Get Started with a Digital Teaching Portfolio
Applying for a new job this summer or thinking about it for future endeavors? Beef up your application with a digital teaching portfolio! Yes, most school districts use very standardized formats like AppliTrack for applying to their system, but in today’s teaching market, you want to stand out. A supplementary online portfolio could really separate you from the pack, providing you a wide array of tools that can show what you’re really all about in the classroom. Today, Education World gives you some tips and tools for creating your own digital teaching portfolio.
Choosing Your Platform
First, you’re going to need to choose a platform: a site that will host your content. There are endless options for creating a personal website, but we’re going to focus in on two key hosting characteristics for the overworked, overwhelmed, and time-constricted 21st century educator: free and easy. Here’s some of the sites that will fit that bill for you:
- Google Sites: Super simple and straightforward, especially to anyone familiar with the Google Drive suite. May not be aesthetically fancy, but allows multimedia options and will certainly get the job done.
- WordPress: More design choices to take advantage of, and a product that is updated often with new options and features.
- Adobe Spark: Aesthetically gorgeous sites with very little effort. Not as well-known, so will likely make your site stand out.
- Weebly: Free version gets the job done; paid version adds the flare. Still, an excellent, easy-to-use host.
- PortfolioGen: Not as media diverse as the sites above, but certainly a viable option for those that are not feeling too tech-savvy.
Now that we’ve looked at some of the platform options, we need to talk about content. Your digital teaching portfolio should absolutely include all of the drier text-based documents you might submit for any other job application: resume, personal statement, and credentials. However, a digital portfolio is an opportunity to turn that two-dimensional Word document into a three-dimensional career experience. Think about adding some of the elements below to your new website.
Artifacts and Reflections
Perhaps the most attractive part of your portfolio from the point of view of an administrator is going to be the artifacts from your practice you choose to share. Let’s be honest, for any position you’re applying for, most of the applicants are going to have similarities: you all have the same degree, a comparable number of years of practice, and a personal statement filled with the “buzz words” of the day.
However, with a digital portfolio, you can do more than tell them your strengths, you can show them. From key assignments and worksheets, lesson plans, scans and photographs of student work, and video montages of you in the classroom, administrators can get a real sense of how you teach and where you values lie. With each artifact you add to your site, make sure you also upload a thoughtful reflection. School districts want educators that are not only able to deliver engaging content to their classrooms, but those that value you deep reflection. School leaders want to know that when lessons go well, you’re dreaming up ways to make it better. And when they go less-than-ideally, you are quick to readjust and get your students back on the track to success. These artifacts afford you the opportunity to not only exhibit the product of your teaching, but how you think about your teaching.
Curate Your Career
Since most of the above platforms are able to host video, you should cash in on the opportunity with your portfolio. Yes, you can showcase a lesson, a project, or a performance task here, but if you wish to really stand out, think about curating your own site. When the applications start piling up, it’s much too easy for that passionate educator to get lost in the pages of required documents. Your interview will allow schools to get to know the “real you” much better, but a well-curated site will help them to get to know you before you even walk through the door.
Each page of your site should include a video introduction or summary that runs through the highlights of that particular subject area, whether it’s thoughts on classroom management, an artifact reflection, or your pedagogical approach to the classroom. Don’t be afraid to add some personality to your video curation; they want to know who you are!
Think Outside the Box
The more unique your portfolio is; the more it will be remembered. Of course, multimedia always catches the eye, but think about other ways you can model your dedication to your work:
- Hyperlink all text-based docs to sites outlining some of your pedagogical beliefs.
- On top of your classic letters of recommendation, add shorter testimonials of parents, students, and peers that attest to your practice. Bonus points for video testimonials.
- Start a blog on your site that highlights your reflection, pedagogical leanings, personal experiences, and passion for improving.
- Showcase your participation within the greater school community by including links to news pieces, videos at sporting events, and documenting your work with extracurricular activities.
The more you add to your online digital portfolio, the more three-dimensional your application will become. The truth is, traditional applications are designed to narrow down applicants. When they are little more than text on a screen, they are easier to overlook. An online portfolio turns you into a fuller, more dynamic applicant, and therefore much more difficult to disregard. Good luck this summer and happy job hunting!
Written by Keith Lambert, Education World Associate Contributing Editor
Lambert is an English / Language Arts teacher in Connecticut.