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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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.

Digital Portfolios: Showcasing Both Process and Product

On the last day of class during the final exam period, students enrolled in my Costume Design and Construction course are allotted thirty minutes to get into costume, hair and makeup before formally presenting their looks to the class and posing for a photoshoot. Each student’s best photo is posted, with permission, in an album on the CC Theater Department’s Facebook page, which typically garners between 800 to 1300 views, making it one of the department’s most popular annual postings. These photos, however, only convey a fraction of each students’ journey through the design and construction process, and fail to adequately shed light on the weeks each student spends researching, designing, and constructing their fabulous, conceptually-driven looks.

Enter digital portfolio applications.

My goal this semester is to find an affordable and user-friendly digital portfolio application that will allow students to showcase their visual research, sketches, process shots, and final photos in a visually sleek way. After investigating several options, I plan on sharing my top three choices with students so they can weigh in on which portfolio application(s) they think will work best for them. To keep the class on track, it will be crucial for me to regularly set aside class time for students to photograph and upload images onto their DELI iPads, walk them through the portfolio curating process, and help them with general troubleshooting issues as needed. I’m looking forward to this challenge and am currently investigating the following applications:

Before the break, I revealed to my students that I wanted to add a portfolio component to the final project and they responded very favorably. Many even expressed an interest in including their previously completed costume renderings for Sarah Ruhl’s, Eurydice in their portfolios as well. I am very open to this idea, but will not include it as a requirement. Instead, I will heed the advice given to me by the leaders of the Technology Fellows program and take it slow, especially during the introductory phase of this experiment – wish me luck!