Students Collect, Reflect, and Recollect their Learning Story ๐Ÿ“– through eBinders, eNotebooks, and ePortfolios with Google Sites

When I first started teaching, my AVID Demonstration Site was big on the interactive notebook. We still are but with eBinders, we have been able to take our online and offline activities and blend them together into an amplified digital version of that paper notebook.

Overview of the Interactive Notebook: The interactive notebook is organized into two parts, the right side for student “input,” and the left side for student “output.” Students can paste in teacher handouts or write right in the notebook. On the right side, students gather new information and capture it in a variety of ways. This can include focused notes on a lecture, video, podcast, etc. It can also be questions they had for homework or even lab activities for a science class. The right side is done first as students learn about something new. Then, they use the left side to show what they know. On the left side, students create something to demonstrate understanding and โ€œoutput.โ€ There are endless opportunities for students to show what they know. More traditionally with pencil and paper, they could create a timeline, cartoon, Venn diagram, visuals, poem, song, concept map, etc. Seriously, the list can be endless. It can also give students choice in what they create for the output.

As more and more technology became available in the classroom, I started to think: How can we blend the interactive notebook with some type of online portfolio? Also, how can we save precious time that is spent on cutting and gluing handouts into these notebooks that sometimes get detached/lost and cause a lot of mess on the floor at the end of the day. That same year, in 2018, I went to an AVID Summer Institute where they were just starting to talk about the โ€œeBinder.โ€ Around the same time, the NEW Google Sites came out. It was a match made in heaven for schools with Google Accounts. I piloted the eBinder in my AVID elective class in 19-20 and, when the pandemic happened, a fellow site team member and eBinder advocate helped me create a self-paced training during the summer of 2020. 21 teachers ranging from grades 4-12 representing science, ELA, social studies, PE, and electives signed up and took that training and were able to successfully implement the eBinder with students during distance learning. Talk about timing. We’ve learned so much along the way and have a second iteration out this summer with even more of our districts’ educators taking the training. I have learned SO much bout the creation, distribution, implementation, and collection of the eBinder. So, I want to share with you!

Step 1: Learn about the components of an eBinder

There are various types of eBinders out there. Here is an overview provided by AVID: AVID has a great resource on this webpage for the Google Sites eBinder: Note: I am talking about the Google Sites version because that is what I’ve used with students. They also have resources on a OneNote, Google Slides, and PowerPoint as well.

Step 2: Learn About the Tool

As you start creating the master shell, learn the tool yourself, first. There are many different videos out there that review the tips and tricks for Google Sites. For the best experience, it’s always good to have a strong foundation of a tool before using it with students. Of course, we can always learn from them, but since this is likely a tool that is new/newer to all parties, I would suggest watching a video or investigating. Google Applied Digital Skills actually has a training on Portfolios. Here is a video I’ve created for my staff and students you can also use:

Teach students about the tool. Consider doing a screencast using Loom Pro (free from educators and students) as you walk through the tool. I love to app-smash my screencasts into Edpuzzle. Edpuzzle allows you to upload videos and insert questions (multiple choice and short answer). This can help chunk a longer video, check for understanding, and ensure students have watched your video. A great method of distributing information is in chunks. 10-2-2 is a great strategy for giving new information up to 10 minutes and then allowing for students to process it for 2 minutes individually and 2 minutes to process it collaboratively. This video above is 22 minutes. That’s too long for students to take in without giving time to process. So, either chunk it into smaller videos or put it into Edpuzzle to check for understanding which will also lead to student engagement and comprehension of the new material.

Step 3: Look at Examples to Spark Ideas

It will save students time and help them organize their learning story if you make a master “shell” they can then copy and then start adding to. This is one of the reasons the new Google Sites is such a wonderful tool for this purpose. Peruse examples to spark your ideas. Do you want an eBinder for one project or unit of study? Are you ready for a year-long eBinder? Will students have multiple subjects in their eBinder? My suggestions: For elementary, you can consider housing multiple topics/subjects so students return to the same Google Site. For secondary, I would create one eBinder/Google Site per subject unless you teach the same students multiple subjects. If you’ve taught your grade level/subject area for a while, you might be able to create a shell for the year! If you’re a new teacher or new to your grade level and/or content for the year, maybe you start slow and create a trimester shell or create a page or two and then have students add over time. I’ve provided examples below with student and parent permission*:

*Note: Some permissions are still private and/or some documents have been removed from students’ eBinder, but the shells can give you an idea of how the eBinder can work

Step 4: Create Your Master Shell

Create your “shell”/master eBinder in Google Sites. Consider adding some of the following features:

  • Home Page – “All About Me” information on it and even some things tied to that specific content (ex: History – favorite historical hero and why)
  • Classroom Community Page – This can house your social contract, a digital yearbook (idea: You can have Google Slides embedded into the Master and update those Google Slides throughout the school year with classroom photos), relational capacity activities, etc.
  • Grade Checks and Goal Setting Page – Another optional idea to help students set goals and track their progress throughout the grading period/year
  • Task Pages” by topic or unit – Separating by chapter, unit, or title is helpful. A “Task Page” is what AVID refers to as a typical section in the eBinder that has the following components:
    • Essential Question
    • Focused Notes
    • Learning Artifacts
    • Learning Blog
  • Subpages (optional) – A method of organizing and chunking out large sections of content

Step 5: Distribute a Copy of the Shell to Students

There are two main ways you can distribute the shell to students:

Option #1: Create a view-only Google Folder and have students right click and make a copy (faster). See video as well as 10 Steps Resource.

Option #2: Manually make the copy for students and change them to owner (Takes a bit more time, but some say easier for elementary or students who need that extra support)

Step 6: Collect and Organize Student eBinders

Once students have the copy of their eBinder, you will want to have a “one stop shop” so you can ensure you have access to the eBinders at any time. If you chose option #2 above where you manually created the copy and possibly put it into a Google Folder, then you may already have the eBinders in one place. Another great way to have all eBinders in one place that you can easily sort and find, I would suggest using a Google Form. Here is an example of a Google Form that can be used to collect eBinders at the beginning of the year. Once students complete the Google Form, you can then get the results in a Google Sheets. You can sort the results by period. Click through all of the eBinder links to ensure you can see and access the eBinders. This will be an investment in your time that will pay off throughout the year. Tip: Bookmark or save the Google Sheets somewhere you can easily access in the future.

How to Collect Google Sites eBinders using Google Forms and Sheets

Step 7: Give Feedback and Grade eBinders

I personally collect the eBinder for three key things: Organization, Reflection, and Grit/Goal Setting. I don’t use the eBinder collection to grade individual assignments. I do that in my Learning Management System (LMS). So, for example, if students have a Chapter 1 task page for social studies, and they’ve taken four sets of notes and completed four learning artifacts, then those eight assignments have been distributed through the LMS, and I’ve given them feedback and a grade in the LMS. At the end of each chapter, I then do an eBinder collection in which I check for three things: Organization, Reflection, and Grit/Goal Setting.

Three Ideas for Feedback and Grading:

  1. Create an assignment in your LMS and link a rubric to that assignment. Students turn in their link to the assignment and you grade on your rubric. My rubric is very simple and clear:

2. Use Google Sheets and Assignments in Canvas or Google Classroom.

  • Create a rubric/checklist on Google Sheets at the end of each chapter/unit (examples linked below)
  • Create a Google Assignment in Canvas, Google Classroom, or your LMS and insert the Sheet as their assignment
  • The Google Assignment will force copy the Google Sheets for students and automatically put it in their Drive
  • Ask students to paste their eBinder right on the Google Sheets (be explicit about this the first, second, and third time… many will forget)
  • Grade directly on the Google Sheets 
  • Return to students through the LMS
  • Allow them to add the Sheets to a page in their eBinder titled, “eBinder checks”

Here are two examples:

3. Students can Snip and Submit

  • Student can take a picture with the snipping tool
  • They can paste the image on a blank document or directly into the LMS submission
  • You can grade through a rubric in your LMS
    • Cons: Make sure they’re snipping everything you want to see and/or submitting multiple snips, sharing permissions could not be correct on their assignments because they can always see their assignments but they may not be set to “anyone in (domain) with link can view” which could be a problem for you to see things in the future

Tips, Tricks, and Lessons Learned

  1. Distributing Assignments: A suggestion is to distribute any assignments that are done with Google Tools using your LMS. Google Classroom and the Canvas LMS Google Assignments allows you to “make a copy” for students which automatically organizes it in a folder for students.
  2. “Glue” it in right away if possible: Have students “glue” their items in RIGHT AWAY if they are Google tools. Like a notebook where you would pass a piece of paper out and tell students to glue it in, have students actually put it in their eBinder as soon as they get the item from you. Google tools will automatically update in the eBinder after they are put in because it’s all connected in the cloud.
  3. Paper Assignments and Photos: To help with assignment distribution, collection, and overall digital organization, I would recommend giving students a blank Google Doc, Slides, etc. (you pick!). I would personally start this blank assignment in my LMS. For Google Classroom, do the “make a copy.” For Canvas, use the Google Assignments External Tool. This way, the title is clear and it is automatically put into their “Assignments” Drive folder. Then, have students upload a photo/photos of items done by hand. This way, the photo is sure to be in their drive and the tool can be easily embedded.
  4. Embedding Tools: If embedding a Google Tool, the easiest way is to have students insert it from their Drive. Therefore, naming conventions and folder organization is essential so they can find them. If embedding other tools, here are some tools that can be embedded: Padlet, Flipgrid, AnswerGarden, Nearpod (Note: These expire), Edpuzzle (note: You can have them grab your link or give them the preview link) ThingLink, and more!
  5. Share Settings: If using Google Assignments or anything Google, you’ll want to ensure you’ve communicated and consistently modeled how students should change their share settings. If it’s an eBinder that is private between the two of you, great! If it’s something your student will want others to see and maybe even keep after they leave the district, they might want to make their assignments “anyone with the link can view.” However, be careful about this and ensure you have parent/guardian permissions. If the permissions are private and/or items eventually are deleted from Drive, this is what a page may look like for an external viewer.

Do you have other eBinder tips or tricks that you can share with others? Questions? Add a comment below!

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