G-Portfolios – My Two Cents

I regularly love posts from Will Richardson’s blog Weblogg-ed, but one that George Couros tweeted today is particularly prescient.  Will’s post, called “The G-Portfolio,” is exploratory inasmuch as he is seeking feedback about the subject of online portfolio management for students.  He intends to write an article with the help of the responses he receives via his blog.  The conversation has caught my eye because my school is looking seriously at having all students leave our school with an electronic/Google-able portfolio.  Here are my two cents with regards to the questions posed in the blog:

  • What types of literacies should be displayed in this Web portfolio?

This is hard.  The trick will be to not have a student’s portfolio be a container for everything he or she creates in school; it’s more important to have the students choose their best work based on criteria that are relevant to their career goals*.  Without going on forever, the literacies demonstrated by the portfolio ought to be the ones that are the most relevant to areas of interest or aptitude as selected by the youth and critical advisors (teachers, counselors, parents).  The bottom line is that the portfolio must demonstrate the best examples of a student’s work (and students need to be taught the ability to constructively critique their own work).

  • What role will this play in “reputation management” or the personal brand of the student?

The portfolio doesn’t play a role in this; the portfolio is reputation management.  When a person takes ownership over his or her web presence, that person is making a commitment to cultivate the message sent by all content online that is associated with their names.  It’s a big step but it’s worth noting that a digital footprint will exist for everyone anyway, so you might as well be in control of what yours looks like.

  • What are the challenges and complexities of the process?

The biggest challenge for me is logistical.  There are a million things to do in your senior year.  Unless a student has time set aside to dedicate to cultivating his or her portfolio, it very easily gets shifted to the back burner (don’t roll your eyes…when was the last time you updated YOUR portfolio or CV? :)).  Time needs to be built into peoples’ days or weeks for students to critically consider their content.

  • To what extent should educators have their own “g-portfolios”?

My answer to this is connected to my previous answer.  As lovingly as I speak it, the truth is that educational pros are among the worst out there for saying, “do as I say and not as I do.”  It is difficult to sell the importance of personal brand management when we don’t pursue it actively ourselves.  I would say that regularly examining one’s own portfolio (electronic or otherwise) is as necessary to professional development as flossing is to dental hygiene (when was the last time you did THAT?).

  • What are the best tools, sites, etc. to create and organize these portfolios?

As with all things, the tool is best chosen after you know what you want to do.  But, for my ease of use and flexibility, I would look to WordPress as the glue for this.  It’s just dead easy and free.  It can be connected to a million things and easily display images and video.

* I am writing this with a prejudice towards secondary education.  This is not to say that portfolios aren’t a good idea for younger students.  In fact, a lifelong and “evergreened” portfolio would actually be the best of all results in our web-focused world.