Sunday 11 September 2011

Teaching 10 new activities with online portfolios

Written for Visual Arts and Design educators interested in teaching online portfolio creation.

The DOE Visual Arts syllabus' timetable offers two weeks for educators and students to focus on "presentation". Research at a well-resourced, elite private school in 2010 showed that an online portfolio curriculum enabled its educator to teach students new aspects of presentation, which included: profile writing, digitization, online portfolio creation and how creative professionals and hobbyists use this new cultural form. 

These new learnings could be just the start of what students can explore in class
 using their online portfolio software's affordances. For example, their educator could teach them how to do ten new activities:

1. Label artworks for thorough contextualisation.
Unlike traditional student exhibitions, where the title and date for each artwork are typically provided, Carbonmade can be used to thoroughly contextualise students' artworks. This is relevant as online portfolios are likely to be viewed by new audiences. More thorough labeling can be achieved through following educator's guidelines to describe artworks with a description similar to that used art historians. For example under "image title": "Painting of a skull from the: ‘Vanitas Project’, 2011. Oil paint and charcoal on primed canvas. 420 x 295 mm". Students should also be encouraged to use the tags titled: "folder description", "tags", "client tags" and "image description" and to think about these tags' inter-relationships.

2.  Preview an exhibition.
If kept up-to-date and used throughout the syllabus, a student's online portfolio can be used as a preview of his or her prospective year-end exhibition. It can also be used to identify extra-mural designs, photography, craft or other works that could be included in the exhibition, but are ordinarily neglected in Visual Arts education. 

An educator could even use his or her insider mindset to change pedagogy; using the best online portfolios from previous students to introduce current students to their new project and highlight how it can be used to build the desired future portfolios (and year-end exhibitions, even).

3. Search online portfolios for artworks of interest.
Under, students can be shown how to search online portfolios using "area of expertise" or other fields of interest. They should also be shown how to use Carbonmade's featured portfolios section to find impressive portfolio examples by "career type".

4. Put learnings from one's favorite online portfolio examples into practice.
Students should be encouraged to apply learnings from the best examples they find; for example, the illustrator Josh Power's site includes; a personal logocustom-labelled folder covers, an illustrated profile picture and humorous profile description that ties in well with his portfolio's imagery. These activities can be used to create new curricular exercises or suggest extra-mural activities for keen students.

5. Create an holistic portfolio.
The best portfolios are holistic; their art exemplifies their profile description and their creative choices differentiate their portfolios from the "run of the mill" average. To help students reflect on achieving an holistic experience, educators might use innovative assessment strategies. For example, students could be encouraged to contact the creative professionals whose portfolios they admire to do reviews of their student portfolio and provide tips for creating better online portfolios.

6. Choose a copyright license for one's art and portfolio.
The rise of the internet and remix culture have contributed to changing the traditional copyright paradigm of “all rights reserved”. Many varieties of copyright now exist; by teaching about the licenses available on Creative Commons, educators can assist students to make appropriate copyright licensing choices for artworks.

7. Deliver better-looking search results for one's name.
Since it is likely that students' peers and parents may search for them by name under, it is important for educators to instruct students to check their name's search results and to recommend measures to create the most relevant, best- looking result.

8. Promote one's online portfolio using other services.
Good students with a mature attitude could be encouraged to share their portfolios online through social media, such as Facebook, MySpace and Google+. Students can also re-create their portfolios on portfolio services that offer social network functionality, like and behance.netThese activities provide opportunities for learning about  media distribution, including: developing an audience for one's work, responding to comments, learning from webpage usage stats and thinking about how best to create inter-relationships between different online services.

9. Act as a responsible online portfolio audience member.
In addition to being good online portfolio creators, students should also be encouraged to be pro-active digital citizens. For example, they should be told how to flag content and contact site administrators if they encounter offensive content or which authorities to talk to if they receive unwanted attention.

10. Use the online portfolio for life-long learning.
Ideally, educators should encourage students to think of their online portfolios as life-long, electronic learning portfolios. These can be used as proof of learning for access to tertiary education, work and related opportunities. To support effective e-portfolio development, online portfolios must be included in the entire syllabus' scaffolding, not limited to once-off curricular activities. Ideally, students should be given time in class to update and rewrite their portfolios' content on an ongoing basis, thereby getting used to the importance of maintaining and improving their online digital footprints.

I hope this post helps educators to consider teaching new learning activities in their online portfolio curricula and syllabi. Kindly add your comments; especially if there's any other new teaching activities that you can suggest?

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