Tag Archives: Google Sites

Designing the Future of Learning: Personalized Prototypes

The next session I’m attending is “Designing the Future of Learning: Personalized Prototypes” with Payton Hobbs, the Head of the Lower School at Ravenscroft School, and Bryan Setser, from 2Revolutions. This is live blogged, so please excuse typos and poor prose!

One of the statements that is prevalent in schools is “We don’t know what the jobs of tomorrow will look like.” Bryan, however, argues that we do have a view, namely sustainability and technology. Bryan argues that we need to make a shift in designing the learning of our schools and prototyping to build that.

“Design si where you stand with a foot in two worlds – The world of technology and the world of people and human purposes – and you try to bring the two together.” – Kapor

We live in a world where the model of pursuing a college level, elite education leads to careers success. However, the product is very different – kids with 100-200 thousand dollar educations are working as baristas. We need to learn to improve, experiment, and prototype the world of education. This is especially difficult working in an environment with a strong tradition and culture. So how do we approach this? How do we prepare for the next iteration?

Courtesy of Stockmonkeys.com via Flickr

Courtesy of Stockmonkeys.com via Flickr

If you want your school to be innovative, then it has to be a meaningful and objective goal. You have to be prepared to not only accept, but to celebrate failure. Failure is often life’s best teacher.

This is not an easy process! When you get into the nitty gritty and practice, this is difficult! However, there are successes in real life. Google, for example, has its famous 80/20 policy. It also celebrates failure. Check out Google Graveyard to see how many failures they have experienced. Still they remain one of the most successful companies today.

If you look at people’s needs, we can use that information to build a strategy. Crowdsourcing allows us to build objectives and develop a plan.

INdividual Learning Plans (ILP) is a “specific program or a strategy of education or learning that takes into consideration the student’s strengths and weaknesses.” A Digital Learning Plan is an “amalgam of an ILP, student data, and assessment evidence in service of maintaining, adapting, innovating, and producing e-artifacts for an electronic portfolio process.”

At Ravenscroft, they looked at ePortfolios as a way for students to establish a Digital Learning Process that then allows them (students) to brand themselves. Ravenscroft wanted to prototype digital portfolios to increase staff and student engagement. Ideally, this will allow students to own their learning and engage with it more meaningfully. Payton advises that when building a platform for teachers, organization and time are vital. By having the faculty learn by doing, teachers’ became familiar with the ins and outs of digital portfolios and Google Sites. It also allowed the school to streamline their templates. Students shared their Google Site portfolios appropriate, it is right now a private space and not public.

Time, Talent, & Technology

If you focus enrollment structures around time, talent, and technology you will get an innovative structure that works in your environment. Create a culture of innovation and use technology to help solve your tools.

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Google Sites for ePortfolios

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:

  1. Demonstrate Learning
  2. Demonstrate Mastery
  3. Showcase Published Work
via kyteacher on Flikr

via kyteacher on Flikr

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!”

Screenshot of templates from the Google Library

Screenshot of templates from the Google Library

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)!

Another cool tool she features is thinglink that allows you to make your images more interactive! If the interactive features don’t work below just go to thinglink’s website!

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.