3/26/2009

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.

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