Archive for March, 2009

Me Dot Net, Part 2

Whereas my previous attempt at an online portfolio followed the guidelines of my school psychology graduate program pretty closely (yet another gigantic binder that, as far as I’m aware, is collecting dust somewhere at Rider University), I wanted to take a fresh approach with this site.  As I considered my three main purposes for the site, I came up with the following main page categories:


Nothing too fancy here; just a quick hello and welcome, as well as an invitation to navigate the site through the tabs above.  One thing I wanted to make sure appeared somewhere on my site was a Creative Commons license – I chose the Attribution No-Derivative-Works 3.0 License,which allows people to use content from my site as long as it is not altered and I am credited as the original author (more on this in the “Portfolio” section).


There are four sub-pages under the About page: Bio, Resume, Portfolio, and Testimonials.  Bio is a few short paragraphs in which I explain my professional background, major areas of professional interest, areas of certification, and, just to humanize it a bit, a few sentences about my recreational interests (soccer, music, etc.).  On the Resume page, I re-created my resume in basic HTML, along with links to current and previous employers.  This was actually more of a pain than I’d realized; due to all the formatting, I still can’t get it to look quite the same in Firefox and IE.  I also included a link to download a PDF version of my resume.

The Portfolio page lists the Eleven Domains of School Psychology Practice as set forth by the National Association of School Psychologists (you may have an equivalent professional organization with similar guidelines to help you organize your portfolio).  Under each domain is a link to download 2-3 PDF work samples.  The samples range from psychological reports to research papers to assorted other bits and pieces that demonstrate experience and facility in each domain.  I was a bit conflicted here; while I wanted to put work samples in my portfolio, I also didn’t want to contribute to any plagiarism.  To that end (for what it’s worth), I licensed my work under the CC license described above and I used an excellent free program called PDFill to watermark every page of every document that appears on my site (except the resume) with “Portfolio Work Sample –” splashed diagonally in bright red font.

Finally, the Testimonials page includes excerpts from recommendation letters and workshop feedback I’ve received.


Links to both this blog and the blog I maintain for my family (once monthly postings, just sort of “state of the union” updates for family who we don’t see very often), as well as a brief position statement on why I find blogging professionally beneficial.


I think most folks would be have a little trepidation about putting home contact info up on a publicly viewable site, so this required some thought.  In the end, I decided to create an email address on the domain that is a) not my primary personal email address but b) would forward all messages to me.  That’s listed on there, as well as my Skype username, eFax number, and Google Voice (formerly GrandCentral) number that is currently set to go straight to voicemail and send me an email alert.


A list of PD workshops I have run, along with suggested run times.  I’ve been informally approached about doing workshops here and there, and I thought it would be good to have the information all written down in one central location.  Next time I’m asked, I’m going to direct the inquiring party to this part of my website.

I was hoping to wrap this series up in March, but I would still like to talk about the “lifestream” portion of the site, and we’re approaching TL;DR territory with this post already.  It’s not at all the most important part of the site, but it is the part that is most visually oriented and what visitors will likely register before they get to any written content.  More on that later this week!

What else would you/have you included in your online portfolio?  Am I missing anything?

Me Dot Net, Part 1

After I purchased the domain name, I sat on it for a good couple of weeks before I actually attached it to a website.  I spent a good amount of time considering what I wanted the website to look like and what information should appear on it, but I didn’t really get anywhere until I framed the question like so:

What purpose do I want this to serve?

At this point, I started getting somewhere.  I decided that I wanted my site to serve the following purposes:

  • Online business card/”point of entry” gateway for getting in touch with me
  • Showcase of my work, both as a psychologist and PD trainer
  • “Lifestream” aggregate of my online activity

Next issue: what format should this take?  My previous attempt at an online portfolio was a wiki.  While this made uploading and hosting downloadable documents very easy (and I’d still highly recommend a wiki as a beginner’s platform), I found that with the external elements I was hoping to integrate (e.g. Twitter, Google Reader stories), Wikidot or Wikispaces wikis didn’t give me fine enough control over the appearance and widgets.  Having already moved this blog over from a hosted third-party company to my own private host back in december 2008, it didn’t take me long to decide that I was going to host my site on my own, and use WordPress as the content management system (CMS).

Skin Deep

Can we agree that looks aren’t everything, but they are important?  Finding an appropriate theme for my site was probably the hardest part of this process.  I wanted whatever theme I ended up with to have the following qualities:

  • Clean – some visuals are fine, but I didn’t want a lot of junk cluttering up the site.
  • Tabs – I needed a way to showcase the different pages of the site, and figured this would be the most expedient way
  • Three column – I wanted to pack as much onto a single pageview as I could, and with the number of widgets I was considering, that meant two sidebars
  • Played nice with widgets – well, duh

After a lot of searching around for free themes, I decided to pay for the Thesis theme.  Lots of options for changing the appearance, and it was really the only theme I found that satisfied all my criteria.

My next post will get into more depth about the content of my site, but I wanted to post here a few preliminary words about the design and physical layout of the site. If you visit, whether you like the design or not, I think it’s evident that it wasn’t slapped together on the fly, but rather I spent some time considering how best to lay it out.  As you construct your online portfolio, please consider the following elements of design:

  • Colors – make sure your site is not an assault on the senses, but rather a nice mix of contrasting colors that makes it easy to read
  • Fonts – will your fonts render on different computers, and in different browsers?  I understand that Arial, Times New Roman, and Courier tend to be pretty safe bets for universally readable fonts (I believe Georgia is the default font in the Thesis theme)
  • Whitespace – large clusters of text are difficult to read on a computer screen.  You’re not writing a term paper; break up your text into smaller chunks (I often forget to do this in blog posts, but I made a concerted effort not to do it on my site)
  • Structure – initially, I had too many pages in the page menu, which made my header look very cluttered.  I had to tweak my theme a little to achieve this, but I was able to cluster a few of those pages together (Bio, Resume, Portfolio, and Testimonials) and create a drop-down menu under the “About” tab.  Now, as you can see, the page menu tabs look a lot cleaner and easier to navigate:

tabsNext time, I’ll take you through my thought process regarding the content of the site, from deciding page content to downloadable files to which widgets are which (also, what the hell is a widget?).

What visual elements do you consider most important in a website that’s meant to represent you?

A Digital Digression, Pt. 2

After shedding my online pseudonyms and assuming my aggressive policy of online identity management, I purchased some domain names that are variations on my real name.   Initially, I purchased Bariexca .net and .com because I wasn’t really sure which one I wanted to use, and I guess I figured I could always let one expire after a year if it looked like I wasn’t going to use it.  I decided to cultivate the .net domain as my online presence and primary form of communication (website, email, etc.), but the .com found a home with the least likely user – my wife.

My wife is about as into computers and technology as I am into rubbing cheese graters on my eyeballs, but for some reason, she decided that summer that she wanted to set up a website for posting her weekly homework assignments (she’s a HS special ed teacher).  After looking at some options, she went with a Tiddlywiki site hosted at Tiddlyspot.  Since I had the .com name already at that point, I offered it to have the URL re-direct to her site, as it does to this day – is a bare-bones, text-only site that serves its purpose, but does nothing flashy, and I think it’s at least a little easier for students to remember “my teacher’s last name .com” as the site to visit instead of MrsBariexca.tiddlyspot/wikispaces/

I focused more attention on – this became the domain name for my homework website, which was hosted at Wikispaces and offered a little more in the way of functionality – in addition to homework assignments, I posted PDFs of articles for my kids to read (thereby reducing my time at the photocopier to a fraction of what it used to be), mp3s of myself modeling Middle English pronunciation for my Honors Brit kids, copies of homework sheets and handouts, links to cool websites, etc.  When I left teaching, I re-purposed the domain as a more family-oriented portal – go to now and you can get to my family’s blog, a family history wiki (well, you will when I put it up), and, a separate third domain I bought to separate my professional stuff from my family stuff.

I’ll discuss the thought process behind in a future post as I swing this back toward the digital portfolio concept, but I want to close by adding that online identity management is more than just buying domain names and using SEO tactics to raise your Google rankings – there must be a behavioral component to complement the technological component.  Better writers could probably do a whole series on that alone, but I’ll try to condense it to one sentence: be smart about what you post online under your real name.  This goes for any online activity – assume everything is publicly accessible, because often, well – it is, even if indirectly so.  Anything you don’t want future employers/current grandmothers to find out about?  Use a pseudonym and don’t post a picture.

Of course, the more you do online, the more “Googleable” you will be, so even if a third party posts something defamatory or unflattering about you, chances are that one item will be buried among links that better represent you (see Lifehacker’s article “Have A Say In What Google Says About You” for more specific tips).

OK, so we’ve covered a) what a portfolio could/should be, and b) how to take control of your “digital identity”, for want of a better term.  Let’s c) if I can wrap this up next time by bringing the two together and deconstructing what I decided my primary online representation should look like.  I invite your scrutiny and counter/co-examples.

A Digital Digression, Pt. 1

Before I continue on about the evolution of my portfolio, I wanted to stop a minute to address what’s often called, for lack of a better term, “digital identity”.  In my estimation, this term can encompass a number of things:

  • anything you have created that exists on the web
  • anything your name is attached to that exists on the web
  • account names at services that reflect your true identity (i.e., not done anonymously or under a pseudonym)

For years, I strove to remain anonymous on the Web.  I was much more a consumer than a contributor; my content creation activities were limited to the occasional message-board posting, so it wasn’t really much of an issue.  However, as I shifted from passive to active engagement with online content/participation, I really struggled with the issue of online identity.  On the one hand, I wanted to establish relationships with other educational professionals, but on the other hand, I wanted to maintain a sense of privacy and separation between my professional and personal lives.

As I got more and more involved in the online educational community, I decided that trying to remain anonymous was going to be a losing battle for me, especially as I became more involved in Twitter and blogging.  Although it might work for some, I was reminded of the old maxim, “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead” – I didn’t think that I could manage some people knowing who I was, and others not, so I decided to go whole hog in the other direction.  Or, as I put it on Twitter last month:


Dean Shareski has blogged on these topics of privacy and digital identity before, and he and I seem to have similar thoughts about both of these topics.  If I was going to be visible on the Internet, I was going to control what people saw of me as much as I could, starting with domain names. Ironically enough, at a time when separation of the personal from the professional was an issue for me, my thought process regarding my professional identity spilled over to that of my family.

I purchased my last name in both .net and .com flavors, which allowed me not only to create email addresses for my whole family, but will also allow me to set up websites with custom subdomains.  If my kids want sites or blogs of their own when they’re older, I can have them set up at or in a matter of minutes (although, as Dean pointed out on Will’s post on this subject, this will have to change if she gets married and takes her husband’s name – huzzah for URL forwarding!).  After some further thought, I later decided to also purchase my whole name as a domain.  I pay about $9 (US) per year for each domain name through

I’ll continue later this week on what one might do with a domain name once obtained, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on this: have you bought your name yet?  If so, any regrets?  If not, why not?  In an increasingly Google-able world, how important is this to you?

My Introduction to Portfolios

My first experience putting together a teaching portfolio was in my undergraduate teacher training program. The specifics elude me a decade after the fact, but I remember that in the year or so between my Junior Professional Experience (think “student teaching lite”) and the end of student teaching, I was required to put together a 3-ring binder full of artifacts that demonstrated my proficiency with lesson planning, unit planning, teaching this skill and that, yadda yadda yadda. By the time I was done, the behemoth I created – a 5 or 6-inch binder stuffed to the gills with artifacts, per the directions from my teaching program – must have weighed 10 lbs.

Even back then, when I knew nothing about interviewing for any type of position, let alone teaching jobs, I thought, “Nobody in his right mind will have the time, or even the inclination, to look through this.” It struck me as a colossal waste of time, energy, and plastic sheet protectors that was done for no reason other than (say it with me, now) it was a requirement of the program.

Despite my initial bad experience with portfolios, I thought the concept was worthwhile, and worth doing better than I had been instructed to do as an undergraduate. Over the course of the next few years, I ended up chucking my portfolio and starting from scratch. The three essential questions I asked myself were:

  1. What specific documents, awards, lessons, projects, or student work examples am I most proud of  as a professional?
  2. How can I organize and present these artifacts in a logical, orderly fashion?
  3. Can I hand the final presentation package to potential employers without fear of herniating them or myself?

Although in following years, my move from the binder to digital format would make #3 irrelevant, the first two items are ones you should ask yourself not only as you first create your portfolio, but as you add items to it over the years.  I was proud of a lot of work I did as a teacher, but I tried to limit the items in my portfolio to 2-4 examples per category.  You may wish to try a “one in, one out” policy to prevent your portfolio from getting overstuffed.

I’ve been on several hiring committees, and I’ve been handed more than a few Moby-Dick-sized binder portfolios.  Trust me, they don’t get read.  Time is often of the essence in the hiring process, and interviewers may only have time to skim whatever you give them.  You don’t write your whole life story on your resume; why would you put a ton of artifacts in a portfolio?

As far as #2 goes, I’m of the opinion that there’s no one “right” way to organize a portfolio, as long as it is organized.  My first portfolio after the Great Purge of 2000 included a table of contents, statement of educational philosophy, a resume, list of references, a few artifacts from each of the three courses I had taught at the time, and a few thank-you cards/nice letters people had written for me.  Not bad for the first year or two of a career, and it all fit in a 1-inch binder with plenty of room to spare.

Portfolios are showcases, not archives, folks.  Regardless of the medium, don’t overwhelm your interviewer with stuff.  Keep it simple and present your best work in a clean, methodical fashion.

As always, please leave your personal experiences, thoughts, comments, disagreements, donations in the comments below.