by Steve Adler
Steve Adler is Learning Systems Integrator for Northern Valley Regional High School District in Demarest, New Jersey. You can get more resources and contact him at his website www.steveadler.net.
When we think of a traditional portfolio used in education, we may think of a collection of related papers, photos, pamphlets, or brochures organized in a folder or binder. Perhaps it’s a collection of materials that we compile over time to reflect progress and achievement. Now imagine if we add an electronic spin to the traditional definition and focus on the idea of a PDF portfolio; one that you could use to easily weave content together in a portable file format to use, share, and print whatever you need when you need it. That is the essence of the Acrobat portfolio.
Electronic portfolios have gained popularity in education as a means of presenting collections of documents and resources. Electronic portfolios can assist in recording and archiving an individual’s projects, interests, and accomplishments over a period of time. They can also be used to compliment professional development and career advancement.
Electronic portfolios also demonstrate one’s competency in technology integration and effective communication by illustrating the author’s ability to create a customized experience for readers. In traditional electronic portfolios an author is usually restricted to a one-size-fits all approach. This may be an HTML, PowerPoint, or MS Word style portfolio, each with its own features and limitations.
The New Acrobat 9 ePortfolio
Think of the PDF portfolio as an electronic wrapper that can house all types of files. Acrobat 8 introduced this concept with PDF Packages. Now with the introduction of powerful rich media support and Flash, Adobe has renamed these packages portfolios to reflect their unique capabilities. Files can be organized into logical collections and linked together in a way that makes it easy to navigate, find, and interact with the contents in a variety of useful and creative ways. What’s even better is that all of this can be shared with anyone using the free Adobe Reader 9. Anyone on any platform can interact, participate, and save changes. (I would clarify what “participate” means here.)
How do I get started developing my ePortfolios?
To begin this process, you need a plan. You will gather and organize your portfolio materials (assets). These assets probably fall into one or more of categories: digital, paper, web, or rich media. You want to prepare and organize them prior to assembly.
Collect as many source files as you can. You can combine and customize your course materials later. You will use these files in your portfolio either in their original format or by converting them into the convenient PDF format. You may want to include legacy documents for your portfolio—(add in a dash instead)paper documents that do not exist in any other form. You will scan these documents and convert them to a PDF right within Acrobat.
Collect and bookmark useful web pages in your browser ahead of time so you can use Acrobat to link to them live or capture them and convert them into a PDF for viewing offline. Each page will be complete with links, graphics, and Flash animations.
Pictures, sounds and videos speak volumes and really enhance your written materials. Collect your movie and audio files and place them in a separate folder for use in your PDF portfolio. You can integrate these media files into your lesson in a number of useful ways. For best interoperability with your rich media files, save them as an FLV (Flash Video) or H264 Video. There are many ways to do this.
Acrobat 9 Pro Extended includes encoders that will allow you to convert your files into these formats. Acrobat 9 Pro allows you to add these directly. For playback of your rich media portfolio, all Acrobat 9 applications, including the Adobe Reader include a Flash Runtime Player, which means a smoother media experience for everyone without the need for additional software.
How do I create my Acrobat ePortfolio?
Choose a portfolio layout and develop a welcome page
How do you want to present your portfolio? Do you want a basic layout or one that is more artistic? Acrobat 9 offers some cool new Flash-based portfolio templates. Choose from a variety of portfolio layouts or create your own using Flash’s Action Script, giving you even more control over your viewer’s experience.
You will want to decide on a welcome page layout that introduces your portfolio and its contents in a way that makes sense to your audience while reflecting your own style. You may want to add pictures, video, sounds, as well as a header with detailed information to your welcome page. Acrobat 9 gives you the flexibility to decide.
What can I do with my content in a PDF ePortfolio?
Lets look at some of the new and improved features that Acrobat 9 brings to the education community and how these enhance, elearning, and communication:
Add, trim, and control rich media
Easily add video, audio, and Flash media (including SWF content from Captivate and Presenter), creating powerful eLearning instruments for instruction and assessment. Imagine being able to include and control your media so that it’s just right for your audience.
Capture web pages and snippets
Websites are increasing in complexity and content. Acrobat 9’s web capture engine has been upgraded to capture modern web layouts more accurately. Entire pages as well as individual portions can be linked or converted directly into a PDF complete with links and media. Web page PDFs save time and reduce the requirements needed to provide web content in the classroom.
Scan and OCR paper documents
Acrobat 9’s Portfolios incorporate scanned source materials that are searchable and crisp using advanced OCR scanning techniques. These scans can easily be re-purposed for use in other projects and are perfect for including primary source examples or artifacts for assessment, archival, and the tracking of performance outcomes used in a variety of educational settings.
Trim and add comments to your videos
With Acrobat 9 Professional, you can add video to existing PDF documents or convert them into separate PDF files right within Acrobat. Assign comments to a specific frame in your video, allowing participants to jump to specific points for efficient discussion, analysis, and collaboration.
Include interactive worksheets and forms and collaborate online
If your portfolios contain eLearning units or administrative meeting packets, then integrating interactive worksheets and forms add real functionality. Acrobat 9 has powerful form recognition and workflow tools that make creating, distributing, and collecting data simple. You can use the free Acrobat.com service to host your forms and data or you can choose to manage your data in-house using shared folders or FTP. You can collaborate in real time or asynchronously. Either way, all participants and users can interact with your portfolios in the way you design. The possibilities are enormous. Here are a few ideas:
- New teacher orientation and welcome portfolios
- Board of Education meeting portfolios
- Professional development portfolios
- Teacher lesson unit portfolios
- Student eLearning portfolios
- Student end-of–year archival portfolios
- Club activity portfolios
- Instructional portfolios
- Lesson plan portfolios
- Best practices archive portfolios
- Evaluative portfolios for staff
- Reflective professional portfolios
- CV and resume portfolios
- Student growth portfolios
- Presentation portfolios
- Assessment portfolios
In this article I have only scratched the surface describing the potential of Acrobat 9 in education and eLearning for schools, colleges, and professionals. From pre-service preparation at schools of education to development of effective communications skills for learners of all ages, Acrobat 9 delivers a unmatched set of versatile tools.