mail provided two requests for information about how we create our digital portfolios in class activities. So, I thought I’d share the information I sent them.
I’ve shared this information with numerous academics over the years. Just realized, I’ve never really posted all of this information in one place. Well, aside from our class syllabi.
So, in a very conversational tone, here we go. Critiques and suggests are, as always, appreciated. I’ve pretty much pasted the email I sent below.
“Danger, Will Robinson!” A lot of info follows. Sorry if it is too much. Just sharing bits I’ve given to others along the way on all we do. Note: I’ll first share the paid version. Then, I’ll share how you can do it in a similar fashion for free (or very little cost). Choice is yours. Pros and cons to each path you take.
Domains and Hosting
I have the students purchase a domain name. Best option is try and get their name (it is, after all, their brand), but they can get any name. Then, they purchase a very basic hosting package. I suggest Modwest.com, but any place will work.
Best way to go, however, is to buy the domain and hosting from the same provider – whichever you choose. The reason being, the process for pointing the domain to your hosting is easier that way. Most do it automatically for you. If the students get the domain from GoDaddy and hosting from Yahoo!, for instance, then you have to spend time showing them how to change DNS settings. Well, I’m not aiming to create Web developers / server admins, so I avoid that.
Where do we start?
First thing, they write their resume. Then, they turn each section into one simple page. Most sites wind up with 10 or more pages. Look at PRProspects.com to see the sites from the past few years. I have links there. By the way, I created that site to promote the students. You can do the same for yours with your own blog and/or a free blog somewhere. Hey, the more links out there promoting them, the better.
My students blog at PRblogs.org. It is part of the edublogs.org network with James Farmer in Australia. I set up that site years ago (thanks to James) providing free blogs to anyone that wishes to write about PR. The site is free and, for all those logged in, free of ads, too. Now, there are some ads that show up to visitors that are not logged in, but I’ve found that they are rare. I agreed to that recently to help James cover some of his server costs. I make *no* money off this, by the way. Don’t want to. James gives us access to his servers for free. A very kind man.
Do you have one site that feeds all this student content out to other sites?
Yes. The sites we use to create content for the student portfolios (and their various writing gigs) are many. We have agreements with local media, national media and elsewhere for the students to submit articles and videos. This gives them clips for their resumes/portfolios.
The “launching pad” – for lack of a better term – for all this content is The Loveliest Village.
That is a Ning.com community I pay for ($30/month) to give the students a place to upload videos and then have an embed code to place them all over the place. The Loveliest Village also serves as a local citizen journalism site, again – giving the students the experience of writing, creating video and posting.
Templates for the Digital Resumes / Portfolios
These are free templates and allows the students to learn HTML by editing. Of course, if they want to create from scratch, that’s cool, too.
Video :: How to do that inexpensively?
Video is created using The Flip camera. But, you can use other cameras. My statement to the students is, if you can bring in a .avi or .mpg file for editing, I don’t care what camera you use. We edit the videos with the free Movie Maker software on all Windows based PCs. Students with Macs do it at home with iMovie and various other programs. We keep the videos pretty simple. Straight interviews, sometimes with cover footage / B-roll. Simple titles, too.
Where do you host all of this?
I also have dedicated servers I use for a myriad of other software: wikis, social networks, meme trackers, RSS trackers and more. I realize that most will not go so nuts as I have. ) A good dedicated server costs about $100/month. I have two, now. Dropped one. Hey, I’m a teacher … doing this for fun (and the students), really. I spend over $300/month on all this. Call me crazy. The department provides no support. So, ya’ do what you can. Don’t get me wrong, good people here. Money for this just hasn’t hit the radar, yet.
Classroom Activities / Lessons
OK, I could go on about this for a long time. I’ll post again later with those types of exercises.
As far as the classroom activities, there are many. Let’s just say the students are writing and creating videos/graphics, etc. at least three times a week for various sites. Truly, after the first few meeting days, we don’t talk about this a whole lot. I know that probably sounds strange, as much as I talk about it in public. But, they have their schedule of assignments and either do them, or not. I have an all or none policy regarding points. So, I rarely have students that don’t participate.
Free or Inexpensive Alternatives
So, if you’re looking for free alternatives, you can do these portfolios using free blogs. PRblogs.org is one, but honestly … I suggest going with WordPress.com. Why? They have domain mapping. We’ll likely have it at PRblogs.org soon, but – for now – check out WordPress.com. Same platform, really. Both sites are running versions of WPMU – WordPress Multi-user.
Students don’t have to pay for hosting and only pay about $10 or $15 a year for the service. So, that’s a domain ($10 to $15/year) & WordPress.com ($15/year?) for less than $40/year versus about $140/year for shared hosting and the domain. Details on mapping are found here.
It is easy to map a domain. They give you instructions. GoDaddy has the easiest redirect I’ve found, so you might suggest the students get their domains there for this WordPress.com solution. However, many other services do it, too. WordPress.com just requires you paste in the domain name you want mapped. Really, it is pretty easy.
The down side is, you have less control over design and styles. But, using the “Pages” function of a WordPress.com blog, you can create all the pages we do for our digital portfolios. You just can’t style them with a great deal of imagination. There are some other limitations, but the WordPress.com option is quite viable. Your student winds up with a URL like http://www.studentname.com and, that’s really what we’re looking for, right?
How do students take to all of this?
As for student response to this? Well, at first some/many hate it (and me). Then, at the end, they realize they have something worthwhile So, they learn by building the site in many ways. It is worth it.
OK, I realize I’ve given you a LOT of info here. Scary thing is, this isn’t all we’re doing. I’ll gladly talk with you on the phone or answer your email questions. Hope this helps.
Seriously, anything I can do to help other faculty do this is good. Yes, the more of you that do it – the less of a lead my students have. OK, but let’s look at it as heuristic … or giving back … or contributing to the discipline. Your students will benefit from creating these sites. They have helped so many of my students stand out and get that internship and job. Not blowing smoke on that one, either. ;o)