Getting It Together! Teaching with Digital Portfolios: Part 2

Partial screenshot of “Extracurriculars” page in a student portfolio.

This is the second of two posts in which professors Ari Rotramel (GWS) and Sabrina Notarfrancisco (Theater) team up to share their experiences teaching with digital portfolios.

Preparing for Graduation through Eportfolio Work

Last spring, I worked with Jessica McCullough to integrate the digital portfolio platform, Digication, into the newly offered Gender and Women’s Studies Senior Capstone course. Connecticut College’s Digication page is here and you can visit also their company’s site for more information here. Even better, you can set up a time to meet with Jessica McCullough to chat!

Sidenote: Digication holds possibilities for students tracking and reflecting on their work throughout their studies. E-portfolios are worth considering as an option both for Pathways and majors to support student learning. It is particularly disappointing when students lose an important assignment they had in a lower-level course, and an e-portfolio could help both with preservation, considering why their work matters, as well as making connections across experiences.

Back to the course… Students were assigned to create a basic portfolio that addressed proposed areas like their “about me” page, coursework, extracurricular activities, and five year plan. The aim was to help them to pull together their work and develop a more professional online presence (they could choose to make their portfolio publicly available). Digication was an attractive option because it has basic functions that are easy to use for editors, we were able to create a template to share, and it is easy to access student work through the Digication site.

I coupled the work on Digication itself with work within a Google Drive folder where students would collect material and images, as well as draft written content for their portfolio. Overall, Sstudents appreciated the opportunity to reflect and organize on their undergraduate work and future goals. As Digication was in its beta stage, there were some hiccups that they found to be aggravating, and that was a challenge to navigate as a faculty member with my main response option being “Keep on trying, let me know if it’s still not working!” In sum, the platform was a mixed bag, but the overall assignment goals were met and students understood the significance of this work.

My discussions with Jessica suggest that this year, we may want to offer students the opportunity to use either Digication or another platform they already are familiar with (Tumblr, WordPress, etc.). While normally it is an issue to have students work on different platforms, in this case as students are preparing for graduation it may be empowering to allow them to use something they already use while also providing a simple and well-supported option.

Concluding Thoughts

Any portfolio requires taking the time to introduce it to students. We also suggest faculty decide how much direct support from instructional technologists and/or peers is appropriate as well as how much time in class for work, troubleshooting, and feedback may be needed. Students respond well to using technology when it has a practical application, so make that connection in your assignments explicit. They also may be very excited about an outward facing portfolio or prefer to keep their work more private.

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Getting It Together! Teaching with Digital Portfolios: Part 1

An excerpt from Misao McGregor’s ’18 journal

In this 2-part blog series, professors Ari Rotramel (GWS) and Sabrina Notarfrancisco (Theater) team up to share their experiences teaching with digital portfolios. Together, they hope to offer readers insights into the possibilities for portfolios in their work with students.

Digital Portfolios in the Design Classroom

In a blog post last March, I shared my goal of incorporating digital portfolios in my Costume Design and Construction course as a way for students to document and reflect on their process in conjunction with showcasing their completed work. I tested a variety of applications before discovering Morpholio Journal, an innovative app for the iPad and iPhone that allows students to combine sketches, thoughts, and images in a virtual Moleskine® Notebook.

I was instantly drawn to Morpholio Journal –  it has a clean and customizable format that is easy to use and my students quickly figured out how to draw, write, and create dynamic layouts with the aid of their DELI iPad loaners. They particularly liked the virtual page-turning feature, a small but splashy detail that made their portfolio-journals appear almost analog. Currently, the app only allows screenshots of individual page layouts to be shared digitally, an unfortunate drawback that diminishes the curated journal experience, but I enthusiastically recommended the app as an option to my class nonetheless. Several students took the plunge and thoughtfully chronicled their design process using Morpholio Journal while others opted to use traditional platforms such as Google Slides and Docs with similar success.

Before realizing how important a journaling feature was to meeting my pedagogical goals, I tested several “photo album” style portfolio applications including:

Foliobook – a highly customizable iPad portfolio app with a minimalist interface. This app looks great and it made my presentations look really polished. It didn’t take long to figure out how to import backgrounds, add labels, control the transitions between slides, add music, etc. I highly recommend Foliobook to both student and established artists wishing to create professional looking and shareable portfolios.

Minimal Folio – an inexpensive application that allows users to create galleries that can be viewed by not only swiping images from right to left but also by swiping up and down, similar to a tile board game. It is a minimalist and elegant platform without a lot of bells of whistles, but still solid and visually compelling.

Morpholio – developed by the Morpholio Journal team, this is another stylish portfolio app with a minimalist interface. It is shareable and allows collaborators to write and sketch suggestions directly onto images. I found this intriguing app to be less intuitive and there are a few features that I still can’t figure out, so if you go with this one be prepared for a learning curve.  

As a result of these explorations, I learned that digital portfolio apps are an effective way for students to document, showcase, and reflect on design projects and can be particularly beneficial to those wishing to impress graduate schools, potential employers, and clients with their visual artwork. However, for pedagogical applications, familiar (and free) platforms such as Google Slides and Google Docs can be equally effective. Nonetheless, I highly recommend exposing students to a variety of portfolio options, especially as they near graduation.

See you at Camp Teach & Learn!

Will you be at Camp Teach & Learn next week? If so we look forward to seeing you at the following sessions!

Reflect, Integrate, Demonstrate: Student Digital Portfolio Pilots
Wednesday 24 May 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM

As we build a curriculum that asks students to reflect upon and integrate their coursework and co-curricular activities, several members of our teaching and learning community are experimenting with digital portfolios as a space for this work.  Through digital portfolios, students can archive artifacts that document and demonstrate their path through their education.  Narrative explanations and curated examples make it clear why they selected courses, a major or pathway, as well as what they learned and accomplished.  Faculty and staff who have used portfolios or participated in the pilot will share their experiences and sample student portfolios will be demonstrated.  We will end with a discussion and leave with ideas for future implementations.

Session leaders: Laura Little and Jessica McCullough; discussants include Amy Dooling, John Madura, Ariella Rotramel, and Sarah Queen.

Open Access & Digital Commons
Thursday 25 May 10:30 AM to 12:15

Did you know that most journals allow you to make previously published articles freely available over the internet?  Archiving your research in an institutional repository like Digital Commons makes it accessible to researchers who don’t have access to expensive databases and can make it more readily discoverable by those who do. Bring a c.v. or list of publications to this workshop and we will show you how to determine which articles can be made open access and how we can make your research as widely available as possible through Digital Commons.  We will also discuss some of the author features that make Digital Commons a practical, useful, and appealing platform for your research.

Developing Digital Humanities Projects:The Why and the How of Digital Scholarship
Thursday 25 May 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM

Does digital humanities (DH) research have the same outcomes as traditional research? Does DH appear to require more effort to reach the same end goals? Why do digital humanities?

This session will focus on how digital scholarship projects can enhance student engagement and lend students useful new skillsets (both technical and critical), all while helping you achieve your pedagogical goals. Hear from faculty about why and how they integrated digital projects—mapping, online exhibitions, and computational analysis of data mined from digitized texts—into their humanities courses, what worked well, and what students gained from the experience.

Discussants include: Lyndsay Bratton, Karen Gonzalez Rice, Emily Morash, and Ariella Rotramel.