How to customize Google Sites for Google Apps Eportfolio (or other purposes)

The saga of making my eportfolio using Google Apps continues.  I am using Google Sites for the presentation part of my eportfolio.  I was happy with my artifacts and reflections on my Google Site but I thought all the themes were kind of lack luster. It was time to add a creative, aesthetic element to my Google Site.  Here's how I did it:

Google Sites Announcements as Blog for a Google Apps Eportfolio

I have been creating an eportfolio using the google apps suite and especially google sites for presentation of my learning artifacts.  Currently, I am trying the announcement page tool in Google Sites to see if it can be used as an acceptable blog for eportfolio formative development. It has good basic functionality but I would like it to incorporate an rss feed for porting to other sites.  We are currently using Elgg as our Eportfolio solution and for blogging it is superior.  It allows tags and make its possible to have community blogs which is nice for a getting a broader view of student learning and for more institutional wide summative assessments. It also is excellent for exporting different parts of the blog.

This Announcements tool is however very easy to use and students can get right into it and start keeping notes and collaborating with their teachers and perhaps peers. Placing something like this right on the home page of their Google Site would demonstrate their learning process. Having an outside blog, such as blogger, imported via rss with a google gadget is another solution but it may get too technical for students and instructors not familiar with rss and make viewers have to go all over the place to review artifacts that should be easily accessible on the student site without having to anywhere.  So in sum, not portable, does not have a broad social element where everyones post can be seen at once and grouped according to tag or community, but it has the basics and is ideal for collaboration.


Google Apps Eportfolio System

For a quick example of a Google Apps Eportfolio click here.

I was recently very excited by a rumor suggesting Google Apps was coming to our school. We are currently using Elgg software, a similar code to Mahara, as our eportfolio system and it has been successful in terms of blogging and establishing learning communities, but has not entirely caught on as a platform for demonstrating and assessing learning through the curriculum. The Presentation Tool in Elgg Classic, which supposed to tie blogs, files, and other learning artifacts together makes a simple not too appealing list without user friendly navigation. The new version of Elgg has Pages which may be better for presenting artifacts and reflections but still does not tie everything together in an ideal fashion. While I will be sorry to lose the community blogging feature of Elgg (thinking of moving to Blogger but it only allows 100 authors, Google really needs to integrate a blog in the Apps suite) I can't help but be excited about the possibility of using Google Apps as our eportfolio platform. The great thing about Google Apps is there is less need to deal with the technical side of servers and updates and backups, and more time to be productive with easy to use integrated tools and all in the same place with a single sign on.

Google Sites, basically a wiki, provides a great tool for presentation of artifacts and reflection and can be adopted for formative assessment. The great thing about Google Apps is that it allows for collaboration. You have the option to share any of your docs, spreadsheets, calenders, presentations, and sites. Google Sites in particular has a convenient place at the end of every page to leave a comment or attachment. I can easily foresee a teacher student dialogue guided by a rubric resulting in successful formative assessment all within a students eportfolio site. Previously I stated that Google Apps does not have a blogging tool, but within Google Sites, which is part of the suite, there is an announcement page that could easily be used as a journal of sorts.

After reading Dr. Helen Barrett's posts about Google Apps as an eportfolio and reviewing her creation, I gave it go. I already use a lot of Google's products so it was easy for me to integrate them into a Google Site. Please check out my work in progress.