Initially, I wanted an e-portfolio to demonstrate specific technology skills because I want to shift my business more toward technical/software writing and training. My degrees are not in programming, engineering, or other traditional IT fields. I’ve held technical writing jobs and projects (see Resume) periodically over the past 18 years, and I’ve worked as a trainer and delivered many, many workshops on a variety of subjects. In addition, I’ve been involved with online tools since about 1992. All of that, to me, comes together to move me forward, but I don’t think it’s an immediately recognizable next step to other people. (That is, it’s a hard “sell” to potential clients.)
In December, I enrolled in Jane Hart’s online course in professional learning portfolios in order to gain some ideas about how I could create an online presence that would get me more work in these areas (my planning is here). I didn’t get too far, although I did set up categories about specific things such as WordPress and Information Design. I never quite got to the point I was happy with this structure; I think I’ve concluded that I really want to demonstrate that I can learn to use about any kind of software and that I can effectively help others use it. Literacy rather than a specific tool is the point.
Having to follow the Digital Literacy course’s outline for my e-portfolio was a little constraining because honestly I don’t need to demonstrate (for my work) my writing skills at this stage in my life, so having a lot of words on these pages is less helpful to my goal than the multimedia “artifacts” I have. But the process helped me clarify that, yes, I still wasn’t quite there yet with my structure and demonstration. So in a very Zen way it has helped me progress in creating this portfolio because it made me think about what I didn’t quite want to do.
My next effort, then, will be to figure out how my e-portfolio will emphasize “digital literacy”; some of that will certainly involve tools, but I’d like to find a way to emphasize that the tool I’m using is basically just an example. I don’t want to emphasize “I can use X Tool” but “I can do Y and now I’ll find, learn, and use X Tool to help me do it.”
As a result of many cultural and technological factors, people just don’t read like they used to. They are much more apt to skim a document, whether printed or electronic, to try to gain the information they need. We can ignore this reality and continue to develop written materials that don’t engage people, or we can try to create materials that allow readers to skim easily and gain information quickly. For advocacy organizations, which rely on these materials to help raise funds or elicit volunteers, grabbing a reader’s attention and giving her information is part and parcel of their mission.
Here is an example from the annual State of Poverty report issued by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies. Like any good makeover, I’ll display the “before” example, which is a page spread talking about the definitions of poverty and Ohio’s poverty (this is a snapshot of the 2011 report):
The team at OACAA was aware that the report wasn’t having a desired effect, and they wanted to make it more user-friendly (and thus used). I immediately suggested a structure where all the really pertinent data would be expressed in infographics and supporting tables and charts of data (which other organizations use for grant writing and other activities) would be housed in an appendix. The infographics would all reference the appendix tables for users who wanted to see the base data. Here’s the final (2012) spread that has a similar subject to the spread above:
Which works best for you?(See http://www.editorialpartnersllc.com/services/information-design/ for the complete report)