Friday, April 28, 2017

Google Sites as Digital Portfolios

Put an end to messy backpacks and binders and document learning with digital portfolios

A scene all too familiar for educators: the teacher asks the class to get out an assignment to turn in for grading and at least one student pulls out a binder that looks like it got hit by a tornado. The student next to her forgot it at home. Another left it in his locker. The teacher sighs.

Is there a better way to collect work from our students in today’s classroom? Does anyone really think that our students look back in their binders to find a packet from earlier in the year?

Enter digital portfolios to the rescue.

This year, my college anatomy class is lucky enough to have access to chromebooks in the classroom daily. After years of trying to help students organize notebooks and binders and determine what is important enough to keep for review later in the year, I decided to test out digital portfolios. I knew it would take some planning and would evolve as the year progressed, but I was eager to help my students become more efficient digital learners. When I introduced it to the class there were mixed reactions. Most thought it would just be extra work. However, as I explained it more, the students were eager to hop on board and test it out.

I decided to use Google Sites, since our school had adopted the Google Suite of apps and chromebooks. It turns out, the students really like it because of the wide range of features, such as embedding flashcards, videos, and slideshows.

My students organize their portfolio by unit to make it easier to find all of the content later on so it is a truly a digital notebook. Each unit must contain all of their original work that they submit for grading, which includes:

*Slide shows from microscope labs including labeled photos taken with digital cameras

*Digital projects for alternative assessments - such as presentations about disorders or videos of songs and tutorials for review of content

*Lab reports

Students are encouraged to add any other materials that will help them to review and document the important content for the unit such as:
*Vocabulary flashcards - embedded from Quizlet usually
*Videos from YouTube or other sources for tutorials on major content
*Notes from class or outlines from text (doc or take picture of handwritten notes)
*Pictures of posters, graphic organizers, or other visuals from class
*Online games for review and mastery of anatomy terminology

To help reinforce the importance of the portfolio, I count it as a test grade for the quarter and also grade their assignments directly from their site. When students are ready to submit it for grading, I have them enter their site URL into a form with a brief comment about what has been added that they would like me to focus on. Feel free to take a look at my form here.

As the year has progressed, I have learned several important points for success:

*Help students see usefulness of portfolio by using it in class and for review
*Grade submitted work from the portfolio to reinforce its use
*Use peer review to help students get ideas from others on how it can be set up

I have also made some mistakes that I have made changes to or will change for next year:
*Give students time periodically during the quarter to work on the portfolio during class
*Periodically check on portfolios so students do not save work until the last minute
*Post a running list of items that students must include and should include
*Create a full working sample for students to see

Overall, I am quite pleased with using digital portfolios. As I become more accustomed to integrating the portfolio into my lessons, the students will also improve the content and how it is used. I will continue with using portfolios next year with all of my classes.

Jennifer Cauthers
Mahopac High School
Mahopac, NY
Twitter: @cauthersj

Jennifer has taught science since 1999 and has been a district technology leader since 2002. She is also a Google for Education Certified Trainer and an Apple Certified Teacher. Her interest in technology started with an MS in Instructional Technology from NYIT where she learned ways to effectively teach technology integration. She has always loved integrating technology in her class starting with using probes for science experiments in the early years to leading a 1:1 chromebook pilot in the last few years. As she delves deeper into a SAMR model of teaching, she focuses on creation tools instead of simply consumption, which includes students creating digital portfolios to document their learning.

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