Earlier this year, I wrote five reasons why your portfolio should be online. As I do more work and sharing with portfolios, I think it is important to actually going one step further and talk about the benefits of why a “blog” specifically is beneficial as a portfolio. If you are interested in doing this, I created a video years ago that simply breaks down the process. If you know how to blog, it is just a matter of reimagining the space, not tearing down something you might have already done.
Blogging for me has been hugely beneficial for my learning, because of the power to not only think of an audience (making me think deeper about what I write), but also about connecting with the audience. For the past few years, we have been working on this project in Parkland School Division (Our Digital Portfolio Project), and it takes time because it is meant to showcase learning over a long period of time. If learning is non-linear and takes time to develop, so should the work that aligns with it. Patience is necessary.
As more areas look to do portfolios at either the school, district, or state/provincial level, it would be easy to look to services that make the portfolio for you, where you just drag and drop your information. This creates a presence, but not necessarily engagement from either the learner or an audience. If I am spending time creating a portfolio, it is nice to think that people would actually look at it, and that is not simply becoming a “digital dump” where I put a collection of my work.
With that being said, here are five reasons either your portfolio or a student portfolio should be a blog:
1. A focus on both a “growth portfolio” and a “showcase portfolio.”
When we first started looking at the use of portfolios in our work, the question would be to either do portfolios that focused on “growth”, or ones that showcased our “best work” (more like a resume). Since there are benefits in both options, it was tough to decide on one, so we ultimately went with the decision to go with both. The “blog” portion of my digital space allows me to share things that I am learning (like this article I am writing) while also aggregating my best stuff into solitary “pages” (check out my page on “Fostering Effective Relationships” which shares a criteria and how I met it). Most of the portfolios that I have seen schools use focus more on the “showcase” option which is great in some respects, but doesn’t use this powerful tool as a vehicle for continuous learning. Blog are a versatile enough that you have so many options in the ways that you can share your ideas.
2. An opportunity to focus on “traditional” literacy.
Many people prefer portfolios to have links to examples of work which is great for the “showcase” aspect. What I like about a blog is the opportunity to write, which is obviously a huge part in the work that we do in schools. There is a difference between having great ideas and the ability to communicate great ideas. In our world, we need the ability to do both. The other aspect of this is that when many outsiders see that students are doing more work in a “digital format”, they may have questions around the idea that we do not do “the basics”. With a blog, we are not only focusing on the “basics”, but we are actually doing them better. The more we write, the better we become at writing. That being said, I love a quote I heard from Dr. Yong Zhao saying that “reading and writing should be the floor, not the ceiling.” It is crucial, but there is so much more we can do with a blogging format.
3. The ability to use a wide array of “literacies”.
Although reading and writing is important, it is essential that we give students and ourselves different opportunities to share our voice. The reason why blogs will always be beneficial is that no matter what “medium” comes around or that we want to use, we will have the opportunity to embed that into our blog. If I want to write, that is fine, but if I want to make a video, create a prezi, share photos, add a slideshare, do a podcast, etc., I will be able to share it through my blog. We often evaluate students not on their understanding of a subject, but on their ability to write on a subject. Although this is important in many cases, we should allow our students and ourselves to tap into our strengths in how we feel best communicating. Blogs allow so many different options.
4. The ability to develop an audience.
Developing an audience is where blogging becomes very important. When we create the “digital dumps” we put a bunch of links onto a site, we often use the technology in a 1.0 way, and don’t create a need to look at the site more than once. Every time we share a post in our blog though, it attracts people to come and look at it. It might not be tens of thousands of people, but if it is ten, that is still meaningful. Every time we share new content, blogging allows people to receive it through emails subscriptions or RSS feeds. If you are going to take the time to create a portfolio, I think it is important to create content to get people to come look at it. That audience is not only important for the potential connections it can make (the photographer for our wedding uses a blog which made it easy for her to share all of her work and constantly create an audience; this goes way beyond “education), but is also beneficial (again) for the learning aspect through collaboration. Through the comments and the ability for others to share ideas, this “audience” is important for true communication and the opportunity to tap into others that are interested in similar topics.
5. Developing a voice.
Having a voice in our world isn’t something that all people want to share through a digital space, but we do all have the opportunity to create our own space. Whether you are interested in photography, mechanics, cooking, dancing, minecraft, fitness, skydiving, or a million different aspects of education, people are more likely to share their voice on something that they actually care about. I have written more as an adult in the last five years than I ever did in school (K through post-secondary) because I actually have the freedom to write about what I want. This voice helped me to not only share my thoughts, but pushed to dive deeper into the thing that I wanted to learn about. If you are going to start using blogs as portfolios with students, it is important to give them opportunities to share things that they care about. You will learn so much more about them while helping them developing their voice. Yes, you can do the “school stuff” in your blog, but it is important to also give kids the freedom to share what they are interested in. If the freedom and opportunity to explore our passions works for us, why wouldn’t it work for them?
The more schools are looking at portfolios, it is important we consider several options and make it more than just a space to share “stuff” but to develop voice. Currently we are using Edublogs, and one of the best opportunities for using this space is that after students leave our school, they can simply “export” their blog and “import” it into their own space. We are hoping that we are helping our students create something meaningful enough that they want to use after their time in our school. If we don’t create portfolios that kids would care about after their time in school, why would they want to do them in school?