Improve your Digital Portfolio Workflow: Manage Multiple URL Submissions from Students

I love the idea of having students creating pages on their digital portfolios in which they demonstrate their learning. I see each page as an opportunity to defend the thesis: “I learned X” or “I completed the X project.” I think this use of digital portfolios helps students take ownership of what they are learning when their digital portfolio pages need to demonstrate learning, rather than waiting for the teacher to tell them whether or not they learned.

However, I had trouble as an English teacher matching specific pages to specific skills and projects. I would ask students to submit a URL to the page showing their X project, so I would need to make a new Google Form for each new assignment. To compound this problem, students would often submit a link to their home page, leaving me to navigate websites looking for specific pages.

This workflow was frustrating, and it reminded me of the way some of my colleagues flip through stacks Interactive notebooks looking for where students put their work. Now, I wholeheartedly believe in the power of digital portfolios to amplify learning, but technology is also supposed to help make things easier–and searching through student websites to find evidence of learning was not easy.

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-9-46-56-amI’ve been thinking of a solution to this problem for a while, and I think I’m on the right track to finding a solution. Here are the steps I suggest:

  • Teacher: Create a Google Form that you will use to collect a class’ digital portfolio URLs.
    • In the settings, only accept one response per student, but allow students to edit their submission. Students will need to edit their previous form submissions as you have them build additional pages. They will come back to this form later, edit their previous response, leave the URLs in place that they submitted perviously, add URLs to new skills/projects, and resubmit the form.
    • Put a link to this form on your website and/or in Google Classroom (I work in a district that uses the Google Suite–admittedly, this digital portfolio solution would work best in a Google Suite school).
  • Students: Build digital portfolio pages according to teacher instructions to demonstrate understanding.
  • Students: Turn in digital portfolio pages to the teacher by submitting URLs to specific pages on the same Google Form throughout the semester.
  • Teacher: On the Form Responses Spreadsheet (the spreadsheet that collects the responses from your Google Form), create a new tab (new sheet) at the bottom for display purposes. Embed this display sheet on your website (very easy to do in the new Google Sites).
    • Each column on the display sheet should have its own formula so that it takes Text from one section of the spreadsheet and URLs from another section. For example, in Mr. Ford’s Multimedia class, his columns currently have the following hyperlink formulas:
      • A:=hyperlink(‘Form Responses 1’!D2,‘Form Responses 1’!B2)
        • column B of Form Responses 1 = The student’s last name
        • column D of Form Responses 1 = The student’s digital portfolio home page.
      • B: =hyperlink(‘Form Responses 1’!E2,$B$1)
        • column B of the display sheet has the name of this project/assignment
        • column E of Form Responses 1 = The URL the student submitted for this project/assignment
      • C: =hyperlink(‘Form Responses 1’!F2,$C$1)
        • column C of the display sheet has the name of this project/assignment
        • column F of Form Responses 1 = The URL the student submitted for this project/assignment
      • D, E, F, and so on in the same fashion as columns B and C (above).
  • screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-10-14-19-amTeacher: As you add more skill/project pages for students to enter on your Google Form, you will need to enter another formula to the next column over on your display sheet. You will also need to drag/copy your formulas across your entire display sheet once in a while so that students who submitted previously omitted URLs will see their links updated on your display sheet. What you end up with is a one-stop-shop taking you straight to students’ different digital portfolio pages. You can quickly and easily see who has/hasn’t submitted each page, and you can even color code the cells to provide initial feedback (a color for “great,” a color for “needs work,” etc.).

It does take some work to set up, but if you’re seriously attempting to use digital portfolios as a way to assess student learning, this approach could end up saving you a lot of time and frustration in the long run. This is especially true if you teach middle school or high school and you’re dealing with well over 100 digital portfolios.

Thanks very much for reading. Please share this with anyone working with digital portfolios, and please let me know if you have discovered a better solution or innovation that would achieve the same or better results!

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