5 Reasons Your Portfolio Should Be Online

“My prediction is that in the next ten years, resumes will be less common, and your online presence will become what your resume is today, at all types and sizes of companies.” Dan Schawbel, 2011

Having a conversation with teachers and administrators, I asked how many of them still had “paper portfolios”. Surprisingly, it was over half of the room, and many of them had developed it in university, updating it only when job opportunities arose.  I remember actually having a paper portfolio and applying for jobs, and hating the process of dusting off a binder, adding a ton of great information into it, only to walk into an interview and have the person hiring not even look at it.  It was extremely frustrating as I had put a lot of work into it, only to have it ignored, and I never really understood why.

And then I became a principal.

When I would look at applicants for interviews and have a limited amount of time to talk with them and interact, the thought of flipping through a binder with them sitting in the room in front of me, seemed a little ludicrous.  I wanted to spend as much time getting to know them as possible.  At the end of the interview, sometimes they would offer to leave the portfolio with me to peruse at my leisure and they would either come back to pick it up or I would have to mail it (does anyone go to the post office anymore?).  I might have been the exception in my process a few years ago, but this is becoming more of the norm now, not only in education, but all aspects.  A portfolio could be great for the process of an interview, but shouldn’t the things you do help you get the interview in the first place?  Sending mass binders out to potential employers doesn’t make much sense.

I believe it is time (it has been for awhile) to ditch the paper portfolio and move it online.  Here are some reasons below.

1. The Google Factor – We talk to students a lot about developing their digital footprint, yet how often do we help them build this footprint in schools?  A digital portfolio is hugely beneficial to this type of work as it helps you to create your own online presence and shares the great work that you, or your students are doing.  The nice thing about a digital portfolio is that it is also not limited to text, but can be anything that you can see or create.  If I want to be a photographer, animator, actor, athlete, or anything else, digital can help share that information and make it accessible to others.  A portfolio that is able to bring together all of these different elements into one space will make your “footprint” that much better and easier to find.

2.  Searching and Organization - My own blog is a “portfolio” of my work (if you want to see how it is set up, check out this video) that I have been working on for over four years, in a constant and continuous basis.  That is a lot of information over time, but with thoughtful “tagging” and “categorizing”, I am able to google myself and find my own work.  For example, if I want to find any time that I referenced “Daniel Pink”, I simply do a search for his name om my blog and voila!  Even using something as simple as “Command + F” (“Control + F” on Windows) can help me find a word instantly on amy page.  This is much easier than flipping through pages in a binder.

3. Anywhere, any place, any time access - If you were to have a paper portfolio and I asked to see it while you did not have it in hand, how would you get it to me?  If you ask my for my portfolio, I would simply give you the URL to my website and peruse away.  This was the nice thing about applicants that had an online portfolio to share with me.  It was accessible before, during, and after an interview and at my convenience.  In a world where there is always a shortage of time, accessibility at a time of your convenience is important.

4.  Creating opportunities instead of looking for them - In a market where jobs are scarce and a university degree guarantees nothing, the competition for positions is tough.  With a online portfolio, especially one that continuously invites people to look at it (every time I write a blog post and you read it, you are looking at my portfolio), you have the ability to have opportunities come to you, instead of the other way around.  I know many people that have simply shared the work that they have always done on their online portfolio, and then were asked to speak at conferences or consult with schools, simply because their work was visible.  Simply sharing your work is not enough to create those opportunities, but you will never know what is the one thing that you share that someone else will deem valuable to their organization and call in your expertise.

5. Continuous learningOne of the most powerful things I have found by doing an online portfolio is the growth in my own learning that I have done by sharing.  By simply knowing that other people will see what I write or share, I put a lot more thought into what I am doing.  I also find tremendous value in the comments and conversation that is started from some of the things that I share; they push my learning.  If we are to look at online portfolios as both a way to “showcase” and “learn”, they are hugely beneficial to our growth.

Although I have listed several reasons why an online portfolio is beneficial (and I am sure I could list a lot more), many educators are happy where they are in their career, and would argue that there is no need for them to have an online portfolio themselves as they will never apply for another job.  My belief is that if we are truly doing what is best for kids, we have to learn how to do it ourselves to help our students in the future.  Wayne Gretzky once said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”  We need to look ahead for our kids sake.

Another question that I get is, “Well what if no one googles me?  Then I have done all of this work for nothing.”  To be honest, if you get not one single opportunity from an online portfolio and only went deep into your own learning, isn’t that still a pretty good thing?  The other suggestion I would make is that when you submit a resume, right at the top of it share the following:

“For more information, please refer to my portfolio located at…”.

This ensures that you lead people to the great work that you have already done.

In my view, there is a difference between a “digital” and “online” portfolio.  An online portfolio is usually digital, but it is not necessarily the other way around.  There are many benefits to both professionals and students to share our work in an open way.  As Chris Lehmann has said before, “it is no longer enough to do powerful work if no one sees it”.

Where can I see your powerful work?

Resources

If you are interested in some help for Online Portfolios, here are some links:

Blog as Portfolio Workshop

Blog as Portfolio (Video)

Digital Portfolio Project (Write Up)

  • Robert Schuetz

    Once again George, you are right on the money with this assertion! You are one of the inspirations that has prompted me to develop my digital portfolio using a blog. Here is my recent post arguing that all learners should create and maintain such a platform as evidence of learning and growth:
    http://rtschuetz.blogspot.com/2013/12/digital-portfolios-are-essential-to.html
    I hope continue this conversation face-to-face at ICE-2014. Talk soon, Bob

    • http://www.linenstrader.co.uk/ Ravikaleova

      George you have shared Superb post . I like your point
      about being where the future will be. We must think about it. It’s a good point which have raised. I am always left
      wondering whether I should be publishing critiques and reflections on my
      blog. At the end I must say again that you have always done good job. Keep it up.

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  • http://about.me/aaron.davis Aaron Davis

    Great post George. Definitely left me thinking. Really like your point about being where the future will be. I am just interested in what you include in your blog if it is your organic portfolio? I am always left wondering whether I should be publishing critiques and reflections on my blog or because it is a portfolio I should simply share work that I have done. I know that some people have different blogs for different purposes, one for personal reflection, another celebrating the classroom, but a part of me feels that this is counter-productive.

  • Stasia E. Peters

    Great post! I am looking for 4-5 secondary schools to participate in a case study for my disseration “The ePortfolio as Authentic Assessment of Student Competency” – any leads to potential participants would be tremendously appreciated.

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  • Joseph Tramontana

    This is an excellent post. In our competitive world if you do not promote yourself digitially you will fall behind. In fact if teaching candidates started this in their sophmore year they would be light years ahead.

    http://www.josephtramontana.net

  • Tamritz

    I couldn’t agree more with your perspective. I especially like the idea of continuous learning where we are reflective practitioners. This piece reminds me of how PWC encourages college students and high school seniors to build a personal brand: http://pwc.to/1bIP7pV . With the growth of an Open Badges global ecosystem, the digital resume and portfolio will be more and more the norm. The tech industry is already relying on this format, where you build your knowledge and professional reputation within a community, like Stack Overflow. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Kyle Timms

    Gotta disagree George.
    Online portfolios are not a good idea for teachers. They should be required. When I hire a new teacher, the one with the impressive eportfolio definitely has the leg up because they have shown more evidence of their success as a teacher.

    I would take it a step further with online portfolios for students. At kindergarten we should create an eportfolio for a students and share their learning journey through it. As students progress from K-12 we should gradually release the responsibility of maintaining the eportfolio. In our district we are experimenting with this at elementary schools with great success.

    If we want kids to skate where the puck is going to be, we need to teach them how to curate their own learning from the beginning.

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  • Kelly Christopherson

    Interesting discussions and an interesting perspective. As someone who went through a serious job search recently, I wish that my online work and blog would have been referenced by potential employers. For all the positions that I applied, all central office positions in education in three provinces, I included references to my online blog and portfolio and included my LinkedIn profile. In all cases, when I referenced my online information, not one had bothered to look at my material and, when I was asked to make a presentation, it was to be without the use of technology. I agree that building an online portfolio is crucial today and more effort needs to be put into helping new and prospective educators develop their online presence. However, there is still a huge gap between what happens in central office and what is happening in the field. As an administrator, I used online information regularly and would ask potential candidates if they had an online portfolio. Some sent me a file with a link to dropbox or something similar. This was a regular part of my interview process for over 5 years.

    I agree, for someone who is doing presentations and consulting as well as teaching, having an online portfolio and an online presence is a must, especially since branding and the concept of “teacherpreneur” are growing within the educational field. One just has to look at the number of people within education that are not only teaching but also presenting and consulting to know that, if one wants to expand and branch out, an online presence is an absolute necessity given that this market growing in so many different areas and there are many people who are beginning to work in this area.

    As for students, as many of the other respondents have mentioned, our K – 12 students are building ePortfolios which show growth over time. There are many options for tools and it should no longer be an option given that many school division are moving to online reporting that parents can access 24/7. The biggest difficulty is the lack of any type of consistency of the portfolios and their content. Combine this with the fact that many schools still require paper formats to be created which increase the workload of both students and teacher and this is an area that, although vital as part of developing students digital citizenship and digital literacy, requires some focus on the part of educational leaders, administrators and teachers . Transition is tough but it’s time to make the move to digital for students, teachers, schools and, if possible, parents.