By Kelly Smith
An online portfolio of your work will help you create a strong personal brand, and can also be used to establish a channel of communication with parents and colleagues—this is especially the case if you create a blog, that acts both as a professional profile and classroom update feed.
In any case, your online portfolio can help you when looking for a job or contemplating a future career move. With teachers needing to be more and more creative with how they engage students, use technology and manage communication with parents and students, creating one is a no-brainer.
If you want to make the most this online portfolio, don’t just put a quick blog together in an afternoon and call it a day. Be sure to include—and exclude—all the right information, choose the right platform and much more.
Use these tips to do exactly that and you just might land your dream teaching job.
Step 1: Choose a Platform
Your first step is selecting the platform where you’d like to host your portfolio. If you plan to use your portfolio for classroom updates and parent communication, is Blogger and Google Sites are great options. All of them are well integrated with other Google tools, making it easy for you to bring the two together; this is especially helpful if you’re a Google Classroom user.
Another popular choice is WordPress where you’ll find seemingly infinite amount of templates, themes, widgets and plugins to make the most of your portfolio. This platform will also allow you more room to grow, as you can add more features and functionality as you learn.
Finally, when choosing your URL, make sure that it’s easy to remember. Ideally, it should include your name to help build your personal presence online.
Step 2: Pick a Template
Now that you’ve got your hosting platform, it’s time to think about the design of your online portfolio. The best tip: keep it clean and simple. It’s best to use a simple template that can be personalized with a custom banner, color palette and other images. Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind while designing:
- Your students love bright colors, polka dots and crazy designs. While your blog doesn’t need to be void of these fun design features, remember that this should look professional. Add a bit of flair to show your personality, but otherwise keep it clean and classy.
- Include at least one photo of you teacher and working with students. Note that you will need to get permission to post any photos of students online.
- You must have legal rights to use every single image in your portfolio. Use websites like Unsplash, StockSnap.io and PixaBay to find royalty-free images that are free to download and use.
Step 3: Set-Up Clear Navigation
Make sure your portfolio has a clear title at the top, and put your bio information on its own page (see Step 4) or in the right sidebar—the latter is a popular style for teacher bloggers. Ultimately, all visitors should instantly know that they are looking at your online profile.
It’s most important to create a user-friendly navigation system at the top, where all the pages of your website, portfolio or blog are listed. This is especially important if you’re using this portfolio as a classroom blog. When sent to parents or potential employers, both need to be able to easily navigate to the area that matters to them. If they find your portfolio confusing, they’re much more likely to leave.
Step 4: Build Out the Important Pages
An “About Me” page is a must. This is your chance to show off who are you, what you love and why you are an unforgettable teacher. Include a brief biography accompanied by a professional picture. From this page you can link to your online resume or LinkedIn profile for potential employers.
You should also include a section on your bio page or create a separate page that explains your teaching philosophy and a selection of sample annotated lesson plans to help others see your expertise. Don’t share entire lesson plans, just short explanations of your favorites, or the ones your most proud of.
For all materials you created yourself, add a Creative Commons license at the bottom—you’ll be showing an awareness of copyright issues and allow other teachers to use your materials under specific conditions.
Don’t forget to include information about your tech skills and experience with tech in the classroom. As something that schools are using more and more, you want to show that you’re a future ready teacher that’s prepared to engage students with tech.
Step 5: Leave Some Things Out
An online portfolio serves as your digital business card. That’s why you should strive to present a consistent picture of your professional persona and leave out any type of information that is either irrelevant or too personal.
A short piece about your family and personal interests is good, and gives a glimpse into your personality outside of the classroom. Steer away from uploading personal photos of you with friends. This doesn’t present a professional look to parents or potential employers.
Step 6: Keep It Up-to-Date
This is easily the most challenging part of having an online teaching portfolio. Since you’ve put in so much effort into building it, though, it’s worth updating your online portfolio on a regular basis to show visitors that you’re engaged in the teaching community and are always on the lookout for opportunities that would help you grow as a teaching professional.
There are a few simple ways to do this:
- Upload images of student work or a lesson you really loved on a weekly or bi-monthly basis.
- Include a Twitter, Instagram or Facebook feed if they are tied to your teaching. These will automatically live update, so even if you don’t create blog posts often, visitors will still see you’re active in the teaching community online.
- Allow students to “guest post” on your blog, once a week or once a month. You both agree on a topic and they publish their final piece.
An online portfolio is a great way to develop your professional online presence, allowing you to connect with parents, colleagues and learning communities. As you build your portfolio, strive to create a space that accurately reflects your teaching philosophy and mission. Showcase your work in this way and you’ll be one step ahead of your colleagues.