Friday, March 05, 2010

Developing a Professional Digital Competency Portfolio: Market Yourself, Your Skills & Vision

A portfolio can be one of the most useful tools you can use to showcase your abilities for potential employers, or simply to keep up to date with useful web applications. You can use the "digital competency portfolio" for course projects and capstones. The personal portfolio is a great way to show your creativity as well as your skill, and to guide people to an understanding of who you are. As you build your portfolio, you can use open source portfolio software such as Mahara ( If you want your e-portfolio to have maximum exposure, you can use social networking solutions. Facebook is perhaps the most ubiquitous, but you can also use Ning, Orkut, Bebo, and others.

Checklist of items to include:

**Website with personal mission statement, your vision, work experience, insights, important links.
There are a number of places that offer easy-to-use free webhosting, with templates. Many colleges and universities provide you with free webspace. Others may require you to develop a website as a part of a master’s or Ph.D. program. If you use your university’s free student web space, be sure to create a mirror site and upload to server space / web hosting that will not go away when you graduate.

Once you have webhosting server space on something like siteground (, you will need a web editing program. One of the most convenient ones around is the Sea Monkey Project (originally Netscape Composer). Then, you'll need an ftp program, such as FileZilla.

**Audio mp3 (optimized) using Garageband, Audacity, etc.
Creating audio content is not as nerve-wracking as you might suppose. It’s mainly a matter of deciding what your content will be, and then making an audio recording. You can use open source programs such as Audacity (be sure to download the lame.dll driver to help you convert to mp3 files). Then, simply upload to webspace that you may have, thanks to hosting packages with yahoo, siteground, lycos, or others. Alternatively, you may wish to use a podcasting service that has a built-in recorder and a built-in flash audio player. In any case, to impress, be sure to do the following

--make sure your recording is clear
--if you read your script, make sure to let it flow
--don’t be afraid to interject personal asides and to make your script engaging and conversational
--provide links to affiliated text(s) or websites that complement the content

**Video (Youtube / ustream)
Being able to demonstrate your ability to capture spontaneous, field-based experiences and then to share them with others is critical in our knowledge economy. Whether you capture video using your smartphone or handheld device, or if you invest in a video camera, the point is the same. Your original videos can be designed for archived viewing (, or to be “live” as a synchronous feed, which you later archive (

Make sure your content is

--engaging and interesting to your audience
--relevant to your overall message or goals
--humanizing – gives your audience a sense of the people and the community behind the names and the links

**Images (professional focus) -- Flickr, Photobucket (
It’s fun to share family vacations, graduations, and goofy pet antics on video and still photos. These are great to have. It is also good to have images and videos that resonate with your professional interests. These images are a wonderful element within your e-portfolio and can make a compelling case that you are pro-active about what you care about. Taking photos and posting them helps get the message across that you are active. Your images and videos show that you’re willing to put out the effort to create a reality around your interests and goals. Here are images to include:

--conferences / professional development events
--imaginative images that illustrate your dreams
--projects you may have created (robots, buildings, scale models, drawings)
--images that convey your core mission and vision

There are pro’s and con’s with any professional networking site, and LinkedIn is no exception. It’s not easy to show who you are in their rather rigid templates. But, thankfully, that’s not all LinkedIn is about. It provides a way for people to find and contact you, and you can give and receive recommendations. Beware, though. Like all social networking sites, LinkedIn can become an obsession. Remember the goal is to achieve your career objectives. It’s not about how many people you can “friend.”

**Archive of white papers (link pdfs)
One of the most impressive things you can do if you’re building a personal e-portfolio is to create a digital repository of some of your research, which could include web searches, annotated bibliographies, research papers, and white papers. Don’t forget to include metatags, and to put key words after your title and author block. They will help you get picked up by search engines. Also, be sure to be consistent with the appropriate style - probably MLA or APA. Also, be sure to put your name prominently on the website, and the date written. You may be surprised how many places will start linking to your white papers. You may even find yourself picked up by Google Scholar!

**PowerPoint (as pdf)
It is a good idea to include presentations in your e-portfolio that showcases your digital competencies. If you want to collaborate, you may wish to take advantage of open source presentation software, such as Zoho Show. Here are a few things to remember:

--convert your presentation to pdf (to make it more difficult for people to use your work without attribution)
--use a pdf converter program such as Adobe Professional, or a free pdf-maker such as Primo
--include metatags as you create a description
--don’t forget your name and date created
--write a synopsis
--include notes for each of the slides

You may be surprised how quickly your presentations will be picked up, especially in image searches.

Granted, Twitter is evolving, and we don’t know where it will take us, or if tweeting is a digital competency, per se. Nevertheless, it’s not a bad idea to include your twitter account, and to make sure to describe your interests so that they align with your professional interests

**Widgets, Scripts, Apps, Mashups
If you like to create applications, or to create widgets, scripts, or other integrated applications and mashups, the e-portfolio is a great place to let people know. If you're using Bebo as your social networking platform, keep in mind that Bebo has a good library of integrated apps / mashups. They also make it easy to create your own.

Putting It All Together
As you start to bring everything together, you may wonder if Facebook is really the right place to showcase your skills. The answer is a bit ambiguous. If you have a personal Facebook account for friends, family, and communication in general, you will definitely need to keep that one intact. Keep your wall open, and let people post.

However, for your professional e-portfolio that demonstrates digital competencies, use Facebook in a very constrained manner. Don’t allow people to post on your wall. Keep the content totally professional. Incorporate the items listed above, and embed html when possible. You may need to prominently display your website, and mirror all your links there, just in case people get a bit lost in your Facebook e-portfolio.

As a final note, be sure to share the digital competencies e-portfolio idea with your friends, and to exchange design, content, application, and “cool stuff” findings. Make it easy to get in touch with you – and clearly post what you’d like to get involved in, and the kinds of jobs, internships, volunteer activities, etc. that motivate you.

The e-portfolio is powerful, and your ability to demonstrate your digital competencies will give you a boost in the knowledge economy.

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