Developing a domain of one’s own for pre-service educators

Developing a domain of one’s own for pre-service educators

I’m currently a part of a professional learning community (PLC) that is focusing on digital portfolios in our teaching and assessment. As part of this work, we’re moving quickly into thinking about developing a domain of one’s own across a couple of our programs.

In this post, I’ll identify my initial thoughts about the elements, tools and/or learning objects to be included in this space. I’ll also consider how this domain should interact with their work on the course, or program level. Finally, I’ll discuss what work should be transportable out of a course and/or program.

What might this look like?

In the development of a “domain of one’s own” I’m envisioning students in an undergraduate/graduate pre-service teacher ed program building, sharing, and archiving materials over time that would help add to their digital identity as an educator. Please note that this model is designed for individuals that are training to be educators (or instructors) in a variety of settings. As such, I’m thinking that they could build up materials over time, and then when they go out in the world to teach, they can teach from these materials they’ve collected over time. Please also note that this model is heavily influenced by what I wish I would have built in my educational programs. This model may (should) look different for learners in different contexts for different purposes.

To get students started, I would build a template in WordPress and share this as a starter kit for their website. WordPress makes the most sense for me as it is open source and easily portable. These website templates can start in the free version of WordPress and be moved over to a self-hosted solution at a later date. The template would contain the following elements:

  • Home page – this intro page would share a brief overview (one sentence) of the learner.
  • About me – this page or pages would contain a resume, teaching philosophy, and any other relevant links to social media, professional affiliations, and other publications.
  • Blog – this section would include a space for reflective writing, announcement of new (or revised) teaching materials, classroom announcements, newsletters, and/or responses to relevant education and discipline related news/events. As an example, the learner may use this as a space to document work/learning in a MOOC. This might also be used to share links to selected class/program assignments.
  • Teaching materials – this section would contain multiple subsections. These would include lesson plans, unit plans, and resource files. Resource files are themed collections of supplemental teaching, learning, and assessment materials.
  • Other – this section would be determined by the individual user. They would identify other materials that would be of use to their specific population. This might include helpful homework links for parents, links to other professional resources for parents/colleagues, or links to other interests that the student may hold. An example of this would be a student I had in the past that maintained a cooking blog. She linked to this space from her “teaching” domain.

How do we start?

For my target population (pre-service teachers) I would build this as soon as they begin their program. I know that this raises concerns about FERPA law, and that students are to be given the opportunity to learn and make mistakes. I would start building this at the beginning and routinely add, edit, revise, and delete materials over time. The learner, course instructors, and program coordinator can identify meaningful points/activities to share online to serve as a growth curve assessment.

Throughout the first class/semester in which this is built, attempts need to be made by the learner and the course instructor to quickly build up the template listed above and a minimum of 10 to 15 blog posts. The reason for this large initial influx of work is to build the writing (online content construction) habit and skillset of the learner as they start this space. The learner should develop their voice and tone as a writer/blogger while identifying the purpose, audience of their site as they modify design aesthetics.

How do we add to this space?

After the initial course in which this is launched, it is assumed/hoped that programmatically this would be used as a common thread to save and archive student work and reflections over time. One easy way to address this is to mandate that at least one piece of work in each class in the program should be shared to the learner’s domain. On the program level, each course in the sequence would identify this “common shared learning experience” that would be shared/archived on the learner’s domain. In this goal would be to develop some sort of consistency of expectations and outcomes for students across sections, classes, and the program.

Once again, these materials would be shared openly on the learner’s domain and the blog feature used for reflections/announcements of shared materials. This would provide opportunities for students to look at assignments (writing samples, reflections, unit plans, lesson plans, resource files, etc.) and reflect or possibly even revise these over time. An example of this would be a student writing a philosophy statement at the beginning of the program and then re-writing this at the completion along with a reflective blog post indicating what changed and why. This could be accompanied by a series of assignments throughout the program in which the students could create videos or multimodal remixes of this philosophy statement or linking it to other course/program materials.

What do we export out?

Throughout the development of this domain of one’s own, the learner is routinely adding, modifying, revising, and deleting content from this space. This domain is to be viewed as evidence of learning over time. It is also preceded by a series of course meetings, group discussions, formative/summative assessments and other learning activities that may (or may not) show up on their site. As a result, the learner is steadily building up their digital identity as an educator over the life of the program. As they leave the program, they can take their domain and use this as a portfolio to use on the job hunt. They can also use this as a teaching resource throughout their career.

It is hoped that by building this habit into the program, learners will view this as a necessary part of the profession. They will continue to share their materials openly online as open educational resources (OER). They will share these materials using Creative Commons (CC) licensing to allow others to use, remix, and share their work. Most importantly, they will use this facet of their digital identity as a means to model and guide students as they develop their own identities online.

One of the last elements I’d like to discuss is the topic of “ownership.” This question was asked by a very bright student in one of my classes and I think it should be addressed here. She first asked why students should build this as soon as they start the program. I believe that I addressed this earlier in this post. Her second question focused on how much the university/college “owned” of her work. In this she was asking how much institutional branding should be placed on the domain. It is my belief that no branding or ownership of the domain should be assumed by the institution. I believe that the learner should indicate in their posts and pages the fact that they are learning, and there should be some understanding of growth and/or learning in the assembled materials. The learner can also make the decision if they want to indicate the specific institution, or program of study on their presented materials. Finally, as the learner moves on from the program and institution, they maintain the right to continue to add, modify, revise, and possibly delete all aspects of this domain if they so choose.

Please note that this is my opinion about ownership and how the learner should be treated in these circumstances. I do not think this should be used as a means to advertise for the program and/or institution. It is the responsibility of the program and/or institution and responsible faculty members to openly blog, market, and “shout from the rooftops” the good work that is being done. This is exactly what I’m doing in this (and other posts). I think this space should be an archive of learning over time that displays student agency and authorship. This is, after all, a domain of their own to do with as they see fit.


If you like more posts like this, you should definitely subscribe to my free weekly newsletter in which I educate, empower, and advocate.


Image CC BY-ND

Also published on Medium.

19 Comments Developing a domain of one’s own for pre-service educators

  1. aarondavis1

    I was listening to Kin Lane and Audrey Watters discuss Domain of One’s Own the other day and they argued against WordPress. Instead they suggest using Jekyl/HTML. I wonder how many people are put off becuase of the over complication of WordPress? Really want to explore the Jekyl idea now.

  2. DeVere Wolsey

    I like that you’ve projected this preprofessional domain of one’s own beyond the preparation program and into the job search and professional practice phases of the teacher-to-be’s career.


Leave a Reply