Google Sites as ePortfolios
Google Docs --> Google sites : easy transition
If students are already using Google Docs, they are used to logging in with their Google accounts and using many of the online editing functions that can then be used in Google Sites. They need to undertand the creation of pages, linking to pages, setting of themes and other site management tasks.
ePortfolio template - create structure for the class
It is important to create an ePortfolio template for the class as a starting point. Create a sample Google Site with subpages etc and then convert it into a template using 'Save as Template'.
Creating the site - Use tags and descriptions and name it carefully, so it can be found!
When students create their own Google Site, they must use the template set up for the class. They must also carefully select the name of the site using a simple easy to find naming system. Suggestion : <SchoolInitial><RoomNumber><FirstName> (example, for John in Room 23 at Oak School, the name can be O23John)
The name used in the site creation sets the URL name, as well as the site name. If a consisten naming system is used, the URLs are named according to a fixed format and will be easier to manage. The site name can be changed later using 'Manage Site', Site Name.Tags (categories) should be used to put similar sites together, for example to create a class listing of all student sites from one classroom. Use tags like oak6 (Oak school sixth graders). Encourage descriptions - Oak School ePortfolio.
This is a public site that has pages for each school with a list of all sites of the students. It was easy to set up since they used the same tag/category. The students sites are set to private and can not be accessed without a login into the school domain.
Set sites to private - keep it safe
For younger students, it is best to keep the sites private to the school domain. When setting site themes etc, it is important to tell students that this is an area they will not change.
Adding images and HTML
This is an opportunity to explain some basic concepts of uploading images from a local computer to a site. Instead of a drag/drop interface, the students must use the Insert-Image menu item and find the image from their local drive (or enter the URL of an address on a site). It is a good time to review copyright, and other issues with online images.
Adding HTML code from something like the Scratch website (the Embed code for the game for example), gives student a chance to see HTML code, and starts them on a journey of customizing and adding gadgets to their site. Watch out, students will quickly insert other items along with images - games and many other gadgets can quickly drown the other content on the ePortfolio.
Enjoy themes and customizing - it is worth it.
This is the exciting part of Google sites. It is important to let students spend time customizing the look of their site so they take ownership and are interested in keeping their site updated. Warning - when changing themes, make sure they do not change templates completely.
Digital Citizenship - Parent letter / Oath / Monitor
Prior to setting up Google sites, let parents know via email/newsletter. Ask students to take an oath of safety and responsible digital citizenship. This is particularly important for younger students, remind them that this is a chance for them to show responsible behavior online.
The Google Apps for Education administrator must set site-wide permissions (example sites are private and can not be edited by anyone except the owner) and monitor for any possible breaches.