Category Archives: portfoliostructure

It’s always show time here at the edge of the stage

Spotlight Beam

Most of my experiments with web publication have been experiments with form. My late-and-unlamented blog on Blogger, my Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ presences, even my DS106 blog (which needs a daily create before it starts pining for the fjords) – all primarily attempts to understand tools through their constraints.

So the act of planning the categories for this blog creates a level of intentionality which is unfamiliar and challenging. I think that’s part of the idea of a portfolio, though. Defining a structure makes it real – establishes that there are parts of my professional presence I want to focus on. For that matter, a reflective practice offers the opportunity to notice the structure as it emerges here, in what I share and what I keep to myself.

Sidebar: I’m not understanding implications of the distinction in WordPress between “tags” and “categories”. Near as I can tell, “categories” are big and hierarchical while “tags” are small and flat, and they’re different so that you can have a tag widget and a category widget without either one being “too long”. Am I missing something?

Still, I’m struggling with what to call the categories. So let’s go back a step – who’s the audience for this site anyway? Maybe if I think about who I’m writing for, I’ll think about what the right categories are.

When I say that this blog is a reflection space, and that I’m trying to push myself to explore different ways of reflecting, I’m saying in effect that the primary audience is myself. What would the descriptors be which aid self-reflection? There might be a “reflection” category, which would then allow for subcategories depending on whether I’m reflecting on news, technology, higher ed in general, work experiences in particular…

An “experiment” space would also be a good idea – someplace where I could narrate the things I try out. I suspect part of the value of that category would be writing down the fact that there ought to be something in it.

And then who am I talking to? I might want categories for groups or projects like You Show and Connected Courses – or ongoing groups like CLAMP and EDU-ISIS. Maybe one for “professional organizations” in general?

I’m not tenured faculty, so my work resists the easy breakdown of “research” and “teaching.” There is a split focus between “pedagogy” writ large and “instructional technology issues”, so that might be a pair of categories. (There’s also the tension that there’s a website for my work which needs feeding with similar-but-not-the-same content… though I suppose there’s nothing wrong with a repost, or a link with a paragraph for context.)

I suppose this exercise has accomplished its task – now I’m thinking about the things I could be writing, and how they might best be made visible.

And more importantly, once I hit publish, I’ll give myself permission to go on to the next thing.

Top image “Spotlight Beam” by flickr user Starving Artist, licensed cc-by-nc;

Every one of them words rang true

We had an exciting visit to Kenyon by David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephen, authors of Writing Analytically. (Dave and Jill are absolutely charming and wonderful workshop facilitators; if you’re having a campus conversation about writing you should look them up.)

NotebookOne of their techniques is to have students keep a commonplace book. As a classroom assignment, the students are directed to find a certain number of quotes in the reading to copy into their commonplace book. These might be the most meaningful sentences; they might be the most beautiful; they might be the particular sentences which most grabbed the student’s attention or expanded their thinking. In their technique, the students are also asked to free-write a paragraph or so on why this sentence is not like every other sentence. A class meeting, then, might start by asking a volunteer to read something from their commonplace book – and then another volunteer to respond to that quote – and so on, until the class has revisited a set of seminal sentences from the work… leading into class discussion or another free-writing exercise.

This resonated with me, because I’ve made a couple of stabs at keeping a commonplace book. My most formal attempt was in college, probably inspired by sections of Thomas Merton’s Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. I wanted to be able to quote better, and writing out interesting passages longhand seemed like a good way to practice. I also realize now that it was about practicing close reading – investing my reading with better attention to detail, both to the argument but especially to the sentence-level beauty.

Looking back and forward, I see other attempts. Growing up, my “commonplace book” was actually a Mickey Mouse poster which hung over my desk in my room. I’d never bothered to take it down, but I didn’t really care about it. (This probably started when I was 12 or 14, and way too old for Mickey Mouse, Mooooooommmmm!) And so, when I heard interesting songs on the radio, or good lines from those songs (or TV shows or books), I’d write them on the lower third of that poster.

Of late, I’ve been keeping a list of quotes in my GoodReads account. This is interesting, because it’s performative – my quotes are public, and (on the book and author pages) they’re displayed in the context of other people’s quotes. I can “like” the other quotes already in the database. I’m even asked to rank my favorites and tag them. I like feeling like my quotes are part of a larger project – and yet that reinforces that it’s not mine.

Joe’s quotes


“There are some upon this earth of yours who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name; who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.”— Charles Dickens

And so this is as far as I’ve gotten on the portfolio structure task. One of the things I’d like to do here is to share my work commonplace book. I think it would be fun (and useful) to expose my professional reading, share particularly well-crafted passages, and reflect on then. I might even get around to playing with typesetting… or even making inspirational posters.

If I abandon this project I would be a man without a dream and I don't want to live like that.
-Werner Herzog, from