The next session I am attending is the Google Sites for ePortfolios hosted by Molly Schroeder. I am a big fan of students curating their work and presenting it, in an ePortfolio type format (I wrote about it in my article “Digital Portfolios and College Admissions“) so I’m excited to see what Molly will be presenting. You can check out Molly’s slides here.
Before deciding on your tool, you must decide how you would like the students to use it. For instance, do you want them to:
- Demonstrate Learning
- Demonstrate Mastery
- Showcase Published Work
For example, if you would like to demonstrate learning, then you probably do not want to publish it publicly. You will likely be changing content and it will demonstrate different levels of mastery. If you would like to demonstrate mastery, then you will want to highlight skills and abilities on a set of standards; again you may not want this content public but may want more access (perhaps the school community). The showcase of public work would be more public (perhaps just to members of the community and parents, or perhaps a broader audience) – you are showing off your accomplishments! Sharing considerations should also be age appropriate – for example, you may not want elementary students to have their full name available whereas for college applicants, they should consider a more public profile to build their digital footprint.
Next you should consider the structure and content of your portfolios: documents, presentations, videos, forms, etc. However, you need to think about space and content when using media rich material and understand how it will be inputed: link, embedded, uploaded, etc. Considerations for space as well as presentation are key elements here.
When using these tools, you often have to learn as you go. Learn to be creative and solve problems. Google doesn’t share a lot of instructions, it’s about figuring it out. I personally like this a lot – it’s a reflection of the world in which we live. You are given a problem and told to “return with a solution!”
Molly made some suggestions about how to get students started. One of my favorites was having some established templates from which students can draw. Here are some examples of what she has done for her students. You can also draw from the templates in the Google Library.
There are a lot of features that educators and students can use to stay on top of content: naming protocols, tags, etc. Molly is now walking us through how to create a Google Site with an emphasis of Portfolio curation. As she goes step by step she highlights the need to understand your objectives and intent behind creating it. I also like that she discusses “the look” of the sites (using layouts, etc). Like it or not, people do judge by appearance! We like when things look pretty! She also demonstrates the need to organize different pages in terms of topics and need. The flexibility of Google Sites here is great, but I can also see how it would be intimidating for someone not used to this platform. Having used more robust website builders, I like that Google Sites is much simpler and intuitive! Google Sites allows you to dress up your site as well using images, videos, and more.
If you would like some tutorials on using Google Sites, there are a lot of great tutorials on YouTube. Check out Mike Ravenek’s Google Site Tutorial Series (keep in mind that it’s a bit long!).
Another great feature with using Google Sites is that it integrates with Google Drive. For students using their ePortfolio’s for self assessment and learning, this means that they can directly insert an entire folder into their site (e.g. writing projects for the whole year in a class). You can then choose how you would like it to display (a list, a folder, thumbnails, etc). Again be sure that you have your sharing permissions set properly – you do not want everything to be published to everyone! This is a great time saver (no individual linking)!
Depending on the tools you use to create your portfolio, you may have to decide to embed or link accordingly. I personally like the look of embedding (if you can’t tell), but you cannot embed everything. Your site quickly gets overwhelmed, and not all tools allow embedding. It’s a good way to get students (and teachers) thinking about presentation to a broader audience – how do you best highlight yourself?
You can also embed audio into your Google Site using Google Voice. This is an excellent tool for students working on verbal fluency (speech pathology, foreign language learners, etc). Keep in mind that you cannot edit Google Voice documents, so it’s not a great podcasting tool or anything that you want students to be able to revise.
There are lots of ways to configure and personalize your Google Site (again, check out tutorials on YouTube). You can play with layout, fonts, color, widgets, and more. The flexibility allows for a great deal of personalization as well as branding – you may want your school’s colors/logo or students to be able to choose their own colors/layout and you are not painted in a corner when it comes to how the material is presented and who gets to view it.