Creating digital portfolios on iPads using Google Sites: it’s doable!


This year the eLearning leaders at our school were asked to find a “cost-effective” way to allow students to create digital portfolios (ePortfolios) that can be exhibited during the school’s end-of-year exhibition. Evernote was definitely considered as an option, but the cost of the premium account was a deterrent. Additionally, we wanted something that can easily be viewed on the Internet to help with the portfolio assessment process and to share with parents.

I have always been a big fan of Google Tools, and I’m an even bigger fan of Google Sites. However, the Google Sites interface is not the most iPad-friendly, and uploading attachments requires a slightly longer process and a lot of patience. But, it’s feasible!

I noticed that on Twitter, the whole discussion about ePortfolios for iPads does not mention Google Sites at all. Surely, there are more iPad-friendly tools like Evernote, Three Rings and Easy Portfolio. But our school is a Google school, and so all our staff and students have Google accounts, that’s the first reason we decided to choose Google Sites. Secondly, building an ePortfolio on Google Sites will not follow the same process on the iPad as it would on a laptop/desktop computer, as there is no ‘hard disk’ on the iPad from which you can directly upload the artifacts to be exhibited. That presents challenges, but I still insist that it is doable, so long as teachers & students are patient and keep an open mind.

The combination of apps our students use to build those portfolios includes: Pages, Keynote, ShowMe, iMovie, Notability, Google Drive iPad app, and Safari. Any document the students have on Keynote or Pages can be uploaded directly on Google Drive through the iPad app, and I ask them to ‘open in Google Drive’ as a PDF (because it preserves formatting). If the students have a video on iMovie, it can be exported to the Camera Roll and then uploaded on Google Drive through the iPad app, the same with any photos in their Camera Roll. If students have work on ShowMe, it can be uploaded onto their profile, and then the ShowMe can be ’embedded’ directly into the Google Site by using the embed code. If students have any annotated PDFs on Notability, they can be similarly exported to the Google Drive iPad app. I think that pretty much covers all student work!

Basically, I tell my students to upload one artifact at a time, and then create a Google Document in which they will write up their reflection on that artifact. Once all artifacts are uploaded, and the associated reflections are written up, students then must change the sharing setting of these artifacts and reflections to ‘anyone with the link…’ and ‘can view’. Each artifact is then hyperlinked in the Google Sites ePortfolio, and the associated reflection is embedded right under it.


Here are the detailed written steps of this process, followed by some video how-tos:

Detailed Written Steps:
1- Create a folder in Google Drive (through the iPad app) called ‘Portfolio Items’ or ‘Portfolio Artefacts and Reflections’.

2- Choose the artefact you want to upload, whether it is a Pages document or a Keynote presentation and ‘Open in Google Drive’ as a PDF. You can also directly upload pictures or videos from your Camera Roll onto the Google Drive iPad app.

3- Once an artefact is uploaded onto Google Drive, rename it so you can easily identify it later, and then create a new Google Document where you will write up the reflection associated with that artefact. Give that Google Document a name similar to the artefact but with the words ‘reflection on…’ at the beginning.

4- Repeat steps 2 & 3 for all other artefacts you wish to upload and reflections for each artefact.

5- Once all artefacts are uploaded and each artefact has its own associated reflection, log onto Google Drive through Safari.

6- Select the artefacts and associated reflections and change their visibility (through the ‘sharing’ button) to ‘anyone with the link…’ and ‘can view’.

7- Open the artefact you want to add to your Portfolio from Google Drive and copy the ‘hyperlink’ to it.

8- Go to your ePortfolio on Google Sites and click ‘edit page’ and type a sentence that explains what the artefact is.

9- Select a part of that sentence that you want to ‘hyperlink’ and click the ‘link’ button at the edit bar, then paste the link to the artefact from Google Drive as a ‘web address’ Remember to select ‘Open in a new window’.

10- After you have hyperlinked the artefact, the next step is to embed the associated reflection. Click ‘insert’ at the top of your Google Site and select ‘Document’ from the menu of options. You will be taken to your Google Drive Documents and select the required document.

I published these steps and the videos on this Google Site for the staff and students’ reference: iPad Portfolio How-tos

I would like to clarify that I am not arguing that this is the ‘best’ way of creating digital portfolios on iPads, or that it is more superior to the other options like Evernote, Three Rings or Easy Portfolios. I am merely arguing that schools who might be in similar circumstances to our school can choose this as an option, and that while the process on the iPad is not as intuitive and the interface is not the most iPad-friendly one, it’s still DOABLE!

10 reasons I love using Edmodo in my iPad classroom…


edmodo post

I can not describe how much easier Edmodo has made my teaching! At the beginning of this academic year, and in my capacity as an eLearning leader, I was involved in a whole-school effort to rollout Edmodo. The eLearning leaders at school gathered all teachers and showed them a few videos highlighting the benefits of Edmodo, then we divided all staff between us and went on to smaller workshops to help them set up their own accounts and classes. It caught like wildfire! I had staff approaching me everyday wanting to learn more and find out ways to use it better.

In my school, we have three year levels using the iPads (years 6, 7 and 8), and two year levels using laptops (years 9 and 10). Every student in those five year levels has a personal learning device, whether it’s a laptop or iPad. I generally teach the earlier middle years, and I am in charge of the school’s iPad program. Therefore my focus is usually on the iPad as a personal learning device. Edmodo now offers a fantastic iPad app, especially after recent updates just before Christmas 2012. I will try to list the many ways I use Edmodo, and why I love it so much:

  • It is now very easy to share a worksheet or handout with my students on Edmodo. If I prepare a worksheet on Pages or have a worksheet in my Dropbox, all I need to do is ‘open in another app’ and select Edmodo. I prefer to share worksheets and handouts as a PDF, because that preserves the formatting of the document and it’s very easy for students to download an app that allows them to annotate PDFs (like Notability or TypeOnPDF).
  • Students can easily download a document from Edmodo, use it in another app (like a PDF annotation app) and then upload it again onto Edmodo to submit it as an ‘assignment’. This solves the whole ‘work-flow’ problem that many teachers faced upon the introduction of iPads into the classroom. Worksheets, handouts, task sheets, graphic organizers, anything you want the students to work on, just upload it into your library, add it to a folder that you share with the students or attach it to a post, then they access it and open it in another app. Once they have finished, they need to upload it into their ‘backpacks’ and then submit it as an attachment to an ‘assignment’ that you posted.
  • Edmodo’s ‘assignment’ feature allows me to post an assignment with a due date and a task sheet, see who submitted it and when, mark it using a PDF annotation tool, grade/assess it and give feedback all in one neat place. It really is hassle-free! While the desktop version of Edmodo allows better assignment-marking features than the iPad app, I can still mark simple assignments on-the-go from my iPad.
  • Edmodo’s ‘quiz’ feature allows me to create really quick and simple quizzes to use in class. Creating the quiz is really simple, and I can use multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blanks, matching, or even short answer questions. It also shows you some really cool statistics about the students’ answers.
  • Edmodo’s ‘poll’ feature allows me create quick survey polls in class and can be a very valuable formative assessment tool. It has been very useful in my Humanities class to help me decide what students may need to focus on more for the coming lessons, or what sort of format would they prefer to submit their assignment as, among many more polls.
  • Edmodo’s ‘note’ feature has been a great help in creating exit slips for the students. Right before the lesson ends, the students are asked to write ‘one thing I learned today is…’ or ‘one thing that surprised me today was…’ or ‘one thing I’d like to find out more about is…’. After posting their exit slips, they can all see what the others have posted and maybe comment on each others’ posts and respond.
  • Edmodo’s ‘members’ feature allows me to manage my students in each class/group. This has been very handy in reminding a student of their username in case they forgot it while logging in again, or resetting their password if they can’t remember it, or even changing a student’s member-status to ‘read-only’ if they have been posting too much irrelevant content and abusing the posting feature. I can also use this feature to award ‘badges’ to my students, which is a great incentive for many of them.
  • Edmodo’s ‘small groups’ feature makes group-work a lot easier to manage and assess. In my drama classroom, students are arranged in small groups or ‘theatre companies’, and a lot of their brainstorming is done on Edmodo, or even simply documenting group-work in a virtual group-work log.
  • Edmodo’s ‘folders’ feature makes it very easy to organize documents in a folder and share that folder with my classes. Standard templates like reflection help-sheets or rubrics can be placed in these folders so students can have access to them anytime.
  • Edmodo has made it much easier to teach ‘digital citizenship’ skills in a safer and more-controlled environment. Having a strong social-networking aspect to it, Edmodo allows the teacher to model appropriate online behaviour and etiquette, and gives the students the opportunity to practice those skills in a teacher-controlled environment.

I would seriously recommend Edmodo to any teacher out there. I would also refer any of them to the Edmodo Help-Centre which has a great collection of how-tos (with screenshots and clear steps) and tips for using Edmodo.

iGeneric: how can teachers incorporate iPad in all subject areas?



A group of science teachers were sitting around on the staff room table. They were having a faculty meeting. One of them said, “I found this great app about biological cells! We can use this to teach the unit about cells!”. Another one responded by saying “This app I stumbled upon yesterday is amazing for teaching about the periodic table!”. The conversation went on for quite some time, only to end with one of them saying “there aren’t that many apps that can be used to teach Science”. This is when I intervened!

What I observed was a number of teachers who flicked through the chapters of the textbook, and then tried to find an iPad app to replace each chapter. I believe this approach is very limiting, and does not allow for full utilization of the iPad as a tool. I teach drama, and none of the apps I use in my classroom have anything to do with drama!

In Andrew Douch’s words, the iPad is a “Swiss-army knife” of tools! Subject-specific apps are great, but generic apps are even greater! There’s so much you can do in every subject with just a bunch of generic and cheap/free apps! Using the iPad in the classroom does not just mean using apps that are subject-specific. It is more useful to think of learning processes and activities, and how the iPad can facilitate these learning activities, not replace the designated reference used in the subject (i.e. textbook).

Here are some generic learning activities (or learning processes) that can incorporate the iPad, and using apps that are not subject-specific:

1- Documentation: the iPad has a Camera. So what? Before iPads, students may have been asked to use digital cameras, and then connect them to a laptop/desktop, import their photos/videos and so on. There were a lot of steps involved, and more than one device. The iPad eliminates all these steps. In science classes, the students could shoot video footage of their science experiments. In art classes, the students could take snapshots of their artwork at different stages of the creation process. In maths classes, students could take snapshots of the whiteboard to keep a visual record of the steps a teacher took to solve an equation. The students can also keep video footage of class discussions or group work for their documentation. Realistically, the ability to shoot video/take photos anytime and anywhere, without having to import them on another device later, is a great advantage for any subject area.

2- Reflection: the iPad can make student-reflections easier and more suited to their learning styles. Students can use an app like Evernote to keep reflection notebooks/journals. Evernote notebooks allow inserting text, photos (from the Camera-roll), voice notes, checkboxes, and locations. Therefore, students can reflect in oral or written format, and supplement their reflections with photos and screenshots. An app like ShowMe can also facilitate reflection, as students insert photos of different parts of the learning process and doodle over them, while also recording their voice. Reflection has a role (or should have a role) in all subject areas, and so these apps/learning activities can be used in whatever class.

3- Discussion: this is not necessarily an advantage of the iPad itself, but the iPad does facilitate discussion by allowing mobile access to several discussion platforms. Students can have back-channel discussions on Edmodo while a teacher is explaining a lesson. Twitter hash-tags can also be used to encourage back-channel discussions, or even a Facebook page. Whatever the subject area is, these apps/tools can facilitate discussion in any class.

4- Formative Assessment: being able to gauge the students’ learning while it’s still occurring is a very useful thing for teachers. Again, it’s not a characteristic of the iPad itself that makes it easier to make formative assessments, but its mobility and portability, as well as a range of apps that facilitate the process. An app like Socrative allows students to ‘click’ their answers as a teacher poses a question, and also allows teachers to create and assign quizzes, and exit slips. The teacher could also poll the class quickly before deciding the next course of action. Socrative will automatically send the teacher an e-mail with a spreadsheet report of the answers. Also, the statistics can be displayed directly on the app to show the class and prompt further discussion to correct misguided learning. The teacher just downloads the Socrative Teacher Clicker and creates a free account. The students then download the Socrative Student Clicker and join the teacher’s room, no sign-in or registration required. Socrative can be used in any subject area, as it is not subject-specific.

5- Creation: as Andrew Douch wrote, the iPad is a “Swiss-army knife of content-creation tools“. I have written a post previously about using the iPad to encourage creation in the classroom. In this post, you will find several non-subject specific apps that teachers can use to get their students creating blogs, wikis, animated cartoons, comics, podcasts, screencasts, videos/movies, ebooks, ePortfolios, and much more. These content-creations can be used in all subject areas. Students can create podcasts in science class explaining main concepts, or comics in history class to describe a historical event, or animated cartoons in geography class where they are interviewing a famous geographer, or screencasts in Maths class to explain steps taken to solve a mathematical problem etc…

To conclude, I would like to encourage teachers to explore the apps mentioned in this post, as well as any linked posts. Below is a screenshot of many apps that can be used in meaningful learning activities, and none of these apps are subject-specific!