Creating digital portfolios on iPads using Google Sites: it’s doable!

This year the eLearning leaders at our school were asked to find a “cost-effective” way to allow students to create digital portfolios (ePortfolios) that can be exhibited during the school’s end-of-year exhibition. Evernote was definitely considered as an option, but the cost of the premium account was a deterrent. Additionally, we wanted something that can easily be viewed on the Internet to help with the portfolio assessment process and to share with parents.

I have always been a big fan of Google Tools, and I’m an even bigger fan of Google Sites. However, the Google Sites interface is not the most iPad-friendly, and uploading attachments requires a slightly longer process and a lot of patience. But, it’s feasible!

I noticed that on Twitter, the whole discussion about ePortfolios for iPads does not mention Google Sites at all. Surely, there are more iPad-friendly tools like Evernote, Three Rings and Easy Portfolio. But our school is a Google school, and so all our staff and students have Google accounts, that’s the first reason we decided to choose Google Sites. Secondly, building an ePortfolio on Google Sites will not follow the same process on the iPad as it would on a laptop/desktop computer, as there is no ‘hard disk’ on the iPad from which you can directly upload the artifacts to be exhibited. That presents challenges, but I still insist that it is doable, so long as teachers & students are patient and keep an open mind.

The combination of apps our students use to build those portfolios includes: Pages, Keynote, ShowMe, iMovie, Notability, Google Drive iPad app, and Safari. Any document the students have on Keynote or Pages can be uploaded directly on Google Drive through the iPad app, and I ask them to ‘open in Google Drive’ as a PDF (because it preserves formatting). If the students have a video on iMovie, it can be exported to the Camera Roll and then uploaded on Google Drive through the iPad app, the same with any photos in their Camera Roll. If students have work on ShowMe, it can be uploaded onto their ShowMe.com profile, and then the ShowMe can be ’embedded’ directly into the Google Site by using the embed code. If students have any annotated PDFs on Notability, they can be similarly exported to the Google Drive iPad app. I think that pretty much covers all student work!

Basically, I tell my students to upload one artifact at a time, and then create a Google Document in which they will write up their reflection on that artifact. Once all artifacts are uploaded, and the associated reflections are written up, students then must change the sharing setting of these artifacts and reflections to ‘anyone with the link…’ and ‘can view’. Each artifact is then hyperlinked in the Google Sites ePortfolio, and the associated reflection is embedded right under it.

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Here are the detailed written steps of this process, followed by some video how-tos:

Detailed Written Steps:
1- Create a folder in Google Drive (through the iPad app) called ‘Portfolio Items’ or ‘Portfolio Artefacts and Reflections’.

2- Choose the artefact you want to upload, whether it is a Pages document or a Keynote presentation and ‘Open in Google Drive’ as a PDF. You can also directly upload pictures or videos from your Camera Roll onto the Google Drive iPad app.

3- Once an artefact is uploaded onto Google Drive, rename it so you can easily identify it later, and then create a new Google Document where you will write up the reflection associated with that artefact. Give that Google Document a name similar to the artefact but with the words ‘reflection on…’ at the beginning.

4- Repeat steps 2 & 3 for all other artefacts you wish to upload and reflections for each artefact.

5- Once all artefacts are uploaded and each artefact has its own associated reflection, log onto Google Drive through Safari.

6- Select the artefacts and associated reflections and change their visibility (through the ‘sharing’ button) to ‘anyone with the link…’ and ‘can view’.

7- Open the artefact you want to add to your Portfolio from Google Drive and copy the ‘hyperlink’ to it.

8- Go to your ePortfolio on Google Sites and click ‘edit page’ and type a sentence that explains what the artefact is.

9- Select a part of that sentence that you want to ‘hyperlink’ and click the ‘link’ button at the edit bar, then paste the link to the artefact from Google Drive as a ‘web address’ Remember to select ‘Open in a new window’.

10- After you have hyperlinked the artefact, the next step is to embed the associated reflection. Click ‘insert’ at the top of your Google Site and select ‘Document’ from the menu of options. You will be taken to your Google Drive Documents and select the required document.

I published these steps and the videos on this Google Site for the staff and students’ reference: iPad Portfolio How-tos

I would like to clarify that I am not arguing that this is the ‘best’ way of creating digital portfolios on iPads, or that it is more superior to the other options like Evernote, Three Rings or Easy Portfolios. I am merely arguing that schools who might be in similar circumstances to our school can choose this as an option, and that while the process on the iPad is not as intuitive and the interface is not the most iPad-friendly one, it’s still DOABLE!

The year 8s & 9s will have a very melodramatic term!

Last term, the year 8s and 9s did Commedia Dell’Arte. This blog follows that specific group’s journey because they are the group with whom I trial my new units of work, as they were the first group in the school to take drama as a subject with a curriculum created by myself. This blog allows me to document their learning progress (and my teaching progress) and also reflect on my lessons, units and tasks. Last term’s unit of work on Commedia Dell’Arte was a huge success, and the students enjoyed it a lot.

When I was planning the unit of work for this term, I had lots of different ideas. I was interested in exploring horror as a genre, directing skills, and script-writing as a process. However, I decided to focus on the process by which the director and actors stage a play. In all other previous units of work, the students would write up their own scripts and performances. So I decided to give them a new experience: staging a play based on a script written by someone else. This will introduce new steps to the process of character-analysis and character-development.

I started searching for simple, cheap/royalty-free scripts online. At first, it didn’t really matter what the genre was. But over time, I thought maybe melodrama as a genre would flow naturally from Commedia Dell’Arte (which they did last term) and Slapstick Comedy (which they did the term before last). In both the Commedia and Slapstick units of work, students were encouraged to exaggerate body language and actions, and explore status relationships. In melodrama, exaggerated actions and dialogue is a key feature, and the students are exposed to different character relationships: villain, victim, hero, sidekick. Also, melodrama is a genre that we can all relate to because we come across it very often on TV and in movies!

I found a couple of Melodrama scripts online that were simple, fun and easy to perform: ‘Love, Sick and Montezuma’s Gold’ and ‘Truth and Consequences’, both by Daris Howard (I purchased them from Amazon for about 99cents each!). Since the plays are only performed in class for educational purposes, it falls under fair use of copyrighted material. I decided to select small excerpts from each play, get the students to use these excerpts to analyze and develop character, then write up a beginning for that scene-excerpt, and an ending. The students will then create masks for their characters, rehearse their scenes and perform in front of the class. The audience will provide feedback for the performers, and then each performer will write up a detailed reflection and evaluation. This is a lengthy assessment task that will last about 7-8 weeks, and will be used to assess all four MYP arts criteria.

The MYP Area of Interaction for this unit of work is ‘Human Ingenuity’ because it follows the highly creative process by which a performance is made alive from a written script. The Significant Concept is: The process is just as important as the product, and the MYP Unit Question is: How does the quality of the process affect the quality of the final product? I decided to focus a lot on the ‘process’ as many of my students tend to pay a lot of attention to the final performance that they neglect a big part of the process which is the documentation of written evidence (in their rehearsal logs, for example) and the ongoing reflection and evaluation. Therefore, this unit of work was created to give students the new experience of performing a script written by someone else, to expose students to a new genre which is melodrama, and to highlight the importance of significant steps in the process leading up to the performance that students tended to neglect in the past.

During this week’s lesson, the students were given this student handout to introduce them to the unit of work and the weekly plan, and also to encourage them to set three personal learning goals for this term. After that, I used this fantastic one-page script-excerpt to introduce the students to melodrama and brainstorm the features/elements of melodrama (I found this script-excerpt as a part of a year 7 Melodrama unit of work on this website). We read the script-excerpt once together, then I asked some students to dramatize it in front of the class. After the dramatization, we had a quick brainstorm on the whiteboard to highlight the features of melodrama as demonstrated by this script-excerpt and other melodramas that the students can identify from TV shows and movies.

Image credit: CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons