Wednesday, September 24, 2008


GoogleApps for Education

I just left a workshop in an elementary school in a small town in New Hampshire, where a few teachers were learning to use GoogleApps for Education. They established their own domain name for their school, and learned how to manage the site so that it restricts viewing by only those who have an account in their domain. They found that they were able to restrict the "gadgets" that were available for students to add to their Start pages. We recognize that there are growing numbers of universities adopting this tool; I hope that Google recognizes the special needs of K-12 schools who adopt this toolset, with students who are under age 18.

In this after-school workshop, we covered using GoogleDocs on the first afternoon, then we covered Google Sites on the second day. They taught me a lot about how to modify their sites. (I love working with creative teachers; I learn so much from them!) I introduced how to use the Announcements page type in Google Sites for students to create reflective journals (simple blogs). I've already modified my "how-to" page based on my work with them, and set up another site to demonstrate the various examples with all of the "how-to" instructions.

I am now convinced that in GoogleApps (Sites, Docs, etc.) I have found the best free Web 2.0 tool for maintaining an online personal learning environment that can be used for formative assessment in education. Here are the descriptions of the workshops that I am doing in New Hampshire this fall:
Using GoogleDocs to Create Interactive Student ePortfolios –- 1 day in Keene, NH on Thursday, November 20
This workshop will show participants how to use GoogleDocs, available for free on the Internet, to facilitate classroom-based assessment in electronic portfolios. A special emphasis of this workshop will be to focus on creating ePortfolios that meet the requirements of the New Hampshire Educational Technology Plan.

Using Google Apps Education Edition to Create/Manage Interactive Student ePortfolios –- 2 days in Manchester, NH on Tuesday-Wednesday, November 18-19
This workshop will show participants how to use GoogleApps, available for free on the Internet, to facilitate classroom-based assessment in electronic portfolios. These tools include GoogleDocs, Gmail, GoogleTalk, Google Calendar and Google Sites (Google’'s version of a wiki). A special emphasis of this workshop will be to focus on creating ePortfolios that meet the requirements of the New Hampshire Educational Technology Plan.

Labels: ,

Dear Helen,

I am following your blog and your other sites for a while and I also attended a few of your talks at e-portfolio conferences. This post make me reflecting.

I am a computer scientist in the area of e-portfolios and since the very beginning, I am asking myself: what's so special about e-portfolios? What's the challenge? What's the IT ingredient?

A few years ago, people presented personal web pages and declared them as their e-portfolios. I always had a problem with that and considered this approach/attitude as too simple. E-portfolios had to be more from a computer scientist point of view. In fact, if you take a pedagogical definition of an e-portfolio, you'll notice that these people were right and my expectations too high.

So, what does it mean? In the past three years, not much has changed from the IT-Research point of view. We still have no reliable interoperability solution (IMS ep, LEAP2 is somehow promising). Neither do we have an intelligent e-portfolio system that support us in maintaining our e-portfolio, nor is there any multi-device/platform e-portfolio solution that benefits from web services across domains.

Today, I don't see the need for such a high-tech solution. GoogleApps for Education proves it. And this also shows what has changed: we keep using the "same" tools we have been using for several years (blog, wiki, calendar, mail, etc.), but now they are online and they are integrated with each other. These tools allow us, to form something that we call an e-portfolio.

Another key point here is, we can continue to use them after leaving or changing an educational institution. They enable lifelong learning. This is in contrast to other closed popular platforms such as Mahara which is usually installed locally by some institution. Google is central. There is no need to move data.

The conclusion is: The demand drives development. Only those tools that support me in doing my job best, are successful. Be simple, be usable, be effective. Standards or very clever IT-Solutions won't make a big difference.

Taking my experience into account, I must state: a) I tried a few e-portfolio specific tools, but none was sustainable. Today as well as a few years ago, I still use my blog. The blog became the instrument that describes my achievement and competencies best. b) I tried a few platforms, but those that I still keep using are those that are centralized, open, simple, and entertaining (Google, FriendFeed, Facebok, WordPress).

The shift in my understanding of an e-portfolio is: it is not about developing a tool, it is about ways that help me to describe my identity. And this includes a simple web page, too. Concluding, as a result, I am questionning my own computer science research. :-)
It is too bad that in the English language, our adjectives precede our nouns; thus the term "electronic portfolio" puts the form before the substance of what we are trying to achieve (and portfolios are not as well understood as a concept as well as a process). For years, I've been an advocate of using "common tools" for developing electronic portfolios; why not use common tools on the Web? My reasons were simple: make the technology accessible, make the learning easy and transferable, and enable a lifelong process, not tied to any institution or tool.

For the last seven years or more, we have seen a lot of e-portfolio products that have been sold to meet institutional needs, while at the same time, young people flock to free online tools that are more engaging and, as you point out, just plain fun. The challenge today is to figure out how to blend the two approaches, so that institutions achieve their goals while also supporting a process that can be sustained across the lifespan. THAT is the IT challenge!
How did you upload presentations or did you create them here? I have been unable to upload presos because of size limitations. Any suggestions as I want active links.

I believe the limitation on uploading Powerpoint documents is 10 MB. If yours are bigger, you need to reduce the size of your images before uploading.
Hi Helen,

Thanks so much for sharing your Google Apps eportfolio with the world. Please check out my ePortfolio inspired by what you have done at:

We have been using Elgg, code similar to Mahara, as our eportfolio system. While Elgg is an excellent blogging and social networking platform, it still requires a lot of maintenance for our IT personnel and in the end is like the other commentator was alluding to, just a collection of the same tools that Google Apps provides. I cannot wait for our school to get started on our new Google Apps Suite and will certainly be pushing for Google Apps eportfolios.

As an ESL teacher, I can't help but comment on the adjectives preceding the noun thing. I would like to add that language evolves over time and I think that soon enough the term eportfolio will drop the e as more of us associate a portfolio as something electronic in nature, and not needing a special distinction.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]