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Using Google Sites to create e-portfolios for students

by Kelly Walsh on October 18, 2009

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Is Google’s “Sites” application the solution we’re looking for?

Following up on last week’s initial look into free tools for students to create and host an electronic portfolio of representational work, this week I am trying out Google Sites as a possible solution. Google Sites provides a free application for creating your own web site. Let’s see how effective it is for hosting an e-portfolio.

 GoogleSites

The basic process I followed to create my Google Site
So, what did it take to create an example portfolio site with Google’s tool? It starts with a Google Account, which is quick and easy to create (and provides access to a wide range of tools beyond Google Sites). Click here to access the page for creating a Google Account.

Next, choose the Google Sites option (under the “more” menu from the main Google page, or just go to sites.google.com). When you get there, click the big “Create Site” button. This takes you to a page where you name your site, choose who can see it, and select a theme. Unfortunately, you can’t control the URL, beyond the suffix (your site will be located at “sites.google.com/site/the_name_you_give_it”).

As you get started with the actual design of your portfolio site, you can choose to remove the Header and the Sidebar navigation menu and just use HTML to create the navigation structure, to get a site that lays out almost entirely based upon your coding, or you can leverage the built in menuing tool to facilitate navigation. In any case, it was pretty easy to figure out how to create your own pages and relate them to each other. 

I spent a little over an hour creating this simple example of an e-portfolio site. I was easily able to imbed videos, upload and display images, and provide links to external work. The result may not be very pretty, but I don’t pretend to be a design expert – I am sure others more talented than I could create a more attractive site (here’s an example of a more professional looking site created with the application).

One important limitation I noted with Google Sites was that Java scripting was not allowed, so it is clearly limited in terms of it’s use for hosting a portfolio of web design examples. On the other hand, it is well suited towards structuring and laying out a site focused on displaying examples of a wide variety of work – pictorial, video, text, music, and more. The results are unencumbered by ads and other clutter.

Conclusion
Google Sites seems like a great tool for students to create electronic portfolios of their work. I need to run this solution by some faculty members and our Career Services team to see if they agree, but I am confident they will.

The main limitation that the application presented was that it doesn’t look like it will work for web programmers who wish to display sites with any level of complexity (such as Java code or other more involved coding). There are many relatively inexpensive hosting sites on the Internet, where web design students can host their own URL and display web design techniques. Next week I’ll take a look at various options for those types of students.

As always, comments and feedback are welcomed. Feel free to offer any thoughts, experiences, and insights you might have about this topic. Thanks!

[Ed Note - I just stumbled across this page, set up by Dr. Helen Barrett, focused specifically on using the tool for e-portfolios. Among others things, it includes a link to this video that demonstrates how to create an e-portfolio with Google Sites.]

 

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer, and an adjunct faculty member, at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Class Workshop in a Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Angelica Paniagua September 8, 2011 at 8:06 pm

I just run into this post. I am an ICT coach at the school that I work for. For more than a year we have been using google sites to teach students how to create a portfolio on line and it works prety well for our needs. When the class assignment involves an electronic creation, students from sixth to ninth grade post their work in their portfolio, and the subject teacher can review it there, without the need of leaving a USB with the work or sending the file by mail; students insert google documents and graphic files (fireworks, Gimp creations), embed presentations and movies (keynote, powerpoint, or iMovies that are converted to youtube videos), and insert all types of files. The portfolio has a navigation page for each one of the subjects, and subpages for each one of their works (which the students create). They also have RSS feeds to each one of the teachers’ account, to be aware of weekly plans and homework. Everything in one single place. All the teachers have access to the portolio address through the school’s website, so just go to the groups where the student is, click on the name, and there they are.

K. Walsh September 27, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Hi Ellen -

Foliospaces looks pretty cool. The idea of Google Sites was that as long as you’re willing to create and organize the pages where you would put links and copies of electronic materials, you could create an eportfolio for free (with a good deal of flexibility), and keep it as long as you wish.

Thanks for mentioning foliospaces – I’ll have to give it a closer look.

Ellen Marie Murphy September 27, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Google sites seem very limited in a number of ways, including that a new site has to be created if you want to created a portfolio for other purposes and/or different access. So, for example, if you want to have a blog of your internship that you wish to share with your advisor, and a blog that is a literary review for english, you’ll need to create a separate site for each of them. Then, you can’t easily pull posts from either of your blogs into a professional site with which you might wish to share selected pieces of work with the public.

Google sites seems to foster a disjointed view of a persons work–controlled mostly by access. Are my observations incorrect?

Have you checked out foliospaces (which uses Mahara)?

Gwinnett County Private Schools October 27, 2009 at 6:19 am

I love this idea, even for middle schoolers! Thanks for the inspiration.

K. Walsh October 19, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Dr. Barrett -

Thank you for this feedback. I am delighted that students at The College of Westchester will have the opportunity to benefit by using Google Sites to create e-portfolios, and it was made possible in part because of your research, your slide deck, and your example site. Thanks for your enthusiastic work on this topic!

Helen Barrett October 19, 2009 at 11:51 am

See this resource:
ePortfolios with GoogleApps developed by Dr. Helen Barrett
http://sites.google.com/site/eportfolioapps/

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