Teaching With e-Portfolios: Technology Tips

There are a number of ways you can use technology throughout your course to ensure a smooth integration of e-portfolios in your instruction and help students develop relevant technical skills.

Use Catalyst CommonView to Create a Course Web Space

When you use CommonView to create your course web space, you can add the Google Sites hub to easily manage e-portfolios created with UW Google Sites. CommonView also provides one convenient location where you can collect and organize everything you need for your course—content, links, files, and any other Catalyst tools you may use for your class (WebQ quizzes, GoPost discussion boards, GradeBook, etc.) If your students are creating e-portfolios using applications other than Google Sites, other Catalyst tools (such as GoPost or Collect It) can be used as alternative solutions for managing these portfolios.

Distinguish Between UW Google Apps and Personal Google Accounts

If you are using the Google Sites hub to manage e-portfolios, you and your students should know that the hub is an integration of Catalyst’s CommonView and UW Google Apps only. UW Google Apps differ from the commercial accounts offered by Google (www.google.com). Not only are the UW Google Apps free from advertisement, but they also offer the same FERPA, electronic discovery, and copyright protections that apply to other UW-IT resources. The same guarantees to student materials are not available through Google's commercial offerings. To ensure ease of use and access to these benefits, we recommend that you have students use UW Google Apps for their portfolios. To sign up for UW Google Apps, go to: https://uwnetid.washington.edu/manage/

Instruct Students In How to Create an e-Portfolio

If possible, try to teach in a classroom equipped with a computer and projector (or check out these technologies) so you can show example e-portfolios and other online materials in class.

Students always benefit by seeing one or more example portfolios and/or a portfolio that outlines suggested content for each page, including relevant questions and prompts to help students develop that content. If you create an example portfolio using UW Google Sites, you can add this example to the Google Sites hub in CommonView, and students can copy the example to their own Google Sites account to use as a starting point for their own portfolios.

Whether your students will be using UW Google Sites or some other web tool to create their e-portfolios, provide instruction in how to use the tool for this purpose. A simple demonstration in the computer lab followed by “hands-on” training may be especially helpful for students who consider themselves less technically proficient. While many practical questions may be answered at the start, keep in mind that additional questions may arise along the way as students attach or embed more complex artifacts or experiment with visual designs, for example. You can also refer your students to the Google Sites Help Documentation.

Allow yourself time to become familiar with UW Google Sites (or your selected tool for e-portfolio creation). This way you will be able to understand particular concerns or questions students may raise.

Help Students Develop Technical Skills

There are a small number of technical skills that can make a big difference when creating e-portfolios and using Google Sites. These skills can support students’ creativity while reducing feelings of anxiety or frustration related to technology. Knowing how to scan documents and resize images before uploading them to a Google Site, for instance, will make the work of adding artifacts efficient. Some students may also want to embed videos; knowing how to do so—as well as when their content may be restricted due to copyright or privacy issues—is another important skill. Understanding the difference between Google Sites’ templates and themes will also be helpful for you and your students. To learn more about using Google Sites, please see Google Sites Help and Google Sites Forum.

Help Students Develop Design Skills

The visual design of an e-portfolio plays an important role in its readability and whether or not it succeeds as a compelling, unified whole, supporting the message the portfolio was intended to convey. Help students think through the choices they have related to visual design and the effects of those choices. In general,

  • An effective portfolio has a clear hierarchy of information. Section headings and groupings of artifacts with commentary should be logical and easily understood.
  • Repetitive elements, both within a page and between pages, help make a portfolio unified. Consistency in fonts and font sizes for headers/body type, background colors, and formatting options contribute to a unified look and feel.
  • Readability is crucial; the elements in a portfolio should contrast well. For example, dark colored fonts on dark backgrounds and light colored
    fonts on light backgrounds make for poor readability.
  • Graphics and images, where included, should complement the purpose of the portfolio. They should clearly relate to the text and illustrate the themes or intended message of the portfolio.

These and other principles of design can be discussed with your students using example portfolios or web sites.

Use And Encourage a Broad Range of Technologies

Think broadly about the range of technologies you can use, or encourage the use of, in all of your teaching practices. For example, when students receive feedback on assignments electronically (from you or peers), rather than in handwritten comments, they can easily cite this feedback in their e-portfolios. You can also share (or have students explore) a range of digital strategies that can be used to emphasize or explain significant features of their artifacts: e.g., highlighting or commenting in a text document; scanning an image and annotating it as a pdf; creating a slide show of photos or video stills of significant moments in a process or event. They can then reference these highlighted or annotated features in their writing and describe how they demonstrate evidence of learning.

In addition, if students create documents and other files (presentations, drawings, etc.) using UW Google Apps, they can embed these files directly in the pages of their site, rather than including them as attachments only. Assignments that ask students to use a range of media will also allow them to practice their design skills and to assemble more dynamic portfolios.

Last modified: December 17, 2013