M.Ed. Portfolio Blog Series: The Process and Platform

This coming Saturday I will be defending my master’s portfolio and I wanted to share some of my hard work with others who won’t attend my defense.  We often spend so much time creating artifacts of our learning, whether it be a document, video, song, web page, etc., to only have it viewed by a relatively small number of people.  I wanted to do something different and share my work with as many people as possible, because I’ve worked hard over the last three years and have grown tremendously as an educator during that time.  So, every day this week I will post about my experiences and share my reflections, with the hope that some conversation can be created about what I’ve done over the last three years and keep our learning going well past my defense.  I thought it would help to discuss the overall process and the platform I chose to use to represent my learning.

The process

The process is relatively straightforward.  There are five standards (I call them performance indicators) that each student is required to represent in an artifact followed by a reflection about that artifact.  We could use the same artifact for multiple performance indicators or they could be all different.  The key for this portfolio, and really for all portfolios, is to show your best work.  As time has gone on and I have learned more about education it isn’t a surprise that improvements needed to be done to many of my artifacts so that was the next step after deciding which artifacts I would use.  Next came the reflection portion of the portfolio, which by-and-large was the most time consuming portion of the portfolio, which isn’t a bad thing because reflecting is a great learning experience.  As I’m writing this blog series, I’m preparing to enter the final stage, which is presentation and defense of the portfolio.  Next is where the fun part comes in, talking about what I did and why!

The Platform

For any portfolio, there has to be a platform.  Traditionally this was a folder, binder, or in some other paper based format.  However, times have changed and new technologies have emerged making the decision much more complicated in the sense that we have to think about what we plan to do with the portfolio in order to choose the right platform.  I could have done something more simple, such as a Web site or wiki, but I knew I wanted to share my experiences and work with others so I opted instead for a Facebook Page.  This might seem nontraditional but I wanted to do something unique and contemporary that would meet the needs of  21st century learners.  I also wanted to model proper uses of Facebook in an educational setting, because Facebook and social networking in general, get a bad rap because of many of the potential negative things that could happen.  We often get caught up in reasons why we shouldn’t do something, rather than reasons why we should be doing it.  So Facebook emerged as a logical choice for me.

I had a couple options for creating my portfolio, a group or page.  The main difference between the two is a group is setup for having multiple people interact around a general topic where a page is meant more for distribution and discussion.  In a page the author controls the topic, where in a group the community determines the topic.  Whether or not that is what the people at Facebook had in mind, that was my perception of the differences so I decided on using a Facebook page.

The Facebook page by default will take viewers to the Notes section of the page, which is where I posted/organized my artifacts and performance indicators.  I created six different notes, one for each standard and then one additional note for the full reflection (the formal document containing all my reflections, citations, title page, etc.).  Since uploading documents was not an option in Facebook, I posted links to any written documents on Google Docs as a PDF.  I also created links to Web sites/pages for the artifacts as well.  I would have done that on any electronic platform, because all my work resides in the cloud if possible.  Then for each standard, I added a short introduction and a link to the full reflection.  Not very sophisticated but effective nonetheless.

You can access my portfolio here.  I will open it for comments after my defense on Saturday.

The Larger Educational Connection

So why did I devote a post to discussing the process I went through and how I organized my portfolio?  The answer is simple: I’m advocating for a different type of learning experience.  We have to begin thinking about how we are designing our instruction in education and begin using tools that students already using, but more important, we have to begin making the student’s experience more social.  Collectively it appears we have dismissed using social networking, Facebook in particular.  Why?  Is what I created any less valuable because I used Facebook?  What matters is the content, but we often become caught up on the tool used to achieve gains in learning.  My goal in this blog post, and really this entire series, is to show different ways of using technology in your instruction.  Will anything I present be game changing or solve all your problems?  Of course not, but it can be the start for many who may be struggling to find ways to use technology effectively in their classrooms, or it might provide a different lens for a tech enthusiast teacher who wants to explore different technologies and learning strategies.  Remember, the focus should be on reasons to teach a certain way, not reasons for NOT teaching in a certain way.

How do you decide which technologies you use in your courses?  Are you using Facebook and/or other social networking software in your courses?  If so, how?  Share your experiences and keep the learning going by leaving a comment!

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