Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘portfolio

I will admit something — I watched and enjoyed Edgar Wright movies without knowing that he had written or directed them.

But after watching a recent movie of his, Last Night In Soho, I did a deep dive. One of the gems was this collective process-and-product YouTube video.

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I usually focus on the importance of gaining insights on the processes behind products and link this to education. This time, however, I noticed how Wright would state the names of his collaborators and crew.

This is a good sort of name-dropping because it gives credit where it is due instead of showing off who you know. Attributing your influencers is something else that those of us who maintain portfolios need to do more of.

I read two articles this month that got me thinking about how we might wean ourselves off grades.

The first was a CNA article that reported how year-end exams were cancelled because of COVID-19 disruptions. This was to allow teachers to help students catch up.

One stark statement from a teacher was: 

No exams is a good thing, so we can concentrate on the teaching, rather than on the testing.

The other article was one shared by Larry Cuban and written by Jack Schneider: With Pass-Fail, What’s the Point of Grades?

In his review of grading systems in the USA, Schneider started with this:

In the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, countless colleges and universities shifted from to A-F grades to a pass/fail system… Many K-12 school districts have done the same.

What were the purposes of grades? He provided four arguments in his op piece. Grades were:

  • Motivation for the academically motivated
  • A form of scholastic coercion, i.e., reward or punishment for performance
  • A form of coarse feedback and communication for students and with parents respectively
  • A method of sorting and assigning people to schools and jobs

Schneider then outlined some problems with grades: 

  • They are high stakes and feedback can come across as long-lasting judgement
  • Students chase good grades at the expense of meaningful learning
  • The practice has led to grade inflation (easy As) and grade grubbing (negotiating for better grades)

Schneider suggested a portfolio-based alternative where students “assemble evidence of what they know and can do”. He suggested some advantages of portfolios have over grading. Portfolios:  

  • Help students focus on the substance of learning
  • Facilitate the revision of artefacts of learning
  • Allow students to work at different speeds to reach proficiency

Most importantly, well-implemented portfolios motivate students to improve their work and not merely chase grades.

If relying on grades is like suckling on milk, transitioning to alternatives like portfolios is like eating solid food. The pandemic has asked us to question the validity and utility of grades. It might be the opportunity to start weaning ourselves of grades.

This is the second-last part of my answers to five questions on being an independent worker.

Your portfolio: What is in it, where is it, and how do people find it/you?

If you do not already have a portfolio, here is an alternate question: How large is your network or how extensive are your connections?

Even if you have a list of potential clients and partners, do not expect them to be loyal to you. Departments whose responsibility it is train or provide professional development seem to have budgets that shrink every year.

You need to advertise yourself to agencies that do not already know you. You need a portfolio. People need to find out what you do, what value you offer them, how to contact you, and what your fees are.

Mine is this blog and its various sections (see the navigation bar for the desktop browser or the drop down in the mobile browser). I do not claim to have exemplary practice. I only claim to share openly when I can.

The people who are looking have a problem that needs solving. You need to be the piece(s) in the puzzle that helps them see the whole picture. You will likely have encouraging conversations with such people because you will probably think alike.

Unfortunately, these people will hand the next phase of information gathering and negotiation to an administrative group of people. The latter group tends to only see in numbers, e.g., total cost, number of participants, cost per head, how many sessions, etc. Oh, and can you do a followup or two for free?

If you reveal your fees too quickly in your portfolio or initial communications, expect to not hear from the administrative person again.

Sorry, I got distracted. Back to the portfolio.

Your portfolio should showcase not just your experience and accomplishments but also your worth to others. I do this by reflecting on how my workshops or session went in daily musings. This might help others get inside my head and to figure out if they want to work with me.

While I behave professionally, I pull no punches. I am blunt with what I can do, can not do, and will not do. I am also open with the way I do things — I do not wish to compromise why pedagogy or my principles.

As a consultant or independent worker, you need to figure out what you are comfortable with sharing, but share you must. If you are smart about it, you might appear at or near the top of Google searches. That is how new people find you. But to do that, you must have a platform to share from and something worth sharing.

I love behind-the-scenes videos. They provide insights into the processes behind products.

One such product was was a four-minute recap by James Cordon of 67 previous episodes of Game of Thrones before its final season.

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The delivery was one thing. It was effectively over in about four minutes. However, insights into the hard work behind it were only visible in the next video.

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What was still invisible was the development of talent for crafting the recap.

Applying this problem to education, this would require more videos and other artefacts in an e-portfolio. But this first assumes that all stakeholders (e.g., students, teachers, parents, employers, policy makers) value processes of learning as much as they do products of learning.

I am still on yesterday’s theme of lifelong and lifewide learning. Today I share a tweet that highlights a possible difference in employer and employee mindsets.

Decision makers in human resources, particularly from the civil service, probably hire people on what they know. Why else would they so much on paper qualifications? These are a measure of what you know, not necessarily what you can do.

Very few decision makers have figured out how to hire people based on their ability to learn. Here is a clue: A deep and diverse portfolio of evidence.

Today I draw three lessons from a photo sharing incident that bugged me.

I might have been a photographer in another life. Photography was a passion of mine as a teenager and I would save my allowance to buy rolls of film and to get them developed. I was even saving up to build my own darkroom to develop negatives.

But that was long ago and a technology far, far away. The point is I was an amateur photographer. I even managed to sell a few photos when I was studying overseas.

Now taking photos is an itch I scratch every time I travel.

Late last year I visited Georgetown, Penang, which is a city in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. I took lots of photos, and as I had just started using Instagram, shared a few on that platform.

One photo that took a while for me to set up was this one.

So imagine my dismay when I spotted this in a feed that was not mine.

You can tell that it had been enhanced a little, probably with an Instagram edit. However, the positioning of the items, the stain near the teapot, and the imperfections on the tray show that the original photo was mine.

I wrote to them to say that the photo looked familiar. This was their reply and my response.

What are some lessons from this incident?

I am all for open educational resources and I champion Creative Commons (CC) licensing. However, my photo was not shared under CC in Instagram. The hotel that used my photo did not 1) ask for permission, 2) receive my permission, and 3) acknowledge me. Kids need to be taught how to navigate traditional copyright and CC waters if they are not to make the same mistakes.

Another lesson is the importance of putting your ideas online. While this gives others the opportunity to borrow or steal, the pros of increased reach and feedback far outweigh the cons. Putting them online with date and time-stamping also allows you to say who was first.

Yet another lesson is monitoring your portfolio of work. In this case, I had simply followed that hotel on Instagram. The same principle and strategy applies in professional work. If you are part of a community of workers or interest partners, you know who is who and who is doing what. You cannot say you are part of a community and not know what is going on. You should know or someone will let you know.

I tweeted this recently.

I started my journey as an independent education and technology consultant a year ago. Since then, my blog, Twitter feed, YouTube videos, and other online artefacts have been key to making new connections for me.

This blog, in particular, has provided at least three functions:
1) It is means for people to evaluate what I might have to offer;
2) It has been a repository for me to recall and showcase my work; and
3) It is a way for people to contact me.

I maintain my blog as the main component of a living e-portfolio. It is living because I blog daily and edit other pages regularly. One result of doing this is being listed at or near the top of Google searches on topics that matter to potential clients.

The best thing about maintaining a living e-portfolio is how I do not need to make claims or prove my worth. My work is an open book and visitors can decide if they like what they see and wish to see more in person.

Trimming by ragesoss, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  ragesoss 

Maintaining a living e-portfolio takes work. But I have found that the process of discipline has become a pleasurable one.

This might be like getting the satisfaction of trimming a bonsai tree. It takes effort and patience, and the results are not always obvious. But over time I learn from the process about the process.

You can read all you want about e-portfolios and how they are important for study and for work. But I offer a visual and aural treat instead.

This was a video by Richard Dunn who was stranded in an airport last year. Instead of complaining, he decided to use the time to create a video while lip-syncing All By Myself.

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The final product was laugh-out-loud hilarious and completed with just an iPhone. Dunn also shared his process, warts and all, in the video below.

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Portfolios of work should also be open for critique. Dunn was not outdone when asked to defend his claim that he did all the work himself.

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As a bonus, he got to meet Celine Dion herself.

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Very few of us are going to meet a celebrity as a result of sharing portfolio artefacts online. But all of us should not just share the products. We should also provide insights to the processes behind the products and be open to the scrutiny that follows.

One of my newfound favourites on YouTube is Brett Domino. He and his partner form the Brett Domino Trio band (and yes, there are only two of them).

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BD appeared on my radar thanks to a Gizmodo post a short while ago. He spoof-taught us how to create a hit pop song. The video went viral, but I do not think that his channel has got as many new subscribers as he deserves.

I think that he is a rare combination of musical and comedic talent. But not everyone agrees.

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When the BD Trio appeared on Britain’s Got Talent five years ago, Simon Cowell did not appreciate his talent and was the first (and only) judge to buzz them out. He did not get what BD was trying to do. The audience seemed to get it. The other judges did and even had to explain it to Cowell.

There are many Cowells in the world today. They have narrow definitions of talent or worth. When they are the majority they drown out the views of the minority who think otherwise. Even if they are the minority, they have so much influence, possess veto powers, or claim to represent current norms that they get their way.

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Take BD’s video response to Airbnb’s recently redesigned logo for example (warning: Not for the prude or sensitive). BD was not the first to point of that the logo looked like genitalia. However, I think he quickly responded with a funny and catchy song. But how many people are going to laugh along and appreciate his talent?

Here is another example. Someone I know on Twitter expressed her frustration at having to show her O and A-level certificates as she moved to another job in the civil service. Most statutory boards and the civil service here prize paper qualifications seemingly at the exclusion of everything else. Almost two decades of teaching experience was not good enough.

That person was facing a Cowell form of evaluation. But I think that it is far more important to know what you are worth by your own reckoning, and if you find it necessary, find other measures.

The BD Trio has its likes and comments in YouTube. Owners of other forms of digital portfolios can collect and curate comments, critiques, and bouquets, and showcase them alongside processes and products of learning. I think these will be far more important and effective in the near future.

I have found this to be true for myself. I am leaving NIE at the end of the month. But I have found suitors despite not actively looking for a more permanent job. People know me from what I have shared at talks or online. My worth is not measured by my doctorate but by what value I bring to the table. That value is not theoretical in the form of school certificates but a living portfolio in the form of this blog and other digital artefacts.

So instead of waiting for the world to change, I suggest we see and be the change. We all have talent whether someone else values them or not.

Portfolio by cirox, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License by  cirox

I read Reviewers Unhappy with Portfolio ‘Stuff’ Demand Evidence and shook my head.

It wasn’t that I did not agree that portfolios are often loose collections of artefacts instead of clearly articulated evidence of learning. I definitely agree with the sentiment that “collecting is easy. Interpreting and integrating the collection is hard”.

Therein lies one major issue. I think instructors and learners expect too much of an e-portfolio. The technology behind the portfolio make the assemblage easy, especially if the platform is a highly controlled LMS. But such a system interferes with the interpreting and integrating because it is hard for the user of the e-portfolio to feel as if he or she owns it. If you don’t own it, you don’t identify with it or invest in it.

E-portfolios are a sociotechnical system. The technology makes the collection, reflection, selection and presentation efficient. It is the social component that makes it effective. Some social components could include a constant negotiation for what goes into a portfolio, for conversations to take place between instructors of different courses of the purpose and outcomes of a portfolio, and trying to replicate quality interactions that already take place in the blogosphere, Facebook and Twitter.


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