Use WordPress to have students create online portfolios of their work

Tori Bowden wordpress portfolio

I’ve had my staff members create print portfolios of their work at the end of each semester for years. I think it’s nice for them to have a collection of their work once their time on staff is over. The portfolios (with resumes included) have proven to be beneficial for staffers looking for jobs, as well as applying for colleges and scholarships. In addition, they serve as great alternative assessments in place of a written final exam.

Last semester, as I was evaluating the semester project, I decided to use my editors as guinea pigs and have them create an online portfolio in addition to their hard copy version. For a first attempt, I think it went very well and it’s something I’ll probably be instituting staff-wide next year.

I am constantly working to evaluate what I’m doing to make sure that it’s the best thing for the students in my classroom. In recent years, I wasn’t happy with the way I was directing students to include photos, videos, multimedia and Web work in their portfolios. I decided that the best way to address this was to allow them to showcase their work, as many professionals now are, on the Web.

I started by asking some colleagues from different universities what they were teaching their graduates about online portfolios and I asked a few professionals as well. While I learned a great deal through those talks, I didn’t find a standard blueprint to follow.

I suppose I could have just waited until I found that blueprint, but I didn’t, I decided to forge ahead anyway and have my students try it out. If you read many of my posts here, you know that is pretty par for the course.

I decided to allow the editors to use WordPress.com to create their online portfolios. It is free for them to sign up for and use. I also knew there were a lot of resources on JEADigitalMedia.org to help them learn what they needed about WordPress and there are countless others resources students can find by just searching the Web a bit. I gave the editors about 30 minutes of training in class one day and answered a few questions in the weeks that followed, however, they picked up WordPress quickly and all completed the online portfolios by deadline.

I am very proud of what they have created for first attempts. There will be some tweaking for May when I check them again, and I even have had a few general staff members ask if they can create one as well, even though I have not required it of them yet.

For my editors, it forced them all to use the Web to create a site, a first for most of them. It also helped them display their clips in a way that lends itself well to the variety of work they are doing. Finally, it exposed them to a tool many are using to make themselves more marketable in this ever-changing industry.

I would love to know what others are doing with their students and online portfolios or what colleges and professionals are recommending as guidelines. Please share your thoughts or ideas below.

I did have a few of my editors who gave me permission to share their sites with you. Their URLs are below.

maddiebaum.wordpress.com

toribowden.wordpress.com

palmerbarbara.wordpress.com/

stevienjohnson.wordpress.com

Aaron Manfull

Aaron is in his 19th year of advising student media. He is currently the Director of Student Media at Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He is the Journalism Education Association Digital Media Chair and co-Director of Media Now. He created The Next 26 and is a former Dow Jones News Fund National Journalism Teacher of the Year. He is one of the authors of the textbook "Student Journalism and Media Literacy." You can find him on Twitter and Instragram @manfull and on Snapchat as aaronmanfull. He's a proud father. A transplanted Iowan. And an avid Hawkeye Fan.

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