A return to student portfolios using the New Google Sites

Alas, necessity is the mother/father of invention. With a return to school in the middle of a pandemic, with so much uncertainty about how much in-person time we are going to get together this year, with people coming and going and panicking and chilling, the time seems right to return to using portfolios of student work. But why?

Maybe a better question to answer is: why did I stop using them? I stopped using portfolios because they were more work for less return than I would have liked. Google Sites were clunky and I had to ship out a template portfolio that by nature was pretty generic and I found that since students were doing mostly the same work in each class, every portfolio turned out pretty generic too. Boring to read and tedious to keep up and assess.

But now.

Now we’ve got students staying home. We have students coming into the building. We have students at home and in the building. We are everywhere. We need a place to show off our work that goes everywhere with us. Will Classroom alone work? Of course it will. I can assign, collect, and grade assignments with the best of them and I will. But maybe this year parents and teachers can maybe add a little soul into the experience of online education.

That’s why this summer I’ve been inspired by portfolio users such as Scott Brunner who emailed me based on some of my previous ramblings on this blog (another reason to keep your blog up, folks!). More recently I’ve stumbled across the work of Mike Mohammed, especially this post that I reference in my how-to video linked below.

I’d been looking for a way to replace my lab notebooks that I started using last year, the standard composition-style physical notebook that I really don’t want to touch and have students touch much this year. Portfolios seemed like the way to do it and seeing the work of these gentlemen provided the spark to check things out. The final straw was finding this article by Kasey Bell at Shake Up Learning who invited Mike over for a great guest post. I recommend you read Mike’s original blog and the piece he wrote with Kasey.

The end result was that I stole Mike’s idea for a “Passions” page combined with the Student Portfolio template offered by new Google Sites. I detail the process of making the beginnings of a student portfolio in this vid I shot for my students to use in the next weeks.

We will see how it goes. I know that things will need to change drastically this year, and maybe having one more set of communication tools at our disposal will make a difference. Check back in this space later for updates on our progress and to share your own experiences.

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