More about the Social Dimension

Portfolios (or stacks of paper!): Imagine the 1980s. The word “portfolio” meant a stack of paper assignments with a cover letter that students used to submit at the end of semester. Key to this project was how the cover letter allowed students to “reflect” on their academic experience and skills. The cover letter still serves the basic purpose of reflection, especially for students early in their college careers. By the way, the writing portfolio was first implemented at Stony Brook University by Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff in 1983.

E-Portfolios (on the web): Fast forward to the mid 1990s. Using the “e” portfolio, students were now able to share their work with their peers as well as the instructor during the semester, receive feedback (offline or off site), revise writing, and give the always-accessible eportfolio the final touch with a course reflection. There are too many benefits to list (as well as a few potential pitfalls) about the paper-to-web migration of portfolios, but the most significant advantage is that the web allowed students to form a community of like-minded learners around their writing. The eportfolio has continued to serve this purpose well insofar as the goals are academic skill-building, self-reflection, and peer review.

Professional Portfolio (the resume and more online): In a sense, the academic portfolios and professional portfolios have little in common: academic portfolios can be static or dynamic collections of academic work and reflection, whereas professional portfolios tend to be showcases of professional qualifications (including academic achievements as one part of the big picture as represented by a person’s CV). The professional portfolio, as an online version of the CV/resume, allows the author to add substance (and for the student, academic work comes handy as content to draw on, blurring the boundary a little). While both academic and professional portfolios add affordances of the web to the paper portfolio–such as hyperlinking, integrating images and other media, more space (without concern for printing, saving, retrieving, etc), visual rhetoric through design/layout and also organization and interactive features (such as collapse/expand, hover over, popups, etc)–the professional portfolio needs to prioritize professional experiences/skills and achievements, showing how the academic knowledge/skill sets translate into professional uses.

Enter Blogging (the social dimension with substance): Blogging was practically done before the dawn of the 1990s and quite popular by the end of the decade, but their widespread use in the classroom didn’t happen until 2006-07. They introduced the interactive/social function into student writing (and gradually into the portfolio). Of course, students don’t need blogs to be able to comment on each other’s writing; they can do so by using discussions boards, wikis (now cloud documents), even emails, as well as portfolio applications such as Digication. But blogs are better suited to interaction, and they allow more advanced college students to showcase the conversation and develop a professional voice by writing for and engaging with broader audiences. Imagine these as students on the verge of entering the workforce or graduate school.

The addition of blogging to portfolios allows students to not only “showcase” their academic and professional activities, achievements, and writing skills/assets; it also allows the more hesitant members to at least “lurk” and the more enthusiastic ones to begin to “lead” in terms of generating ideas and developing their intellectual voice and personal/professional identity while writing for specific or general audiences within and/or beyond academe. Academic showcases in static pages appeal best to the academic community, as well as allow students to be intellectually invested in the building of the showcases; writing with an awareness of (or writing that directly addresses) external or general audiences is tremendously valued even more by employers and graduate school programs. Blogs not only allow students to share their ideas more broadly but also to do the following:

  • invite the audience to respond to their posts
  • allow them to “share” their posts via social applications such as Twitter, Facebook, email, etc
  • allow them to integrate their social media feeds (see right)
  • curate their social presence and feature what they’d want the public so see (we’ll explore)

Most significantly, when it is placed side by side with a thoughtfully designed professional portfolio using static pages, the blogging dimension of a professional portfolio allows students to reinforce their profile and identity (through content and also visual/layout) with their voice, their ideas, their social presence, and their ongoing conversation with others.

Finally, Integration of Social Media Presence (including Twitter and Facebook, yes–introducing the network economy): Take the professional portfolio one step further and integrate the rest of your social media presence, and see the magic happen. Here are some powerful ways of converging your social media presence into a powerful professional learning/development network:

  • Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc: Complete the education, work experience, projects, and other professionally relevant parts in your account on these social media. Then link them from your professional portfolio. You can also create widgets in order to feature your Twitter feed right in the margin of your portfolio.
  • Like, Share, Comment: Add the like, share, and comment functions to your blog posts and desired portfolio pages.
  • Curating and Integrating: Pay attention to what is available about you on the web and make it professional. Add what you’d like to be seen about you. Improve search results by linking, sharing, and using other SEO techniques. Feature the most prominent social/professional presence that you have on the web within your portfolio.

We will discuss in class other ideas and strategies for showcasing your academic/intellectual caliber in ways that are professionally relevant, as well as using social media and the contents of your professional portfolio to present a strong and substantive identity and voice on the web.

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