As the school year is right around the corner in our school division, “new teachers” (to our organization) will be attending orientation a couple of weeks before everyone else starts. This is obviously to ensure that they understand the little things that they will need to be successful (who to go to for help, human resource stuff, etc.), but it is also to help share the vision of the school division. I think back to five years ago when I first started in the division and how inspiring that first day was, and how nice it was to start your journey in a division by meeting all of the staff of central office, including superintendents.
Thinking about that time, and how things have changed, I am wondering about newer teachers starting a blog or some type of open, reflective journal as they venture into their first years. Although I know the benefits for myself, I wonder if it is asking too much of a new teacher to take on with the huge amount of learning that is going to be happening in their first years. I remember how extremely busy, and sometimes overwhelmed I was in my first year, but I also look now how easy it is to get help from so many others through my blog, while sharing my own educational practices. There are obviously both positives and negatives.
With all of the cuts in education though, would it not be beneficial for a new teachers to start to create this type of digital portfolio? I know some great new teachers that had to move schools or divisions because there just wasn’t enough jobs for them at the end of the day. Will “branding” yourself and creating a digital identity/footprint that is conducive with your teaching philosophy not only help your colleagues, but create more opportunities for yourself. It was not too long ago that Forbes Magazine published a blog entry discussing how the traditional ”resume” will be replaced by an online presence. One of the points in the article shared how, “job seeker passion has become the deciding factor in employment“, and I believe that would be tough to show in a resume. Through a portfolio, this could be shown over and over again through stories and shared experiences of your teaching; in a resume it would traditionally be shared through an opening paragraph. As someone who has hired several candidates, I know that I have been able to get more of a “story” through a more comprehensive digital portfolio than I have from a resume. If this is something that everyone is not doing (yet), won’t creating an online presence give many an advantage? This obviously has other factors involved (who is hiring and what they are looking for, what the portfolio says, etc.), but I think that there could be many positives to this being done for new and/or experienced teachers.
Steven W. Anderson just wrote a great post entitled, “Taking Care of Your Digital Self“, which talked about the importance of teachers creating their own digital footprint and the importance of them controlling what is out on the Internet about themselves, as opposed to someone else creating that identity for them. He makes the connection between students and teachers and their digital footprints:
Too often each year students find themselves in situations that could be easily avoided if they understood what a positive digital footprint is and how to manage it. The same thing with teachers. Many times I hear of teachers who flat out avoid any (or make a very strong attempt) to leave no trace on the web. While they might believe this strategy works, in essence it does not. School directories, webpages and others are online. Even kids use Rate My Teachers as a place to vent/praise about educators all over.
- Marketability – The idea of “teacherpreneur” is popping up more through my readings, and I believe that as educators, creating a digital footprint/identity through an online portfolio is a great way to not only share your accomplishments, but also have your voice heard and be an advocate for our profession. Many are not interested in leaving their jobs and that is totally fine, but I have seen many fantastic educators all of a sudden not have a choice. The difference between a resume and a digital footprint is I can make a resume in a few hours. Digital footprints are created over a long period of time and have the ability to tell more of a story of a person; hopefully it is a good one.
- Open Reflection – There are so many great posts on why blogging is beneficial to educators, but to me, one of the biggest reasons creating a type of online portfolio is the opportunity to reflect on what you are doing so you can better understand how you are going to move forward. For me, I do this through writing, but creating podcasts or videos is so easy for many, while also a great way to share your learning. This does not only apply to education, but probably any profession.
- Understanding of digital footprint – So the above two reasons may not have any appeal to you. Fair enough. The thing is they will mean a lot to your students in the very near future, if they haven’t already had an impact. Students right now are creating their digital footprint whether we like it or not, so it is important to have an understanding of how this can be done, while also ensuring that what is created would be deemed positive by potential employers. I remember not too long ago, I had an interview where a portfolio was mandatory to bring to the meeting. The problem was, I didn’t have one. I whipped up a digital portfolio after many hours of work, but it truly did not show all that I had done in my career, nor did it connect any of my own ideas. It definitely could have been a better representation of my work if it was done over time, as opposed to something simply thrown together. To ‘teach’ anything, I believe we have to immerse ourselves in it one way or the other to have a full understanding.
As employers are looking more at the digital identities of our students, as well as ourselves, I think that creating that space where you share your work, and more importantly, your growth and learning as a professional, is becoming paramount. Again, this is something that each person has to be comfortable with before they start, but I think it is important that you start before someone else does for you.