Documentation Matters: 30 Ideas for Developing a Portfolio & April 2016 Professional Development

Portfolio Clipart Blog

Recently I was writing a paper to share at the Causality: School Libraries and Student Success (CLASS) Research Summit II. Here is the white paper from the first CLASS Summit. Needless to say, I am excited about participating.

Writing the paper forced me to reflect on how I have and want to make a difference as an educator, researcher, and change agent. I am sharing part of the story that I told in the paper right now. As I think about how I have grown in my career, I realize that while change is constant, there are some things that remain the same. Here is my story.

In one of my positions as a school librarian, I worked in a school that was in dire need of reform. During the summer prior to the new school year, several teachers and I were hired by a new principal to replace most of the school’s old faculty. This is a harsh yet understandable approach to making a significant shift in organizational culture.

Throughout my first school year, I watched as the principal battled resistance while changing the school. One morning, upon receiving a scrutinizing stare from the principal, who demanded to know how I was improving the school, I produced a large portfolio documenting my work. You see, the principal had initially left me alone as long as I produced the morning show and checked out books. I incorrectly assumed this was the extent of the principal’s expectations of me. Fortunately, I had higher expectations of myself and they saved me. While many teachers did not return the next school year, my job was safe.

My portfolio was a detailed record of my extracurricular activities and the classes that I taught. It helped to clarify and illustrate my role. As in this example, throughout my work as an educator, I had opportunities to complete many rewarding projects with my students. I know that I made a difference in their lives. Not only did I have proof from my formal and informal assessments, but the students would also tell me. Yet all of this information would have been lost if I had not placed it in a portfolio.

So as you can see, my work setting has changed. However, the need to document my work remains constant. Each year I still create a portfolio. Then at least once a year, I write a summary of my accomplishments. I reflect on my accomplishments as a means for understanding my strengths and my weaknesses. This reflective process helps me to set my goals for the upcoming year. Because of this, if you have never made a portfolio, I encourage you to start.

There are many ways that you can create a portfolio. For example, in a recent blog post, Hanna Byrd Little shared how she was documenting her experiences with a blog. While I do use EduBlogs and Blogger, my favorite tool for creating portfolios is is also featured as one of AASL‘s Best Websites for Teaching and Learning.

I like because I can password protect the binder, work on it collaboratively, embed most file types, it is free, works as a presentation tool, and is just easy to use. Most importantly, it reminds me of a paper binder. If I want to visualize how a printer version of my work would look, I can design the portfolio in a Live Binder first.

You may be asking what types of materials should you include in your portfolio. I have made an infographic with 30 ideas for you. It is understandable if you are not including all of the ideas on the list. The important thing is to get started. You will never know when an administrator will ask you what you contribute to your school. Don’t be left without an answer. Instead dazzle them with documentation.

You will find the professional development for April 2016 below the infographic. If you have some professional development suggestions that are not on the list, please feel free to contact me.


April 2016 Professional Development

Title: The Big6 Curriculum: Essential & Practical

  • Organization:
  • Date: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 @ 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm EDT
  • Description: In this webinar, Mike Eisenberg and Colet Bartow help educators preK–20, especially teacher-librarians, to design and deliver curriculum and instruction to meet the ICT literacy needs of 21st-century students. Join us and learn how to use the Big6 curriculum approach to provide a clearly defined, predictable, measured and reported program. In addition, the webinar will focus on strategies and tools for assessment, reporting, and gaining widespread buy-in for the program.
  • Link:

Title:  What’s New in Children’s Literature – 2016

  • Organization: InfoPeople
  • Date: Monday, April 14, 2016 @ 2:00 pm -3:00 pm CDT
  • Description: Discover the new books that you can offer to children who use your library, including books that reflect the diversity of the children we serve! Hear about books published in late 2015 and Spring 2016 that will be popular with children ages 0-12. These include board books, picture books, easy readers, transitional fiction, genre fiction for middle grades, graphic novels, poetry, nonfiction, and more! Learn about books that will have popularity with a wide audience of children, and can be used by teachers implementing the Common Core.
  • Link:

Title: Considerations for Selecting Primary Sources

  • Organization:  Library of Congress
  • Date: Thursday, April 14, 2016 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm CDT
  • DescriptionDiscuss criteria for selecting and using primary sources in instruction, including thinking about audience, historical context, and point of view. This webinar will highlight strategies for representing multiple perspectives and addressing difficult topics.
  • Link:

Title: Gathering Student Data to Drive Instruction

  • Organization: Simple K12
  • Date: Tuesday, April 19, 2016 @ 2:00 pm – 2:30 pm EDT
  • Description: Would you like to enhance your instructional activities through data assessments and analysis, as well as create new opportunities for instruction? Join Andrew Fitzgerald as he shares how you can use Microsoft Office applications to do just that! In addition to showing how you can create new opportunities for student learning, he will cover how Microsoft Excel can be used for assessment analysis and explain what you can do with the data once you’ve collected it. Andrew will also discuss how to integrate Common Core State Standards into elective classrooms, along with some music education.
  • Link:

Title: Uncommon Creativity: Using Technology to Work Smarter Not Harder

  • Organization: Simple K12
  • Date: Saturday, April 19, 2016 @ 3:00 pm – 3:30 pm EDT
  • Description: Are you looking for more time in your school day? Join Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert & Master Trainer Tammy Brecht Dunbar, M.Ed., STEM, as she models unusual and creative uses of technologies to make your school day more effective and efficient. Tammy will share how to use free technological tools to help with absent students, IEP meetings, test review, home/school communications and even sub plans! If you’d like to learn tricks on integrating tech in order to work smarter not harder with some great Microsoft tools, don’t miss out on this seminar that will raise your creativity to uncommon levels and save you time!
  • Link:

Title: Incubate Creativity at Your Library

  • Organization: OCLC Webjunction
  • Date: Tuesday, April 19, 2016 @ 3:00 pm – 4: 00 pm EDT
  • Description: The Library as Incubator Project (LAIP) promotes the library as a place to connect and create. LAIP has networked with hundreds of libraries who are working with their communities to incubate and inspire creative projects. They have talked with scores of artists, writers, makers, performers, and other creatives about how they use their libraries and how their libraries can serve them even better. In this webinar, LAIP shares program and project ideas, resources and case studies to turn your library into a creativity incubator. Take the workable, scalable programming and resource framework from LAIP and become a hub for supporting creatives of all types and skill levels in your community. 

Title: Able Young Readers, Healthy Growing Bodies: Connecting early literacy to health

  • Organization: Early Childhood Investigations Webinars
  • Date: Wednesday, April 20, 2016 @ 1:00 pm – 2: 30 pm CDT
  • Description: The recent interest in the link between literacy and health status has identified reading ability as the strongest predictor, more so than factors such as income, race, or educational level. Join this webinar to explore the findings and demonstrate the impact of literacy on the overall health of children, adolescents and adults. Since reading ability can be improved, this webinar will place an emphasis on powerful early literacy instruction. Participants will learn to promote healthy children and support lifelong learning with guidance, support and critical strategies during the early years. 
  • Link:

Title:  Digital Collection Development – It’s Still the Wild West!

  • Organization:
  • Date:  Wednesday, April 20, 2016 @ 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm EDT
  • Description: In this annual review of new developments in eContent delivery, participants will learn about platforms, services, licensing options, new product packaging, spending models, and content availability. The presenter will also review recent research on student usage of eContent, and participants will discuss anticipated changes in evolving patron needs. 
  • Link:

Title: Tech Trends with Tine: Robots & Drones

  • Organization: Texas State Library and Archives Commission
  • Date: Friday, April 29, 2016 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am CDT
  • Description: Robots and drones, oh my! What are they and what do they have to do with libraries? Yes, believe it or not, robots and drones have come to libraries. Learn how they are being integrated into library programs and services. Join this presentation and be prepared to brainstorm about what you could do with them in your library. 
  • Link:

Author: Daniella Smith

Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently the Hazel Harvey Peace Professor in Children’s Library Services at the University of North Texas.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Professional Development, Technology, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. Thanks, Daniella, for a useful way to structure a portfolio. I needed to see this!

  2. You are most welcome. I am glad that you find the information helpful.

  3. Daniella- this was such a wonderful and timely resource. I added it to a padlet discussion on an advocacy website that my colleagues and I developed ( The opportunity to help others understand what you do as a librarian is a key tenant of AASL’s definition of advocacy, and the portfolio works so well as a means for reflection and improvement. Thank you!

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