Digital portfolios – a personal reflection tool

After we published an article about building professional portfolios, a reader in Queensland got in touch to share his school’s approach.

Keith Birch is Assistant Principal (IT and Administration) at St Rita’s College, in the Brisbane suburb of Clayfield. Teaching staff at the all-girls school are using the WordPress platform to create their own digital portfolios.

‘We ran a series of workshops in 2013 and again this year to introduce staff to digital portfolios through WordPress,’ Birch says. ‘Several [teachers] were already blogging independently, so they have continued with their own sites, but we also set up a template for anyone who wanted it.’

The template uses the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers as categories and menu items. ‘We stressed the importance of tags to aid future [searching, sorting and grouping] activities.’

Birch adds some teachers have gone one step further by incorporating feeds from digital tools such as Diigo (a social bookmarking program) and Twitter to expand the reach of their portfolio and, in some cases, provide evidence that a goal has been met.

The school has a WordPress server to manage access. Individuals can also add a subscription requirement or password protection to their own site.

Birch says the approach has 'introduced more reflection and collaborative planning' and 'reframed professional development as a continuous activity tied explicitly to our practice'. He adds that opting for a digital platform has also increased the technology skills of staff.

The portfolios are part of a wider focus on teacher professional development at the school. Principal Dale Morrow has created a scholarship to support staff who want to take a postgraduate qualification at a Masters level.

Next year, every staff member will be given one period in each teaching cycle (10 days) to work on their blog, reflect on practice or collaborate with colleagues. 'It's actually equivalent to about one-and-a-half teachers on staff, so it's a significant investment,' Morrow says.

'This idea of making time available is really important. I know it sounds a small period of time ... but we believe it's an investment that will assist teachers.'

Commenting on the benefits of portfolios, Morrow adds they are a 'brilliant reflection tool' and an extra spin-off for staff. '... When they go to apply for another job or want to move on or go into middle management, they can actually say "This is my blog and this is the reflection that I've had, and my growth over the past two years ..." '

Are you maintaining a professional portfolio?

What digital tools are you using to build your portfolio?

How are you collaborating with colleagues in the area of professional development?