3 August 2011
For university faculty, the tenure process can be daunting, with failure resulting in loss of employment, job security, and promotion. As an educational technology faculty member, I needed a multimedia-supported document that would quickly and clearly show my professional competence, recognition, and service. I also wanted a document that would wow reviewers by showing my mastery of professional technology. Participating in various accreditation reviews as both a reviewer and a lead for organizational accreditation presentation teams had taught me the importance of well-organized, detailed, and presented documentation. But the question was how to collect, organize, and present various media formats — websites, blogs, videos, PDF files, podcasts, Flash projects, Microsoft Word documents, photos, and archived papers — into an easy-to-view, professionally rendered document. The answer for me was Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional. Not only could I show coherent, professional-looking printed materials, but I could also provide individual accompanying DVDs with multimedia links for each of the reviewers.
I had only given Acrobat a cursory look because I had believed it was primarily a tool for secretaries and programmers interested in developing interactive forms and standardized, formatted secure documents. I did know that it could also do bookmarking and indexing and that it might be able to handle various formats, so I took a closer look at Acrobat Professional 8. I found it to be easy to use and responsive to my continual additions, deletions, and editing. I was even able to share it with trusted others for prior review with tracked insertions of suggestions and comments. Since Acrobat is platform independent on 95% of the world's PCs, I felt that even those reviewers without much technical knowledge would be able to view it from multiple locations without assistance.
Acrobat 8 opens with the Getting Started screen, which offers users eight different hands-on learning tasks complete with tutorial links for each. The first box allowed me to create PDF files from my Word documents, such as an existing syllabus and sample learning modules, as well as scanned evaluation sheets and articles published online. Acrobat also allowed me to create PDF files from my blogs, relevant online discussions, and educational websites.
A second box provided quick guidance for combining files that allowed me to add Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and PDF files as well as e-mail to the electronic portfolio. For a dynamic introduction, I used an interactive radio button–controlled PowerPoint presentation, with narration consisting of relevant photos of myself receiving professional awards, teaching classes, and working with students with disabilities in our EditU NSF-funded project. For viewers who were unable to hear the audio, yellow sticky notes were posted to augment the narration. I used Adobe Photoshop Elements software to create a short dynamic slide show of my professional activities as an introduction to the tenure portfolio. Using an Adobe template, I imported a professional-looking table of contents and section-separating pages from Adobe InDesign software.
As the process continued, more and more documentation surfaced, and I continually needed to modify, revise, insert, and delete pages while maintaining an index for quick access and searching. Acrobat made quick work of all of these tasks. Various subheadings were added to the index, and files were easily dragged to more appropriate locations within the portfolio, while page numbers were instantly updated. Since I wanted to show several examples of outstanding student work, I modified documents to cross out student names and other identifiers. With the review function, it was easy to touch up text and images. Over 400 pages were included in the portfolio that was originally submitted. When new materials were published, I easily added them to the master file and recorded and distributed a new DVD.
For me, the most impressive feature that really added a "wow" factor was the ability to add linked video, Flash, and other multimedia files to the portfolio. A video of a “Polar Express”–inspired motion detection animation was an example I wanted to include so that reviewers could appreciate the quality of independent student work. The QuickTime video was made available in the document through a button that activated a narrated image.
I attached another student's Flash project of a virtual aquarium tour for elementary students in the same way. A third student example involved the use of Adobe Captivate® software to teach new College of Education students how to develop a planned program of student coursework. Adding an interactive link for DVD viewers was as simple as adding a hyperlink to a Word document.
Our introductory web page, Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology, was copied and opened in Adobe Fireworks® software so that the text could be changed and minor modifications made to the background images.
The resulting image was used as the cover page for both the printed documents and the opening menu of the DVD. So the look and feel of the documents matched our Adobe Dreamweaver® supported website, providing a consistent professional image for the portfolio summary and the two portfolio supporting binders, as well as the label and cover for the DVD.
Of course, there's no way to know what the results might have been without Acrobat and the other Adobe products, but with the considerable assistance of Acrobat, the Promotion and Tenure Committee decided to "unanimously recommend tenure and promotion." The Final Tenure Review letter also stated that I demonstrated "an outstanding record of keeping the [university's] teacher training curriculum exemplary at both the undergraduate and graduate levels." In both the professional competence and service rating areas, I received the highest possible ratings, and in the professional recognition area that focuses on research and professional publications, I received the next highest rating by "significantly meeting expectations." Considering my short time in the field and the printed publication strength of the senior faculty reviewers in comparison with my own, I was most pleased with this last tenure rating. This statement by one of the committee members serves as testimony to the unique ability of Acrobat 8 as a tool to produce a well-integrated tenure portfolio for numerous discreet and diverse formatted documents and other artifacts: "Frankly, in 24 years as a professor of education, I have never seen a more exemplary coordinated integration of professional competence, professional recognition, and professional service."