I do my best to teach paperless. One of the disadvantages of less paper is that parents don’t see much of the work students do in class. Electronic portfolios virtually eliminate the parent question: What is my child doing in school?
But electronic portfolios have value beyond parent communication, as Jessie Chuang explains in her Educemic post.
This post has two purposes:
- Present a model you can use for your own students’ portfolios. It is critical to know what you want students to present before you begin.
- Provide videos that show you, step-by-step, how to set up portfolios using Google sites.
For a number of years, I struggled with this opening page. I didn’t want students to make it a full “About Me” page because I don’t want them to share too many personal details online. Some students wanted to post personal photos – which led to the discussion of personal safety on the internet.
Other students attached widgets such as fish bowls or basketball games. I asked students to remove those for three reasons:
- The purpose of the portfolio is to present “professional” work. Personal blogs are more appropriate places to demonstrate widgets and other fun items to amuse and amaze their friends.
- Widgets are a distraction to many students. I spend a good amount of time with individual students on how to maximize work time. Basketball widgets don’t help.
- Widgets use a good deal of classroom bandwidth. We don’t want to slow down the internet for others.
Wordle provides a great way for students to share their personalities without sharing personal information. Students create a personal word cloud the first week of school. They then take a screenshot of the picture and attach it as an image to their homepage.
In the past, students copied and pasted their final drafts to individual pages. Then I decided I wanted parents to see (and I wanted to easily see) student work in progress.
First, students attach images of their outlines and their rough drafts. Here is an example:
Students draft writing on Google docs and insert the Google docs into their writing page. When I look at a student page, I can quickly see their stage of the writing process. I can also see comments students are making to one another. I’m as interested in student feedback and suggestions to others as I am to students’ personal pieces of writing.
A couple models work well for this page. Most years I use a class Google Spreadsheet. Each bottom tab is the name of a student. Each tabbed page is editable by only the student and me. Students can insert this spreadsheet into their portfolios.
Other years, I have students keep individual records. At the end of the week, students demonstrate a particular reading skill. The page below illustrates summary but other weeks had character analysis, visualization – whatever the reading skill focus.
I want to see updates. What have students been doing to reach their goals? Can they demonstrate the extra effort is making a difference? If not, how can students change their plans for better success?
Students add pages when they complete projects for other units or classes. In addition to attaching the project, students reflect on the process.
I recently finished report cards. When I struggled with descriptions of student work, I looked at student Google sites and paged through the work so far this year. It was easy to make positive comments about student improvement. It saved me having to shuffle through papers and files.
I haven’t found a quick and easy way to post math progress. But, since most math work is still done on paper, parents see work going home on a regular basis. That said, if you have examples of math portfolio pages, I’d love to see them.
Using Google Sites
For the most part, Google sites are easy to use. I have only two criticisms of Google sites. First, students often have difficulty adding and organizing pages/subpages on the navigation bar. While I can call on student experts to assist other students, the confusion interrupts the efficiency of the publication process. Second, I wish Google sites had a feedburner feature so that changes to student sites were emailed to my inbox. On the rare occasion students choose content outside of the Responsible Use Agreement, I am usually ignorant for a good number of weeks.
Below are some videos to help you get started. Special thanks to my teaching partner for allowing me to share his videos.
What do you include in your student ePortfolios? What publication platforms have you found most helpful?
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