Learning from E-Portfolio Creation

Beginning this semester, VCU undergraduates will be encouraged to create a portfolio, domain of one’s own, showcase…well, I’m not exactly sure of what the final name is, but they are being encouraged to create a personal digital space in a WordPress neighborhood called RamPages.  I admit I haven’t read too much about the pedagogy and evidence behind creating the portfolio.  But drawing from personal experience and the reflective blogging literature, it makes sense to me that you could gain great insight from having a single empty space in which to pile and sort your stuff. Things always look different in the context of a bigger picture.

I first heard of the “professional e-portfolio” several years ago, and I immediately jumped on the bandwagon.  I used a fairly simple blog format – which was good for a first-time webpage designer – and I gained several decent insights: first, traditional academic scholarship lacks visual appeal – it’s all text unless you actively seek to make it something otherwise.  Then there are often issues with publishing certain things publicly, on your own website. Finally, just listing out your achievements as posts…it doesn’t allow for much meta-analysis or meta-reflection.  My posts themselves just didn’t tell a big bad enough story.
And so, knowing that the undergrads would be introduced to this experience young and then hopefully build on it over time, I decided to take another stab at the e-porfolio.  This time, I went big, using a theme (Salient) purchased from themeforest.net and hosted on godaddy.com.  The process of building the site took me two weeks – not because it was technically difficult, but because I had to really think about what I wanted to say.  
Suddenly, it wasn’t about listing my accomplishments anymore, but rather finding themes and the lessons I learned among them.  One of my favorite a-ha moments lies halfway down the page here, where I discovered that I actually had proof that I had learned from previous mistakes.  
Between 2011 and 2012, I learned the following lesson: 
Projects work best when you rely on distributed intelligence.  
Asking for help is actually a smart move. 
And I have evidence of the shift, all laid out in an e-porfolio.  That’s pretty cool.
Maybe I got carried away with the graphic elements (created for free on www.canva.com -fabulous resource!), but that’s my frustrated inner-graphic designer coming out in spades.  Call it post-comprehensive exam release, if you like.
So two big thumbs up for the e-portfolio process.  And although I’m talking about it like a summative experience, obviously it’s not – this is formative all the way.  It’ll be fun to see how long this format lasts before I try something else on :).
oh, and by the way, my e-portfolio can be found at www.lauragogia.com if anyone’s interested. 

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