Sunday, May 19, 2013

Digital Portfolios in Google Apps for Education

One of our 5th grade teachers came to me a few weeks ago asking about having her students create a digital portfolio that contained highlights of the work they've done this year in her class. Since they were 5th graders, she didn't want anything overly complicated so I initially suggested that she use PowerPoint or Google Presentation for the project.

I created a template that contained a home page and a page for each subject. There were slots to include both text and pictures and all pages contained links back to the main page. You could travel to any subject page by clicking the appropriate link on the bottom of the slide. I thought the finished template looked very attractive and was laid out nicely.

The teacher was very happy with the template and had planned to use it; however, that evening I thought about another teacher who had inquired about portfolios the year before. If the 5th graders created these presentation portfolios and then other classes wanted to do the same, then students would have multiple documents and presentations that they would have to switch between in order to show off their work.

Enter Google Sites

I opened up Google Sites that evening and began work on a template. The idea was to have a header in the navigation bar for 2012-2013 and subpages for each subject. Under the subject page were three additional pages titled Highlight 1, 2 and 3. The student could use the main subject page to talk about how they liked that subject, and give an overview of what they had done throughout the year. The Highlight pages could contain their actual work whether it was directly entered into the page or linked to Google Docs.

Here is a screenshot of the final template:

Once the initial block was created, I continued on and created the same block of pages for every school year up to 2020. It was tedious and exhausting; however, now students have one site in which to put all of their work highlights throughout their entire school career and not have to worry about opening different presentations depending on which year they wished to display.

The benefit to this type of setup is the many ways in which it can be used. Students in grade 6, for example, can host a student-led discussion with the current 5th graders and show them the kinds of work they will be doing the following year. This can also work for student-led parent conferences. Finally, when students are applying to college, they can include a link to the site.

Feedback from teachers has been enthusiastic and very positive. Several teachers will be using the template in the coming weeks so students can begin entering information. Next fall, the portfolio will be more widely used and students will be able to update the pages on designated Portfolio Days.