So it’s February. At the start of the school year I set Grades 3-5 off on using Google Sites as their digital portfolios. It’s about time I sit down and reflect on the process.
This was not a formal school policy to use Google Sites, it was something I introduced to the teachers and students to use throughout the year and a place where activities (that were in the past hard to store) could be uploaded and reflected on. They would still have their traditional portfolios being used in tandem but I figured we would trial it and upon reflection at the end of this school year we can implement it as the only portfolio for grades 3 to 5 for next school year. This will go hand in hand (hopefully) with the purchasing of a cart of iPads classes can book out to take photos and videos of pieces of work throughout the year.
1. Organization of a portfolio is very important. Having a separate page for each Unit of Inquiry that we have made a lot of sense. Also having each page as an “announcement” page ensured we could date each entry ala a blog type presentation.
As the year has progressed some classes have seen the need to add more pages for literacy and math. Our PE teacher @PENathan saw the huge advantages of having student’s videos from PE embedded into their portfolio and so a PE page was added. In the first semester Nathan used Youtube to host the videos but as Google Drive added the ability to embed Google Drive Videos into our Google Sites he has been trialing that to see which is the easiest for students to use in the second semester.
2. Using Google Sites suits us as a school as we (99% of the time) write up work on the computer in Google Drive. Simply choosing Insert-Document will instantly embed the piece of work in a student’s portfolio.
It’s very valuable that the original formatting of the documents can be seen in the portfolio and not just a copy and paste which would remove all the formatting.
3. Throughout the year our students create numerous things online which just don’t make sense to be printed out for paper portfolios! With the increased use of web based learning tools there needs to be an online space for these projects to be displayed. This is where online portfolios surpass traditional paper portfolios and why they should become the only way for students to record their learning throughout the school year.
As you can see any web tool worth it’s wait has a share button with an Embed code. Our students have got very used to looking for the “share” button and copying and pasting the HTML code into their post. Without, of course, forgetting to press the HTML button on Google Sites first!
Things To Ponder
Because this was not a mandatory thing to do for teachers and students rather a “thing we should really use as it’s awesome”, the results have been slightly erratic. Grade 3, under @Shaza33‘s leadership, have been the one grade that has really made full use of the Google Sites portfolios. The grade 3 students can embed HTML code from one website into their Google Site in their sleep! Grade 3 worked for a couple of reasons:
- I believe because Sharyn (the grade 3 level leader) understands the importance of the digital portfolios and relayed that to her colleagues the updating of portfolios happened, not only after a major technology integrated activity, but rather any time images, videos, and written pieces needed to be added.
- Grade 3 is where we introduce the major tools we want students to know going through grades 3-5. That means there are a lot of major technology components to their units. This can also be a factor in their well-used digital portfolios. But I think bullet point 1 trumps this point all day long as there were examples of technology tools being used in the other grades but not put in to their portfolio.
The switch to digital portfolios relies on a couple of things: administrator driven goals, technical resources, and professional development/support for teachers. I believe we can make a commitment to have Google Sites as our only portfolio for next school year if:
- we have iPads in place as our primary recording device.
- a firm goal set by administration at the start of the year for teachers and students to achieve in their portfolios.
- a number of sessions on Google Sites for teachers to become comfortable with the technology.
- continued ad-hoc support for teachers and students as they work on their portfolio.
I’m excited to see there we can go with this. Only a number of years ago (and, perhaps, still up to this day) the argument for which platform suited best for student portfolios raged on with no clear winner. In our school, there is no doubt who the winner is. Google Sites is easy to use and integrates seamlessly with the work we do here in elementary school.