Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Using Google Sites as ePortfolios with Middle School Students

It's been awhile since I've blogged. I have excuses, but mainly, I just haven't made time for it. After starting a new job and a new country, I am beginning to settle, and there have been many motivations for me start again. My colleagues are blogging and asking for advice. I attended an educational technology workshop last Saturday and met many other teachers interested in tech integration. I've been connecting with them and my new colleagues on Twitter again.

And then @lfrehlich asked me:

I realized it was time to get back to it!

First I'll start with the why. Why are we using ePortfolios with middle school students? The effort at our school has been teacher led. Teachers want to replace traditional portfolios used for student led conferences with digital portfolios. They want to help students collect their best work over the course of the year. They want to prepare students for a world in which they will send college admission committees a link to their work and who they are as a student. They want to teach good digital citizenship and how to have a positive digital footprint. Yes, I work with great teachers; I am fortunate!

So, what are we going to use for eportfolios? We recently adopted Google Apps for Education. We wanted to stick with Google as much as we could to simplify things. So, we decided to go with Google Sites. We've created a fairly simple template as a starting point. We're thinking about long term and we'd like the portfolio to go with them to high school.

I created the following step by step guide to help our students and teachers go through the process of setting up their eportfolios. Still, it has been time consuming to get to every class and help set this up. It has been taking about 45 minutes of class time to get everyone going. Some of that time is lost to slow internet. When we're up and going, though, we should only have to set this up with our new 6th graders at the beginning of the year. Also, we are looking at a product called Google Teacher Dashboard which we think has the ability to automate some of this. We are going to start a trial of it soon.

We are at the very beginning of this process. We started with a few classrooms wanting to do eportfolios. Through discussion among teachers, it has expanded to every language and science class in 8th grade. It will be a good test to support a whole grade, and students will see some connections between classes. Teachers seem genuinely excited to have students start posting major projects into their eportfolios. I think it's great that teachers will see what students are doing in other classes as they look at the portfolios. This is sharing at its best.

Future questions for discussion include: What do we have students put in the eportfolio? How can we use it as an authentic assessment of student learning? How should our school approach the privacy issues so we can open our student eportfolios and blogs to the world and gain a global audience?

How about you? Is your school doing eportfolios? What tools are you using? What have been your successes and challenges?