Thursday, January 2, 2014

Using Google Sites to Create Digital Portfolios

Before going one-to-one, I have always wanted to create online portfolios with students but did not have the ability to do it because of limited lab time.  Last semester (Pre-Chromebooks), I did have my Drama class create a digital portfolio for a monologue project that we worked on and share with class in Michigan. On a side note, if you have not tried to collaborate with another class in another region, state, or even country, I cannot say enough about how great this experience was for my students!

The Monologue Assignment involved creating a Google Site, providing some background information about themselves, draft and create a monologue, and then perform that monologue.  During this process, students peer-edited with the Michigan class and made comments on their videos afterward.  While we were limited with the amount of class time that we had to work online, my students were very creative with their projects and enjoyed working with an audience outside of our high school.

To evaluate the students' websites, I used Screencast-o-Matic to provide feedback and guide them with making a website that was professional and user-friendly.  For many of my students, this was their first time creating a website.  As a result, we had many conversations about what it means to be professional and how the "real-world" would perceive their work.  In addition to developing students' 21st century skills, sharing their projects encouraged them to provide feedback others through digital means.  The more they read drafts and watched final performances, the more they were able to reflect on their work.  This metacognitive process encouraged students to talk about how they could improve their work in the future. Also, students were able to address how the skills used during this assignment could be used in the "real-world".

This coming semester, I hope to expand the ideas behind this project in my Speech class.  As students are continuously writing speeches, performing, and reflecting, I hope to help them build a portfolio that demonstrates their strengths as communicators, showcases their work, and encourages them to engage in self-disclosure in a very digital world.  In addition, my hope is that creating a digital portfolio in their high school speech class will help them to be better prepared for the college Speech/Communication course that they will inevitably have to take at the collegiate level.

As I reflect upon the reasons to create digital portfolios, I have come to the conclusion that digital portfolios provide a place to...

1. Organize Student Work.

On the first day of class, I plan on taking a class picture and will use ThingLink to create a place to organize student website URLs.   Then I will have students upload their work for each unit onto separate pages.  I will create a template for them to follow, making organization easy for both them and me.  Having one image with links available to everyone will making creating and assessing these portfolios more manageable.  In addition, students will be able to navigate to their peers' pages and learn from their strengths as well.  Organization is crucial when teaching in a one-to-one classroom, and modeling organization to students can help them develop their own organization system as well.

2. Share Work With Real-World Audiences.

When work is online, it is accessible to anyone with the link.  Students will be able to view each others' portfolios throughout the semester and can share their work with others outside of the course.  Especially when parents or mentors are the subject of a speech, these online portfolios will be a great place for students to pass their work on to those who matter.  While I do not have a class lined up to collaborate this semester, I hope to find a class to collaborate with at some point this semester to provide the same experience that my students had last year to this upcoming set of students.

3. Monitor Student Growth/Progress.

When work is organized in one location, it is easier to recognize the improvements made throughout the semester.  In a class that has a strong emphasis on performance, keeping videos of speeches and reflection documents in one place allows students to continuously review and reevaluate their strengths and weaknesses as speakers. It is my hope that students will use these portfolios to monitor their own progress throughout the semester.

4. Practice Using Important 21st Century Skills.

Being able to navigate Google Apps and create a website are important skills that future employers will want students to be able to do.  By practicing creating and sharing their work through digital means will encourage students to refine important skills. In addition, sharing their work online is a part of the new Common Core State Standards, which require that students"use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products" (CCSS).  Creating a portfolio in class not only align with CCSS, but it also provides students a safe place to practice and cultivate technology skills for academic purposes.

5.Practice Creating a Portfolio.

In a recent graduate program, I had to create an extensive online portfolio to demonstrate my knowledge.  Students will most likely need to create some sort of digital portfolio in their post-high school endeavors either as a means of demonstrating proficiency, or they may even create portfolios a way to apply for future careers.  The more practice they have in this process, the more prepared they will be for obtaining careers and other opportunities in the future.

Digital portfolios can be used for a variety of purposes and in a variety of ways.  I am excited for the opportunity to work with students every day on creating one for my senior-level Speech course, and I am hopeful that this will be a meaningful and growing experience for us in 2014!
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