STEP 2 (PART 1): BUILD A PURPOSEFUL ONLINE PRESENCE
Before diving too deep into this post, you will want to work through Step 1: Social Media Audit.
If you worked through Step 1 then you should now have a cleaned up social media presence in general and one account you use to connect with the greater education community. You are ready to move on to the next step towards making your online presence “sell you” as a teaching candidate.
Do you need a digital portfolio?
Need? No, I wouldn’t say you need one, but if you are applying for a position that is highly coveted, or in a location that is not suffering from a teacher shortage (or if you just want to stand out from other candidates) having an online portfolio gives you another opportunity to shine.
If you are still in high school or college it wouldn’t hurt to start a website or blog where you can showcase your lesson plans, pictures of student work that represent the kind of learning that happens in your classroom/practicum (without student names), and things like your teaching philosophy and classroom management philosophy.
Either do it or don’t do it.
If you are not going to put the time into having a quality online portfolio then don’t waste your time. Having nothing is better than having a half-done, lame looking portfolio.
Steps to starting your online portfolio
Step 1: Choose a platform.
Some commonly used free platforms include: Blogger, Google Sites, weebly, wordpress. There are plusses and minuses to each platform, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them. They are all pretty user friendly, easy to set up, and most importantly, FREE. I’m going to use WordPress for demonstration purposes.
Step 2: Create an account
I went to WordPress.com and clicked “get started” in the upper right hand corner. Then I got this screen.
I clicked “continue with Google” because I already have a Google account (and you probably do too) and that makes it super easy. The next screen asks you to select what kind of page you want to create. Select “professional.”
When the “tell us about your website” comes up you’ll probably want to put something like “education” or “teaching.” You’ll need to enter your name and then give your site an address. This is so important that it is a step all to itself: Step 3.
Step 3: Choose your URL
When choosing your URL or webpage name, make it something you want employers to see and something that Google can find easily. Your name works great. Or Mrs. so-and-so’s teaching portfolio.
I typed in WannabeTeacherSamplePortfolio. Then another screen comes up with a multitude of options. Let’s assume you don’t own a domain because if you are that advanced, you’re probably not reading this right now. Your screen probably looks something like this.
If money is no obstacle, then the .com is going to be the cleanest and best option, but most of us are going to choose the Free option, which is your URL name.wordpress.com. This is no big deal for a teaching portfolio. The only downside is WordPress might put some adds on your page and you don’t have control over what those ads are. It is not like they’ll be pornographic, but I once had an ad show up that was for foot fungus and it was pretty gross looking, but the people viewing your portfolio aren’t judging you on the ads that WordPress chooses to throw on there. As long as you are ok with that, a free wordpress.com site will suit your purposes just fine. It suits mine, so that’s what I selected.
Then you get more options to upgrade. I recommend just sticking with the free option.
The next screen can be a bit intimidating and takes us to step 4.
Step 4: Choose a template
Each platform has their own templates to choose from. Pick something clean, simple, and easy to navigate.
The easiest way to get started is to click on the pink “start customizing” button on the right hand side. That will walk you through creating a tagline (I used “wannabe teacher sample portfolio”), personalizing your contact page, and creating a site icon.
It’s going to suggest that you “register a custom domain,” but I suggest not doing that if this is a temporary site for your portfolio and you are not particularly tech savvy. If you are tech savvy, or you think you’ll need a website in the future, it is not expensive, but it does mean a small financial commitment and slightly more tech knowledge. We can go into that another day (stay tuned).
Once you go through that, I recommend that you scroll down on the left hand side of the screen and click on “themes” right next to “customize.”
I chose one of the themes marked “beginner.” I like the way “Calm Business” looks, but you pick whichever one you like. It doesn’t really matter so long as you like the look and feel of it.
To “activate” the theme, click on it once and then click the button that says “activate.” Then a pink button will come up that says “customize theme.”
Then you’ll be sent back to your “admin” page, which is where you control the look of your page. The easiest way to set it up is just to go right down the list on the left hand side. Start by clicking “site identity.”
In “site identity” you have the opportunity to put in a logo and a “site icon.” The Site Icon is the little square icon that people see in the tab when they are on your site. You can use your head-shot or a picture of books, or something like that, whatever feels right to you. You can get free domain images (meaning that they are free for you to use) at Creative Commons. You can use the same logo or photo for both the site icon and the logo if you want. That’s what I’ve done in mine.
You do need to click the “publish” button at the top of the page to save your changes.
You will see “colors” below site identity. Usually the colors are fine and you can leave them alone, but you’re welcome to play with them if you want.
Step 5: Create a page
At any point you can click on “My Site” in the upper right hand corner and it will take you to a screen that looks like the one above.
Here is where you add pages and posts. Since you are creating an online portfolio we will focus on pages. Pages are static and meant for the long term. Posts are more “bloggish” whereas pages are more “websiteish.”
Before you add any pages, you’ll want to go in and delete the sample blog post that WordPress already has in there for you. So click on “Blog Posts,” find the sample post on the right hand side, click on the three dots to the right hand side of it, and put it in the “trash.”
Now look on that left hand column for where it says “site page” and click on the little box beside it that says “add.”
You’ll get a page that looks like this:
It is pretty self explanatory. The title might be “About me.” Then where it says “start writing…” you can type some information about yourself, like why you chose to pursue a career in education.
If you hover your curser over the area where it says “start writing…” you’ll get some options on the left hand side. One is a box that will allow you to choose an image to add to your page. I suggest you put an image of yourself just below the title.
So now you should have something like this. Click enter and you will get another box in which you can type or insert an image. Don’t worry too much about the stuff on the right hand side for now. Spend your time making sure you do a good job telling your reader who you are and why education is important to you. Check out my about me page for an example.
You are half way there!
Now you have a webpage set up and you have some sense of how to manage it. Let’s stop here for today so we’re not too overwhelmed. Next week we’ll pick up where we left off and finish up our online portfolios by adding more pages and making ourselves really shine online!