The Google ePortfolio

At Hawaii Tokai International College, a new breed of Google ePortfolios is being developed, one that is grounded in student learning outcomes, requirements, formative assessment practices, and security, yet allowing for creativity, educational development, and free design. Using Google Apps for Education including Docs, Google Video, and Picassa to collect learning artifacts and Google Sites to reflect and present what has been learned, a small private community college in Honolulu, Hawaii invents an innovative, next generation ePortfolio system with world class potential.

The Google ePortfolio, Institutional Mission, and Student Learning Outcomes

When deciding how to implement the Google ePortfolio examining the institutional mission and corresponding student learning outcomes can lead to insight. Ultimately, all institutional, departmental, faculty, and student ePortfolios should have a cohesiveness that represents a school. Without emphasizing what the institution stands for and its educational goals, it may be difficult to explain the purpose of the ePortfolio, and cause ePortfolios at the institution to seem generic. At Hawaii Tokai International College, all learning artifacts are intended to tie to student learning outcomes such as Oral Communication, Cross Cultural Awareness, and Creativity. SLOs are published on the main ePortfolio portal, and examples of class ePortfolios are demonstrated for students to understand how artifacts are related to outcomes. For example, the YouTube channel for Speech 151 is featured and tied to the Oral Communication outcome. This explicit connection between ePortfolios and student learning outcomes gives the project purpose and reminds everyone involved what it means to be part of the college.

The Google ePortfolio, Multimedia, and Web Design

Once a framework is established, it is important to design the ePortfolio portal and sample ePortfolio pages with carefully selected and engaging multimedia. In an age where visuals are just important as text, the leverage of Google Apps and it sister programs make it easy to mesh graphics, blogs, pictures, videos and whatever you can imagine into a creative work. Using Google's Picassa for image hosting and slideshows, and YouTube and Google Video for the moving pictures, it is a breeze to embed multimedia that is representative of SLOs into a Google Site. Making the ePortfolio of ePortfolios page attractive will motivate students and faculty to transform their own ePortfolios into aesthetic works. You don't need to be a fancy big city graphic artist to design a nice Google Site. The tool itself has many ways to alter appearance. Yet the best designs may come straight from class. Art classes, field trips, special events, and pictures of smiling students and teachers can tell an engaging story and even make a good logo. The logo at Hawaii Tokai features photographs of the running club, a field trip to Oahu's North Shore, a service learning project, and a student posing lovingly in front of a poster of Shakespeare. Getting the multimedia to look attractive and symbolic of the school will make it a project everyone wants to get involved with.

The Google ePortfolio, Blogging, and Reflecting on Learning Artifacts

Student blogs and reflections all play key roles in the Google ePortfolio at Hawaii Tokai International College. Students at the college have been blogging for the last two years as a requirement for HTIC's first generation ePortfolio running off the social network platform Elgg. In the Google ePortfolio, students using Google Sites get their own personal web space to keep records of what they experience and learn. Google Sites allows students and faculty to create a special kind of web page called Announcements. This works just like a blog and headlines can be inserted into other pages of the Site. Blogging is a key feature for keeping an ePortfolio a dynamic work in progress and a vehicle for cross-curriculum and even life-long learning. In addition to keeping digital journals all artifacts added to a Google Site must be accompanied by a reflection. The Hawaii Tokai ePortfolio encourages students to add artifacts that are not just representative of their best work, but that show progress over time. By including the best and worst of their work, students can write more meaningful reflections and paint a picture of their educational development.

The Google ePortfolio and Formative Assessment

Blogging and reflections play well into formative assessment. Here again the Google ePortfolio provides powerful tools for sharing and collaboration. Comments can be left on any blog entry, or web page of a Google Site. Students can share their Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations and Sites with peers and faculty simply by entering an email address. Sharing has two levels of permission; collaborators have editing rights, and viewers may only see changes. Google Sites also allows users to subscribe to page changes and site changes so that notifications are sent via email. All of these features make it easier than ever for faculty and students to provide feedback and meaningful comments as the ePortfolio develops. At Hawaii Tokai International College, students and faculty use these features in ePortfolio designated classes. Faculty follow student blogs and comment on their reflections. They also work together to decide what to collect in terms of learning artifacts. A rubric has also been adopted for the HTIC Google ePortfolio and is published on the main portal for faculty and student guidance.

The Google ePortfolio at Hawaii Tokai International College shows promise of a new breed of ePortfolio, one that reconnects the institution to its mission and student learning outcomes while at the same time keeping true to student development, creativity, cooperation, and life long learning.


Google Apps for Education: ePortfolio Privacy and Intellectual Property

Moving forward at our community college with our pilot of the Google Apps for Education as an ePortfolio has brought up concerns of privacy and intellectual property among our faculty. A general uneasiness with the internet and privacy stems from a perception of the ePortfolio as a public showcase. While indeed Google Sites, part of the Google Apps suite, can be used as a public showcase of artifacts and reflections, it is important to emphasize that all aspects of a Google Apps ePortfolio is by default private until a user decides to share. Even then, there are options to designate viewers, collaborators, and finally to publish on the internet.  These options  can apply to every artifact, be it document, video, or even site.  It is essential that faculty understand these sharing and publishing options to put concerns of a student exposure on the internet at ease.

The company policies of Google also shed light on faculty concerns about confidentiality and intellectual privacy.  As can be seen from the agreement below, the customer owns all intellectual property rights in customer data.  Similarly, all confidential information is treated as such except for when the law requires disclosure. 
  1. Confidential Information. 

    • 6.1 Obligations. Each party will: (a) protect the other party’s Confidential Information with the same standard of care it uses to protect its own Confidential Information; and (b) not disclose the Confidential Information, except to affiliates, employees and agents who need to know it and who have agreed in writing to keep it confidential. Each party (and any affiliates, employees and agents to whom it has disclosed Confidential Information) may use Confidential Information only to exercise rights and fulfill obligations under this Agreement, while using reasonable care to protect it. Each party is responsible for any actions of its affiliates, employees and agents in violation of this Section.
    • 6.2 Exceptions. Confidential Information does not include information that: (a) the recipient of the Confidential Information already knew; (b) becomes public through no fault of the recipient; (c) was independently developed by the recipient; or (d) was rightfully given to the recipient by another party.
    • 6.3 Required Disclosure. Each party may disclose the other party’s Confidential Information when required by law but only after it, if legally permissible: (a) uses commercially reasonable efforts to notify the other party; and (b) gives the other party the chance to challenge the disclosure.
    • 6.4 The Admin Tool and Third Party Requests. 

      • a. Admin Tool. Google will provide the Admin Tool only as a part of providing the Service. Customer misuse of the Admin Tool is considered a material breach of the Agreement.

        Third Party Requests. Customer is responsible for responding to Third Party Requests. Google will, unless it is prohibited by law or by the terms of the Third Party Request: (a) promptly notify Customer of its receipt of a Third Party Request in a manner permitted by law; (b) comply with Customer’s reasonable requests regarding its efforts to oppose a Third Party Request; and (c) provide Customer with the information or tools required for Customer to respond to the Third Party Request. Customer will first use the Admin Tool to access the required information, and will contact Google only if it is insufficient for Customer’s needs.
  2. Intellectual Property Rights; Brand Features

    • 7.1 Intellectual Property Rights. Except as expressly set forth herein, this Agreement does not grant either party any rights, implied or otherwise, to the other’s content or any of the other’s intellectual property. As between the parties, Customer owns all Intellectual Property Rights in Customer Data, and Google owns all Intellectual Property Rights in the Services.
    • 7.2 Display of Brand Features. Google may display only those Customer Brand Features authorized by Customer, and only within designated areas of the Service Pages. Customer may specify the nature of this use using the Admin Console. Google may also display Google Brand Features on the Service Pages to indicate that the Services are provided by Google. If Customer wants to display Google Brand Features in connection with the Services, Customer will comply with the Trademark Guidelines.
    • 7.3 Brand Features Limitation. Each party may use the other party’s Brand Features only as permitted in this Agreement. Any use of a party’s brand features will inure to the benefit of the party holding intellectual property rights to those Brand Features. A party may revoke the other party’s right to use its Brand Features pursuant to this Agreement with written notice to the other and a reasonable period to stop the use.


The Social Network ePortfolio - A two year pilot with Elgg ends

It looks like my school is moving on to Google Apps and Google Sites for our ePortfolio platform. But before I dive into the new and promising system, I would like to reflect on our experiences using Elgg(the classic code) as an ePortfolio.

Elgg and the ePortfolio project at Hawaii Tokai International College did not catch on very quickly. Just trying to get students to fill out their profiles and upload their avatars was a challenge especially since our department is ESL! To our surprise all young people do not know how to use computers. This is a myth and anyone planning to implement technology in the classroom should plan for training sessions. After a little bit a pushing most of our students eventually filled out their profiles, think facebook page, but never really made a work of art out of them.

Our next requirement was to have students upload writing artifacts for each level of the program. This was successful. Elgg provides a relatively simple way to do this. Elgg also provided three levels of access, private, logged in users, and public. Most just left the default logged in users for their files and blogs. Elgg has access controls to further customize access, but they were too difficult to use for our students and faculty and they never caught on. Elgg's search was particularly useful for finding students and then viewing their artifacts. Some instructors commented that they used this feature to find students old papers when writing letters of recommendation.

The most successful of all of Elggs features was using communities for blogging. We set up a Classroom without Walls blog so students could reflect on their class excursions. Here real learning was demonstrated. Elgg has a nice optional feature of showing the latest blog posts on the front page. So suddenly everyone was a web author. I think the exposure to each other made students put more genuine effort into what they were writing. The communities expanded to Service Learning, there was one for our faculty, and a handful for different courses. So here, the social aspect of Elgg was strong and our program started to look more united blogging for a common purpose. Faculty were leaving comments on students blogs and a formative element of learning was taking place.

Unfortunately, when it came to making a presentation of artifacts, blogs, and multimedia, Elggs presentation tool was not really up to par. It could pull from all the artifacs uploaded and blog entries, but then just made a list of them. You could include a textbox next to the linked artifact for reflection. This tool was too complicated and students felt labored by the technology. It probably would have been simpler to just use a personal website builder to get this job done. The tool may have gotten in the way of real reflection. I understand the new version of Elgg has Pages, which is a feature that may address some the classic code's shortcomings.

All in all, a social network as an ePortfolio was a fun and worthy experiment. It was really neat to see students blogging together and teachers commenting. It gave our department a sense of unity and everyone had a voice. But at the same time, it was more difficult to implement structure and requirements, and students also could not easily make their own creative design. Students did not entirely adopt to the social networking and most still preferred facebook to their schools not as flashy imitation. It leaves me to think maybe we would have gotten more out of students if they had their own private space to collect and reflect. Any institution thinking of going social network eportfolio should consider the social character of their school before going forward.

The most significant lessons learned were platform independent. Students need to know why they are making an eportfolio and they need to know what is expected of them. It is the faculty's job to help them understand and state the purpose of an ePortfolio and I think requirements in the form of artifacts connected to standards, competencies or outcomes is a good idea along with a rubric for assessment, a hard thing to design for a social network. Leaving students to completely decide what to include and reflect on could also leave them without direction. So a clear purpose and plan is important and should be balanced with creativity and experimentation. The faculty had a positive experience with Elgg and overcame a technology hurdle. Now that we have some experience with blogging and uploading and a chance to design a curriculum with an eportfolio, we will certainly have more insight into the process.


How to create a Google Apps (Google Sites) ePortfolio Tutorial

Google Apps has everything you need to collect artifacts for an eportfolio. And when you are finally ready to put it all together, you can use Google Sites to make it happen. This mini-tutorial demonstrates just how easy it is to create an eportfolio site in Google Sites. The whole process takes only about a couple of minutes, and you will be ready to edit and add artifacts in no time.


Google Apps Eportfolio - A Collaborative Practice for Individuals and Institutions

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

We are in the very early stages of implementing an eportfolio using the Google Apps platform at my school.  This platform was initially chosen mostly because of it ease of implementation, no server, less IT work, automated backups, etc.  But the more I use it, the more I feel this could be the next big thing the eportfolio field has to offer.  The reason: Collaboration.

The google apps suite has all the same tools as most eportfolio systems blogs, file storage, wikis, not to mention a full office productivity line, docs, spreadsheets, and presentations.  It also has a chat, text, audio, and video.  These tools combined make it a rival to the best of the commercial solutions.  But this is not even the best part.  Google Apps is designed for collaboration.

Any element of  an individuals eportfolio, be it a doc, or a wiki, can be shared with another user to be view or edited.  Changes can be subscribed to either via RSS feeds or simply emailed to collaborators.  All this supplemeted by synchronous chat can make a true team effort.  This ushers in a new era of eportfolios. Most educators agree that the eportfolio is not an end game but rather a work in progress across the curriculum and maybe lifelong.   Much is written about formative assessment being a key element of learning and continually improving.  Collaboration facilitates this and takes it even further by encouraging teamwork between students and faculty, students and students, faculty and faculty, faculty and administration, administration and students, and you get the point. Google Apps keeps records of previous versions of files so that progress being made can be easily ascertained.

What this means for students' eportfolios is that their project is a team effort between them and their collaborators, their faculty and peers.  What this means for institutions is that they are able to make comprehensive eportfolios showcasing all of their departments support of standards in one unified Google platform with multiple collaborators.  If your school ever had to go through the accreditation process, you know exactly what a headache it is to have multiple emails with messy attachments, and nothing ever being materialized.  Now with the power of collaboration you plant a seed and watch it grow.  Before you know it the individuals, the departments, the entire school is unified under a common set of standards, a web of collaborators.  Neat documented, and everyone was included.  Real dialogue, real formative learning, and comprehensive showcases.  


Google Apps Eportfolio Online Rubric and Assessment Form

For a quick example of Google Apps Eportfolio Assessment via Online Evaluation Form click here.

Our school is planning to implement a Google Apps ePortfolio using the entire Google Apps suite, Docs, Picassa, Youtube, Google Video, maybe Blogger, and the like for artifact collection. For artifact presentation and reflection we are planning to use Google Sites.

One of the key elements of this plan is that it will encourage formative assessment. Formative assessment meaning ongoing evaluation and feedback between instructor and students, and perhaps peer review as well. To aid in this process Google Docs has a very powerful feature called Forms. An online form can be easily created around a rubric and then embedded in a Google Site Eportfolio for viewers to fill out. Results are then tallied by Google Docs with a spreadsheet and data summary page automatically created for the owner of the form.

This is an incredibly simple process to go through, makes assessment very efficient, and provides useful feedback for the student to make improvements. It also make providing information about inter-rater reliability of the rubric and can be applied to automated data tracking by an institution. How to coming soon.