am thankful that we had an e-portfolio assignment because completing one had been in the back of my mind for years. I actually have a few things from a portfolio that I made four or five years ago that is on my new one. The most valuable part of this assignment for me was to build my digital archive and organize my products to be presented in one single place. Before I conclude, I would like to end with a few tips for educators about e-portfolios.
Tip #1. Build on what you already have
Check your hard drive, cloud storage, and website accounts for things you've already made or saved. Do you have a blog, YouTube channel, or personal website that you regularly keep up with? These are digital footprints that you can re-use. Perhaps you can ask your grade-level neighbor if s/he took certain pictures or saved work from your students. If what you already have pertains to an e-portfolio you have in mind, then you can build upon or add it to a web site.
Students typically begin word processing in Kindergarten, and some students already have a folder online or in the school intranet. Check with previous teachers or students if they have already created digital footprints.
Tip #2. Save and archive
Take pictures, scan important documents or student work, and save them somewhere. These could be great additions to a portfolio! Assign a student as a class historian or ask a room-parent to assist in documenting your educational journey. Consider teaming up with your grade-level or school to build a wiki.
Think about how student work could be saved an archived digitally. All those published papers that you have printed and displaying on the walls are somewhere on a school or personal drive. Consider having students take pictures of their work and upload it regularly.
Tip #3. Use cloud storage
Educators & Students
Make Tip #2. Save and archive easy to do by storing all your things in one place by using cloud storage such as Google Drive or Dropbox.
Introduction to K-12 ePortfolios by Dr. Helen Barrett: http://bcopened.org/resources/eportfolios/ is a college course website about creating and using e-portfolios in the classroom.
Barnett, H. n.d. Introduction to K-12 ePortfolios. Retrieved from: https://sites.google.com/site/k12eportfolios/home
Center for Experiential Learning (n.d.). E-Portfolio. Find Your Direction. (5-7). Retrieved from: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5zq1O0YjzniSHlpYlFHaDhhY0U/view
University of British Columbia (2012). Eportfolio Basics / Elearning. Retrieved from http://wiki.ubc.ca/Documentation:Eportfolio_Basics/Elearning
Upload image by RRZEicons (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons