Dear TCEA Responds:
Our fourth grade students piloted creating their own ePortfolio sites this past school year and we were so excited with the results. The kids loved creating a forum to showcase, reflect on, and own their learning. The new Google Sites is just so intuitive and easy to learn. We’ve decided to roll out ePortfolios for all our students in grades 2 through 12 this upcoming school year and are ramping up an implementation plan to do that.
We really want to create an initial template for students that sets a structure and then lets students customize to make it their own. I was pretty shocked to find out there’s no way currently to create and push out that kind of template with the new Google Sites. I’ve checked on the Google for Education forum and received confirmation on that. I’m wondering if you’ve found a way around this limitation?
Thank you for sharing your story about creating ePortfolios with the new Google Sites. I also love the new Google Sites and have been using it to share my own resources. Let’s take a quick look at the main points in your request.
New Google Sites for ePortfolios
For others who may be thinking about using the new Google Sites for student ePortfolios, be sure to check out these videos on how to set one up. They will provide some information you may find helpful.
- New Google Sites for Schools via Eric Curts (@ericcurts)
- New Google Sites as an ePortfolio via John Thomas
- How to Use the New Google Sites for ePortfolio via Jeff Bradbury (@teachercast)
Even though these how-to videos are great to watch, as you have discovered, Pat, the new Google Sites does NOT quite yet have all the great features you need to manage multiple student ePortfolios.
Pushing Out a New Sites Template
While there is no current way to make a copy of a new Google Sites site, the program does make it easy to embed a variety of Google documents, including YouTube videos students may have created, and Google Forms directly into a new Google Sites page. At the time this blog entry was written (07/19/2017), Google Sites only allows you to duplicate pages. This means you could setup an ePortfolio site with a standard look and then duplicate the pages (such as a student ePortfolio template page) for each student. Again, Google Sites has not yet made it possible to provide page-level permissions to individual students.
Tools like Site Maestro (join the Google Plus Community to stay up to date) are not yet able to interact with the new Google Sites. This is because the new Google Sites lacks integration with any add-ons. This prevents the Site Maestro folks from building integrations.
HyperDoc That ePortfolio
“HyperDoc is a term used to describe a Google Doc that contains an innovative lesson for students — a 21st century worksheet, but much better,” says Lisa Highfill (co-author of The Hyperdocs Handbook). She goes on to say:
With one shortened link, students can access a lesson that contains instructions, links, tasks, and many clever ways to get kids thinking. Focusing on creating opportunities for choice, exploration, and ways for kids to apply their knowledge is key to creating a truly innovative HyperDoc.
So what can you do if you’re set on rolling out the new Google Sites for students as an ePortfolio solution? Why not blend in hyperdocs as a way to scaffold student creation of ePortfolios? Here is one example from the Digital Portfolio website. The main benefit is that you facilitate students using a hyperdoc that is customized to match what you want students to highlight. Since a hyperdoc is stored in Google Drive, you can use Google Classroom to distribute it to students.
Workaround Steps for Google ePortfolios with New Sites
Create new Sites for individual students that may be too young to do so and then have students (of any age) create their ePortfolio pages in Google Docs. These Google Docs (or Slides) can contain videos, audio file links, photos, and more. Then these documents can be embedded into the new Google Sites.
Here are some recommended steps you can take:
- Have students create their own new Google Site, or the teacher can create one and then transfer ownership to the student
- Students rely on teacher-created ePortfolios hyperdocs that they can build on
- Have students link their hyperdoc’d ePortfolios to their new Google Sites
Students can also create a master list of ePortfolio documents to a table of content Google Doc that can later be embedded in a new Google Sites.
Ready to Get Started?
Are you ready to get started with the new Google Sites as a student ePortfolio solution? Plan ahead and be sure to scaffold student ePortfolio contents with hyperdocs. Finally, make sure to model linking to Google Drive documents and the embedding of content (like YouTube, Sheets, Docs).