Archive for the ‘Portfolio’ Category

Latest Greatest Hits

Happy Labor Day, and Happy New (School) Year’s Eve for many of you!

I’m actually writing this post in early August in anticipation of being pretty overwhelmed and without much time for blogging in early September, between starting my new job and heading down the final stretch of my dissertation journey.  Since I haven’t posted a rerun updated my “Damian’s Favorites” post category in awhile, I thought I’d link some of the items I’ve recently added:

Resume, Cover Letter… Blog?: My thoughts on how an online presence is at least useful, if not essential, in getting yourself a job in education these days, as well as my own story and some outlining of how and why I do what I do.

300 Miles: The more I learn, read, and hear about the importance of goal-setting, the better I realize it’s not just buzzy edu-jargon but (if done well) an essential tool in making progress.  This is one such example.

Don’t Break the Chain: More on meeting goals, but focusing on the journey there and how one comedian set himself up for success.  Simple and silly as it may sound, it has helped me enormously in my efforts to complete my doctoral dissertation.

What Will They Remember? #FergusonThoughts inspired by the death of Michael Brown and your students’ responses.  They will remember how you made them feel.

Whether you start tomorrow or you’ve been back for weeks already, my best wishes to you and your students for a fantastic 2014-2015!

Resume, Cover Letter… Blog?

Justin Tarte recently wrote about the limitations of resumes in the hiring process and the role personal blogs and websites can play therein, particularly as portfolios of our professional learning, thinking, and activities:

I would like to see more prospective education candidates get their thoughts ‘out there.’ I want to see more college education students documenting their learning progression and learning journey. I want to be able to take something they have written and shared and then talk with them about it during a phone or face-to-face interview.

My advice to the job-seeking educator?  DO IT.

Toward the end of my last grad school go-round, my university was preparing for NASP accreditation, so all graduating school psychology students were required to create portfolios with artifacts demonstrating proficiency in each of the eleven domains of school psychology practice that would be evaluated and then returned to us, ostensibly to take on job interviews to demonstrate how great we were to prospective employers.

For most of my classmates that meant putting together these gargantuan, 5″ three-ring binders stuffed with thirty pounds of paper.  I, however, being the paperphobe forward thinking individual that I am, decided to digitize and watermark my documents and organize them in their own section on my website.  This way, I reasoned, I could provide each interviewer with a web address and let them peruse my site on their own time before my interview, instead of trying to navigate a War & Peace-sized binder while they’re trying to interview me.

This was exactly how the interview for my current job played out.  I ended my cover letter with the following:

I look forward to the opportunity to meet with you to discuss my qualifications for this position.  In the meantime, please feel free to view samples of my work at my online professional portfolio,

I was then interviewed by three administrators, one of whom had my site up on her iPad, exploring it and asking me questions about its contents throughout the interview.  I don’t know how much the portfolio had to do with me getting the job, but a) it certainly didn’t hurt, and b) with my NASP portfolio, a short bio, list of professional affiliations, and a link to my blog, it provided the interviewers with a much more multi-dimensional picture of their candidate while demonstrating my technological savvy.

Some folks keep a separate blog and website (like me); others have everything at one central site.  Either way, I agree with Tarte that some sort of professional digital presence is almost always going to be beneficial to the applicant.  I would even take it a step further and suggest that we all invest in purchasing our own domain name; they can be had for around $10 per year, and some domains tend to come even cheaper (e.g., .us, .co).  I own my last name in both .com and .net flavors – my wife uses the .com for her class blog and we use the .net for our family’s Google Apps setup. acts as my online portfolio as well as a central hub for my online identities – right on the front page, visitors can see at a glance:

  • a picture of me engaged in some professional activity
  • my Twitter feed
  • my last Foursquare checkin
  • my Goodreads “now reading” shelf
  • articles I’ve shared via Delicious
  • links to my last ten blog posts

With the exception of Foursquare (I just like how the map looks, tbh), these items all lend some kind of insight into what I am reading, discussing, or thinking about in the world of education.

You don’t need to build your site from scratch or self-host your own blog to use your own domain name, either.  Most major blogging platforms allow you to set up a blog and then use your own custom domain name (some charge for the privilege).  If blogging’s not your thing, use a service like Squarespace, Weebly, Google Sites, or any one of the dozens of free website hosting services to put together a clean and simple portfolio showcasing some of your best work.  I host my files directly on my own webspace that I pay for, but you could also upload everything to Google Drive, mark them as public, and share links directly to the document on your site.

Resumes probably aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, especially in a field as firmly rooted – for better and/or for worse – in past practice as education, but with a simple text link (or QR code if you’re feeling fancy) to your online presence, yours can serve as the jumping off point to a much clearer picture of what you have to offer a district and its students.


I’ve written about some of these ideas before.  For more on domain names and digital identity, see here and here.  For a slightly-outdated-but-still-reflective writeup on how I developed the first iteration of my current website, see here, here, and here.

What’s Good for the Goose

Amidst the seemingly endless parade of art projects, desk clean-outs, and partially depleted school supplies that have been coming home over the past few weeks, my son brought home a portfolio of his work from his Gifted Support program.  My wife and I sat down to look at the contents this weekend and, of course, were very proud of both the quality and creativity of the work, as well as the progress our son has made over the course of the year (especially with regard to his handwriting; he’s definitely my son in that regard).  As a point of reference for the reader, my son was in second grade this year.

Beyond my son’s work, however, what impressed me was the structure and the content of the portfolio assignment; i.e., what the teacher asked the students to do, both in terms of class activities and their own reflection on the learning process.  Among other things, I noticed evidence of ongoing reflection, particularly on using different strategies to solve problems.  There were multiple references to Paideia seminars, as well as discrete examples of how to generalize skills learned through these units into everyday situations.  Clearly, both my son and his teacher did a lot of thinking about thinking and learning this year, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Where I get a bit tripped up is wondering how many students in the general education setting, who don’t have the benefit of this sort of instruction outlined in a GIEP, get that kind of metacognitive approach to learning?  I don’t necessarily mean in my son’s district, but across the board – why are we limiting this beneficial instruction to a subset of students?  I’m glad my son has that exposure, but really, could that not benefit all students, not just those labeled as gifted?

I also wonder how the overall instructional model will change, if at all, in third grade next year, when my son and his classmates will take the PSSA exams for the first (but sadly, not the last) time.  I have no reason to believe it will impact my son’s Gifted Support program, but I’ll be interested to see if/how the shadow of this test impacts his general education classroom experience.  Will there be fewer projects and more skill drills?  What percentage of the year will be comprised of practice tests?

I don’t really have any solid answers to offer in this post; it’s really me just spilling some of my thoughts and concerns.  They’re not even about my son’s district in particular, but more about the state of education in general.  It’s one thing to think and write about this stuff from a professional perspective, but there’s another layer added to it when not only your profession and livelihood, but also the educational well-being of your own kids, are impacted.

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

Chance are slim to none that you’ve been reading this blog as long as I’ve been writing it (though I’d love to be proven wrong!).  With that in mind, I thought I’d kick off October with some reruns a look back at some of my personal favorite posts from the past four-plus years I’ve been at this.

Also, welcome to any new folks who are just discovering some new blogs for the new school year.  I hope you stick around and share your thoughts in the comments!

Schools: Your Friendly Neighborhood ISP? (Aug 2007)

If we are going to commit to instructing not only students, but administrators and parents, too (as folks have suggested elsewhere in the edublogosphere recently), should schools commit to providing community Internet access and education, especially in communities where folks may not even own computers?

Individual Accountability in Group Work (Jan 2008)

It’s not perfect, but it’s by far the most objective, data-driven approach to grading participation I’ve ever taken. I can’t take full credit for this, as I distinctly remember getting the basis for this from someone in the Twitterverse (sorry, can’t remember who), but I did flesh it out to suit my needs.

Open Letter to a New Teacher (Jun 2009)

It turns out that an aspiring teacher came across my resume via Google and decided to call me to ask for some advice on resources she could look to in order to prepare for her first year of teaching.

Leadership Day 2009 (Jul 2009)

Whenever I have spoken about these experiences, formally or informally, I make it a point to credit Mr. X as integral to whatever degree of success my students experienced via these projects, not because he had any hand in implementing them with me, but because he did four things that I think any supervisor would do well to emulate:

Does Gender Matter? (Aug 2009)

My wife was the first to point out the gender differences in the administrative teams, and I’m wondering if she’s on to something.  This piece from Inside Higher Ed (May 2007) posits that the differences between male and female leadership styles in education are becoming less pronounced (based on a study of community college administrators), but I wonder if that can be generalized to the K-12 sector.

Text Messaging and Executive Functioning (Mar 2010)

While I’ve been utilizing SMS & email reminder systems in my personal & professional lives for years now, I’m certainly not the only one. In fact, multiple studies have shown SMS reminders to have mostly high (but admittedly varying) degrees of efficacy in increasing desired behaviors, including:

  • adherence to medical treatment schedules (Jacobson & Szilagyi, 2005; Kollmann, Riedl, Kastner, Schreier, & Ludvik, 2007; Liu, Abba, Alejandria, Balanag, Berba, & Lansang, 2008; Strandbygaard, Thomsen, & Backer, 2009;  Hanauer, Wentzell, Laffell, & Laffel, 2009)
  • attendance at doctor & specialist appointments (Downer, Meara, Da Costa, & Sethuraman, 2006; Koshy, Car, & Majeed, 2008; Chen, Fang, Chen, Dai, 2008; Foley & O’Neill, 2009; Kruse, Hansen, & Olesen, 2009)
  • participation in exercise regiments (Prestwich, Perugini, & Hurling, 2009; Prestwich, Perugini, & Hurling, 2010)

If none of these do it for you, please feel free to peruse the category of blog posts I have labeled Damian’s Favorites.  I’ve found this is a good way to keep an easily-accessed portfolio of what I feel is my best stuff, and if you blog, I encourage you to do the same as well!

Me Dot Net, Part 3

After having covered the graphic design (as it were) and written content of my personal digital portfolio, I’d like to wrap up this series with a look at the “Lifestream” portion of  I guess there was never much debate in my mind over whether or not to meld this (more or less) personal part of my life with the professional.  Since I started blogging and involving myself in educational circles online almost two years ago, I feel like those lines have blurred so much that it felt natural to include this information.

You’ll notice that the headings all follow one of two formats: “What I’m ______” or “Find Me ______”.  The English teacher in me thought it important to have some sort of parallel structure going on to give a sense of cohesion to the lifestream, while still allowing each part to remain separate (no offense, but I’ve always thought those “everything and the kitchen sink” lifestreams a la FriendFeed looked a little too cluttered to be useful).

Find Me Online

findmeonlineI used the DandyID WordPress plugin to create a “business card” of sorts with link to my other most frequently used online presences (Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Shelfari, and Twitter).  Saw no need to overdo it here with every single account I have; just a “Top 5” selection (DandyID is required, natch).  Before I got this plugin, I just used text links, but I liked the little icons.  Sue me.

Find Me Offlinebrightkitewidget

Some might not feel comfortable with this (understandably so), but the geek in me just thinks it’s really cool, so I included it.  Richard John developed this plugin to display your last check-in location at BrightKite.  This plugin was a bit raw in that it’s straight-up PHP, but it was good for me to get “under the hood” and learn a little bit about coding in the process (I had to make all the customization tweaks at the code level; no GUI for this plugin).  I appreciated the learning opportunity, and once I figured out how to make it do what I wanted, I was very pleased with the result, not least because it’s the ONLY plugin I found that could do what I wanted with a minimum of fuss, bells, and whistles.  Richard, I’d link ya here, but your website appears to have gone away, along with the location from which I downloaded this plugin.

Find Me On the Gosmswidget

QuickSMS allows visitors to your site to type a message into the box (as the 160-character counter ticks down a la Twitter) and send you a text message (SMS) without knowing your mobile phone number.  I currently have an unlimited text plan on my phone, so I’m not concerned about racking up charges, but if that ever changes, I may reconsider having this here.  To be perfectly honest, there’s no real good reason for this to be here other than I think it’s cool.  I’ve only received a few texts from this method, all from friendly sources.  Again, if that changes, down comes the box.

What I’m Thinkingtwitterwidget

Twitter has become such an integral part of my own learning over the last two years that I knew I had to include some reference to my account.  I use Twitter Tools, but there are a ton of similar plugins out there you can use.  I have mine set to omit any “Replies” I may send (messages starting with an @).  I think that, direct conversations notwithstanding, my Twitter stream tends to be a nice mix of professional observations, personal minutae, and links to relevant articles (OK, maybe the picture above isn’t the best representative sample).

What I’m Reading (Offline)shelfariwidget

I use Shelfari’s widget (create a Shelfari account for details) to display whatever book I’m currently reading.  Right now, I’m about 200 pages into Moby Dick (and they just got on the boat!).

What I’m Reading (Online)greaderwidget

I’ve really enjoyed using the Shared Items feature of Google Reader to collect and display articles from my RSS feeds I find relevant to psychology and education (general and special).  If I come across an article elsewhere online, the Shareaholic Firefox extension allows me to send that story to my Google Reader Shared Items list with just two clicks.

What I’m Writingblogwidget

How can I put up a website to represent myself and not mention my own blog?!   I just used the standard WordPress RSS widget to display items from this blog’s feed.  Visitors can click on any link in the list and be taken directly to that blog post here.  I also sort of “hijacked” the RSS button that the Thesis theme places at the top of the page – and by “hijacked”, I mean “replaced the nonexistent RSS feed from with my blog’s feed”:

blog-rss Visitors to my site can subscribe to this blog in their reader without even visiting the site.

What’s Next?

I didn’t really think I could spend a whole month on this topic, but here I am, 4 weeks and 7 posts later and all tapped out.  What do I hope to do with this site?  As I mentioned a few posts ago, I certainly would like it to come up high in the rankings when people Google me (which happens more often than I’d have thought, according to my traffic monitoring plugin).  It’s also a way of “hanging out a shingle”, as a friend put it to me last summer, for my entry into the world of professional development training.  Not that I’m planning on having to job hunt anytime soon, but if/when I do, it will be nice to be able to direct potential employers to this site in a cover letter (I also include the URL in the most current version of my resume, right alongside phone number, address, and email address).

As much as this has been good for me and my own reflection process, I hope it has also been helpful to some folks out there who are either considering putting together a portfolio-style online presence for the first time, or simply re-vamping/re-branding an existing site.  As always, I welcome your comments and questions.