MODULE 2 – Draft your website – (Jan 14 – 20)


In this module, we want to help you get started based on your previous experience and skill level. If you’re new to website design you will start your journey by exploring two different portfolio platforms. If you’re experienced, or already have a website, you will take some steps to further develop your existing portfolio and get ready for this course. Either way, you’re making your first steps toward developing your portfolio in this class!

You’ll also get your first experiences posting reflective responses, giving feedback, and receiving feedback on Flipgrid: a process vital to designing an effective portfolio.

Work in this module is due by Jan 20th (at or before 11:59 PM Eastern Time). We encourage you to begin early in the week – it is not possible to complete the entire module at the last minute.

Basic Assignment(s)

1⃣ 📌 Check and understand grades

Now is a good time to read our grading policy and check your Module 1 grades. Get in the habit of checking your grades periodically to make sure they are accurate.

2⃣A 📌 Make something: Choose 2A if you haven't created a website before, are still in the early parts of developing this skill, or want to create a separate website for capstone anyway

The overall goal is to use two different authoring tools to create two different pages. This will help you see if you can create, or re-create, some of the features you liked from last semester’s portfolios and for you to evaluate each Web authoring tool in comparison to others. Specifically, do the following:

  • Pick two platforms to try – You’re free to try out anything you’d like, and this is the perfect time to try out something you’ve been curious about. Popular choices in the past have been: Weebly, Wix, WordPress, and Google Sites. Other technologies we know about (many are free): Yola, Jimdo, WebNode, and Webs.
  • Make two pages (homepages), one for each of the platforms you pick – What should be on the two pages you create? The portfolios you reviewed from the previous semester can be your guide—they typically include your name, a few sentences about you, and some links to different parts of your site (or to external websites). For now, the links can just be non-functional placeholders for the real links and pages you’ll insert later. As part of your exploration, though, you should try to make at least one functional link, even if it is just to your school, a blank resumé, or even Play with layout, colors, spacing, and formatting so that you get an idea for how easily you’ll be able to do these things if you choose to use this tool all semester.
  • Be sure to save your homepage URLs (website addresses). Later in the module we will tell you how to turn in this work, so don’t delete the pages when you’re done playing around with them. Rather, copy and paste the URLs into a document that you can recall later.

2⃣B 📌 Make something: Choose 2B if you are experienced at website design and have a site
that will be used (and added to) for the capstone course

Since you already have a website that you intend to use, you will use this assignment to take some concrete steps to improve your existing site. NOTE: In this module, the decision of what to do, and how to do it, will be largely driven by you within the framework we provide here. First, take a few minutes to consider what purpose you would like your portfolio to serve and what that means about who will be looking at it. Will it be primarily for other teachers? Parents? Students? Administrators? Will it be something you continue to develop for an eventual job search? Considering your audience will help you better design your portfolio to effectively communicate whatever message you are hoping to send.

Next, consider some concrete steps that might help you reach that audience more effectively, and implement one or more of them for this module. Some things that students have done in the past are:

  • Secure a domain name – By getting a catchy or descriptive domain name, you website can be more memorable and sharable with others, and might be more effective in reaching your intended audience.
  • Update the technologies – It might be time to remove some old and out dated technologies in favor of some technologies that are more uniformly accepted. For example, Word documents are not as easily shared over the web (not everybody pays for Word), but .pdfs are accessible.
  • Connect your identities – Many of you have multiple websites, and presences on multiple social media platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). By making sure your these websites link to and connect to one another, you make it easier for your audiences to find you in the various places you exist.
  • Layout and Design – Do your color and font choices align with your audience choices? Colors, layouts, and font choices should be quite different for a professional or job-seeking audience than one intended for your K-12 students. Take this opportunity to make your design choices align with your choice of audience.
  • Other – We’ve given you just a few ideas here, but you probably can provide others. As long as it advances your portfolio in some nontrivial way, go for it. If you have questions, feel free to contact us.

3⃣ 📌 Learn about our video reflection rubric and video feedback rubric

In this course we are going to use Flipgrid to post video reflections every time you complete a piece of work. Equally important, we also give and receive video feedback about this work to help improve your portfolios. Making good video reflections and providing good feedback is essential to making this course work.

To help guide you in making good reflections and providing good feedback, we ask that you read and understand our rubric before making post reflections and give feedback for this module.

After this module, the rubric will always be available under “Elaboration” below.

4⃣ 📌 Update your Gravatar

This step is for those of you who have decided to expand an existing website. Now that you know this is what you’ll be using for the capstone course, we need to know where to find your portfolio! Your assignment is to make sure your Gravatar sends people to the homepage you will be using for your portfolio.

To do this, update the ‘URL’ field on your google form.

When you’re done, head to the roster page, and make sure your name, image, and link to your capstone website are all working. If you need help or reminders about how to update your Gravatar, you check out our Gravatar instructions.

5⃣ 📌 Post *one* video reflection

If you created two webpages, pick *just one* of them to focus your reflection on and post about. If, however, you further developed an existing site, reflect on your homepage and the changes you made to it. When you’re ready, do the following steps to make your Flipgrid post:

  1. Add a video as a response to this Flipgrid
  2. Record your response, follow the prompts (and the rubric) — Talk about the page you have created as scaffolded by the prompts for “designers”
  3. Fill in the informational fields — Fill in your full name (first and last), give your video a descriptive title, and then give a full link to your favorite website you created for this module.

Please remember, that order to get good feedback, you need to post good reflections as per our rubric.

6⃣ 📌 Provide feedback to peers

Whenever you share work in this class, you will also give feedback to others (as well as receive feedback). The routine for providing this feedback is to visit Flipgrid and respond to two initial videos. Please give priority to those videos that don’t have any feedback. If there are not two videos yet (i.e., you’re the first to do the assignment), you’re off the hook for the week.

Add your two pieces of feedback to this Flipgrid.

  • Prioritize providing feedback to those who do not have any feedback
  • Watch their post
  • View their webpage (click on the URL that should be posted with their video).
  • In making your video response, make sure to follow the prompts (and the rubric)
  • Fill in the informational fields — Fill in your full name (first and last). Your email address is optional.

Please keep in mind that good feedback is vital to this course, as per our rubric.

📈 Grading

Each assignment in this course is important for developing your abilities to design and implement your portfolio. There are 100 total points assigned in this course; the specific assignments in this module will count towards your grade as follows:

  • (Up to 1 point) – Creating a two pages (or some work for alternative assignment) and posting a link in Flipgrid on your video reflection
  • (Coming up) – The quality of your video reflection in this module will be self-assessed (with some guidance) at the end of Module 5. There, you will give yourself between 0 and 5 points for your efforts across Modules 1 through 5.


🔍 Help choosing authoring systems

There are so many choices and alternatives available to you that sometimes this freedom can be daunting. Understand this, however: There is no right or wrong portfolio platform and no right or wrong way to make a portfolio. Each person will choose what works for them.

Even if you already know what software you plan to use, it is still important to think about issues raised by new, free, online web publishing tools.

Specific advice for specific tools

The folks over at Mashable have some specific advice about each of the major authoring platforms. Don’t discount Wix and Weebly just because they are near the end of the list, and keep in mind that this article is a few years old, which is even longer in Internet years. Read their thoughts here.

General Advice – Consider these factors in your decision

Time to learn—How long does it take you to learn a new technology? Time to learn, of course, varies enormously, but do a realistic assessment of your own learning style and time capacity. Consider Hofstadter’s Law: “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.” It is very easy to underestimate how long something will take and equally easy to overestimate the amount of time you have left.

Consider your context—Are you likely to be teaching others to make webpages in the future? There’s a possibility that, with your experiences in an online master’s program, you will quickly find yourself as an expert in your school. School districts are often unlikely to have money to purchase access to expensive services. Even if you personally prefer the greater control and sophistication of these services, it could be important for you to model the use of free, easy-to-learn equivalents that other teachers have readily available.

Time for substance—Similarly, weigh carefully the amount of time you can devote to creating the substance for your portfolios. That should be balanced against how much time you have available for learning new technologies and perfecting design. This is certainly not to suggest that design is not important. On the contrary, both substance and an appealing design are critical to showcasing your accomplishments as an educator and your professional aspirations for the future. Time, however, is finite. Time you spend learning software and tweaking features is time not spent adding substantive breadth and depth to your portfolio.

Hosting—A decision about which service you are going to use necessarily entails a decision about where you will host your portfolio. As the greatest objective of this course is that you create an online portfolio that will continue to be useful to you in your future professional life, think carefully about how long you will like to be wedded to a particular host (whether it’s Weebly, Wix, WordPress, etc.). Remember, it’s not hard to forward your domain name so that your website can be “” – see instructions here.

Services like Wix, Weebly, and WordPress all offer free hosting along with website design. Of course, there is no guarantee how long these services will remain free or how long they will stay in business (each has been around several years so far, though).

Wherever you decide to host your site, be sure that you understand how you will be able to maintain access to your data over time. This includes making sure that graduation won’t be an obstacle—you may want to avoid signing up for hosting using an MSU account or using anything (e.g., Google Apps) hosted by MSU.

Privacy—Particularly for educators in the K-12 environment, privacy is an important consideration. Even in an age when it seems to have become the norm to share even the most mundane aspects of one’s every waking moment on social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, you will want to carefully consider how publicly accessible you wish your site to be. This is especially true when it contains, as we hope it will, examples of your students’ work. In one sense, you want your professional “open for business” sign to be seen as widely as possible. But you want to also demonstrate that you respect your students’ privacy. In deciding what software to use, consider what options are available to restrict access to your site or to particular portions of your site.

Consider the past—Consider what students in recent semesters felt was most suitable for them when they faced this decision a short while ago. You can also see that all of the choices “worked” in the sense that they created fine portfolios with all the tools listed. In that sense, you will likely do fine with any of the services that others used recently.

This is an example of the importance of listening to one’s students and paying attention to data to inform decision making. We, as teachers, run the risk of recommending what worked for us, which may be outdated due to rapid changes in technology. Similarly, there is a risk of speaking with great confidence about our opinions without looking at data that could shed light on an issue. In the business world—and increasingly in education—the concept of ‘data-driven decision making’ is gaining influence. In the spirit of this little pedagogical note, consider the data below as perhaps worth more than your professor’s opinions.

Here’s the tabulation of software used by the students in the Summer 2018 Capstone Course (33 total portfolios):

  • Weebly: 12
  • Wix: 8
  • WordPress: 5
  • Google Sites: 5
  • Other: 2

What do you already know how to use?—If you have already developed your skills in using any of the publishing choices we discussed previously, it is probably a good choice.

What are your sources of support?—Research on professional development and learning to use computers has shown convincingly that the most important determinant of most people’s learning is the broader context in which they work and their social support for learning to use technology. By social support, we mean a spouse, a colleague in the next room, etc. Do you have a colleague, partner, or friend who is currently using a specific tool and who would be willing to spend an hour or two helping you get started? If you are working in a school building or school district that supports and is making use of Weebly or another service, then you may want to consider learning to use that technology. On the other hand, if you have a friend or colleague who is using another service, then you already have a personal support network.

We know some services better than others—While you’re adding up your various support networks, know that we can (somewhat) support and help you with WordPress, Weebly, and Google Sites. We don’t know a lot about Wix or some of the other platforms mentioned.

What are your future goals?—People who learn to publish their ideas and work easily and confidently on the Web have advantages, such as having an online presence available to others (such as potential employers) and being able to model and share with others how to do the same, from parents and colleagues to friends and students.

However, we are all busy, and people have very different predispositions to spending time working on their websites. So take a moment and think about how you’re envisioning the longer term horizon for your Web publishing skills and your portfolio. Your views may change after you’ve done some of this Web publishing. As teachers, we need to use every tool and influence we have to encourage students to do educationally valuable work outside of the time we have them in class… after school, nights, weekends, and summer. If you teach your students that they can use free Web publishing tools and then become their family’s or neighborhood’s “webmaster,” you will have taught them a valuable lesson or lessons about productive work and lifelong learning. If you share with your students your own use of a free Web-based application like Google Sites, you will have shown them the power of self-publishing. If you aspire to be a media consultant or create a website for your business instead of being a teacher, then your choice is not influenced by what the school may have access to. In that case, you may want to consider using a platform that is more powerful and is more widely used in the world of business. However, these platforms may have a steeper learning curve and cost a fair bit of money, so ask yourself if you have the extra time to work with it.

Other vendors for educators—As teachers, you may also have access to educational prices through your school district, ISD, or other sources. If you know of other sources with better prices or service you’ve found excellent, please email the class with your recommendation. The world of software sales changes constantly. We are aware that deciding on software is not easy. The good news is that any of these choices will give you powerful tools for publishing creative webpages. By the end of the semester, you will be a confident user of whatever service you choose.

🔍 Should I make a new website?

Many of you have created a portfolio for another class or have an existing professional or personal website. In taking the Capstone Portfolio Course, then, you might wonder if you have to create a new site just for this course.

We think there is good reason to integrate the capstone work into an existing site whenever possible. We don’t advocate maintaining multiple websites for no reason. That said, there may be good reasons to make a new website. Maybe you want to learn a new technology (e.g., Weebly or WordPress) and the Capstone Portfolio Course is an opportunity to help you do that. Maybe you envision a different audience for the Capstone Course than for your existing website and you want to keep them separate.

So, what should you do? The answer is simple—it’s up to you. If that means adding pages to an existing website or modifying some part of it in instances where elements of a resumé, a transcript, or something else already exist, that’s fine with us. If you want to make a new site in order to keep professional, personal, and academic lives separate, that’s okay with us, too.

🔍 Rubric for posting reflections and feedback

When you post and reply in this course, please pay attention to the following guidelines. These guidelines also form the basis for the rubric used to grade your discussion contribution.

What makes for a good post?

It depends on the specific assignment, but the following generally apply:

  • Pay attention to the prompts.
  • Use a good portion of the 3 minutes allotted to you.
  • Show us what you’re thinking and why you’re thinking it.
  • When sharing your own work, point to some places where people who respond to you might be most helpful in giving you feedback.

What makes for a good feedback?

Good feedback is important in all design activities, including the design of portfolios. It is especially important in this class. When giving feedback, keep in mind that good feedback is:

  • Thorough – Use a good portion of the 3 minutes allotted to you. Try to cover as many aspects of the assignment that you can—do not focus on only one thing. However, don’t try to cover too much, because each point you make should have some details (see next point).
  • Specific – Avoid generalities like “you had a good design,” and instead be more specific, like “your headers are easy to read, clear, and helpful in breaking up text into more manageable pieces.”
  • Critical – Point out what needs improving. Even if you’re looking at the best piece of work, you can give the author something to think about working towards or thinking about differently.
  • Supportive – Point out what is working well. Even the earliest of drafts is the start of something good that can be highlighted as a success.

🔍 Detailed Flipgrid Instructions

Basic Posting

On camera, make sure you start each video by saying your name. For example, “Hi, this is Matthew Koehler, and today I’m talking about …. ”

After you record your video, there are a couple of fields to fill out. Make sure you pay particular attention to how we use these fields in the capstone course:

  • First Name – Put in your first name.
  • Last Name – Put in your last name.
  • Email – This is optional, but if you give your email address you will be able to delete or update this video by yourself without instructor intervention.
  • Title – Give your video a descriptive title (e.g., “my awesome resumé page”, “need help with Weebly formatting!”, etc.).
  • Link – Give the full link to the website or page you created for this assignment so that others can visit it and provide feedback to you.

App for your Phone

There is a Flipgrid app for your phone that you may wish to use instead. Visit the appropriate app store for your phone to download it.

The app may have several advantages over using your computer, in that if you wish to discuss something you see on screen, it is easy to film the screen with your phone and point to what you’re talking about.

If you do use your phone, you will be prompted to “enter a code” to get to the right Flipgrid. The code for our class is “msu_capstone”.

Technical Problems

Flipgrid does require Flash installed on your computer. It also requires a working camera and microphone—these are things you would need for the exhibition and tech check or office half-hours anyway. Consider using your phone if you don’t have one on your desktop. If you have problems beyond simply installing Flash, a camera, and a microphone, try the excellent Flipgrid support page, or contact us.

🔍 Policy for due dates, early work, and late work

Due Dates

Unless stated otherwise, all work for a given module is due at 11:59 PM Michigan time on the last day of the module.

Early Work

The course dates we have laid out are minimum pacing requirements. Please feel free to complete the course faster than these required dates. The only minor hiccup may be around the final exhibition (Module 11), which we tend to schedule during a specific week. If we have enough people wanting to finish faster, we can likely have an early exhibition (or two).

Late Work

We have worked hard to design the course around modules and due dates that keep you on pace to complete a high-quality portfolio on time.

Most of our weekly modules ask you to just design “something”—a start, a first draft, a placeholder—rather than a finished product. You can always improve on it later. In most cases, you’ll get credit for the activity as long as you do “something.” In short, it is better to get something for an assignment posted on time (like a draft of a resumé) and to improve upon it as we go than to wait for everything to be perfect. There will be time to revise and improve later.

We realize, however, that circumstances arise from time to time that may require to you need extra time for an assignment. That is okay, so long as you contact us before the due date to make a suitable alternate schedule that fits the circumstances. If you do not contact us prior to the due date, our late work policy takes effect. Work received up to 48 hours after the deadline without prior notice may receive up to 1/2 credit; however, you must inform an instructor of its completion. Work received 48 hours after the deadline will receive no points.

If you recognize that unexpected circumstances are going to interfere with your ability to complete your work, we encourage you to consider dropping the course—ideally by the “refund” deadline and definitely by the “no grade reported deadline”—so that you can re-take the class another time when you can focus more fully on the work. We suggest this course of action because we don’t want you to pay for a class that you cannot complete or for a poor grade that doesn’t reflect your ability or potential to appear on your transcript. You can find these dates through the MSU registrar. Please use them to make the decisions that are best for you.

🔍 What is the bonuses and bummers policy?

When you contribute feedback at the end of a module, you are usually expected to provide feedback to two of your classmates.

Our Bonuses and Bummers policy describes exceptions to this expectation as follows:

  • Bonus – If you’re the first person to submit your work for an assignment, you do not have to provide any feedback to anyone.
  • Bonus – If you’re the second person to submit your work for an assignment, you only have to provide feedback to one person (the person who submitted first).
  • Bummer – If you’re the last person to submit your work for a task or Piece of Flair, you probably won’t receive any feedback from anyone.

🔍 What should I do with the feedback I receive?

Equally important as giving good feedback is learning how to receive good feedback. We have a few tips for receiving feedback:

  1. Take time to process the feedback. Carefully review the feedback you received and take time to go through it. We can sometimes read constructive feedback as critical feedback, but this feedback may be especially helpful to the development of your portfolio. If some of the feedback seems critical, taking time to see the value in it can be helpful.
  2. Think through how the feedback applies to your portfolio. While we trust that the feedback you receive will be helpful, there are always opportunities to think through how the feedback applies to your portfolio. For example, specific feedback about how to organize a specific page may not make sense given your audience and goals, but the general idea of the feedback may still let you know that you need to organize it to be easier to navigate. Other feedback may be helpful and aligned with the rubric and assignment descriptions but not line up with your good reasons for designing a page or your portfolio in a specific way. In these cases where your design may not align with feedback you receive, please feel free to reach out to the person providing it—or us—to clarify and expand on the feedback. We are always happy to help with this in any way we can.
  3. Make a plan for changes, but recognize that some may take longer than others. If portfolios are to be authentic and ongoing, everyone needs some flexibility in when they will introduce all of the changes that have been suggested. If you simply don’t have time to make a particular change to your portfolio (especially if the change isn’t a critical part of the assignment requirements), try to leave a record of the suggested change and go back to it later. Think of these as not as an “IOU” but as an “IOM,” meaning something “I Owe Myself.” Of course, you are also free to say, “My portfolio was actually perfect before the feedback and there was really nothing I learned from feedback that was worth treating seriously, so I’ve made no changes as a result of the experience.” We think that’s highly unlikely to happen, though.

🔍 About our grading policy and how to check grades

  • Learn how to check grades in the course by reading this helpful guide.
  • Check grades early and often! This will help you understand your progress in the course and will help us correct any errors as soon as possible.
  • Pay attention to how each module is graded. We provide details about the grading rubric for each module.
  • Understand the late work policy. If you know you’re going to be late, contact us ahead of time and ask for a (reasonable) extension. Otherwise, work is accepted up to 48 hours late with 1/2 credit. The full policy is detailed in the syllabus.
  • The full grading policy is detailed in the syllabus.

🔍 How can I adapt the course to meet my needs?

Here are some of the ways you can adapt the course to meet your goals:

  • Differing levels of technical expertise. Several of you have never published Web pages, but there’s nothing to worry about. Many students from previous semesters also began without this expertise and did just fine. Others of you are experts in Web publishing. We will be asking all of you, especially those experienced in Web publishing, to help each other (more on this later).
  • Different paces for completing work. Some of you would like to work quickly, complete your portfolios, and be done. Because this course is so strongly product oriented, our policy is to let you work ahead as far as you want and as quickly as you want: There should be nothing that requires you to “work back” to the rest of your classmates. However, most of you should have ample opportunities to provide feedback to your peers, and we expect you to take that responsibility seriously. Even if you are working ahead of the rest of your house, we encourage you to keep the communication channels open and stay involved in the feedback process.
  • Different portfolios for different situations. Each student has a different background, profession, and experience. Accordingly, each student portfolio should look different. We want each of you to create a portfolio that works for you. Although we will ask each of you to create some standard pages, we will also ask you to choose some pages that best fit your needs and situation (we call these “pieces of flair“). Even on the “standard” pages that everyone creates, there is room for creativity and individuality.
  • Diversity works best when others benefit from it. The power of Web-based portfolios comes from sharing good work via the Web over time with a community of learners. You will learn a lot in Module 1 because the students before you left their work up on the Web for you to see. Related to this idea is our commitment to your doing authentic work for an authentic audience. Your portfolio should be designed to best reach your fellow teachers, parents, prospective employers, etc. Our guidelines are to facilitate reflection and enhancement, not to restrict or suggest a “right” way to do anything.

🔍 Why am I making a portfolio?

There are lots of good reasons to build an online portfolio. One major reason is that your program (MAED or MAET) will use your portfolio as summative and formative assessment as you conclude your master’s degree program.

That is, you will use your portfolio to collect all of your demonstrated learning, skills, competencies, and reflections in one place. Because it is online, it’s available not only to us (the course instructors) but also to other faculty and students in the program and the College of Education. This is your chance to show everyone what you know and what you can do!

There are reasons beyond finishing your program, however, for building a portfolio. We think that a portfolio can serve you well in professional, social, and personal contexts. That is, the work you demonstrate in your portfolio is a great professional resource for communicating with colleagues and perhaps even landing a job. Your portfolio can also be a point of social connection with others, including friends and family members. This is especially true if you add social components to your site such as a blog, a Twitter feed, or photos. And finally your portfolio can have personal purposes—it can serve as a digital archive for any work that you want to share with others.

🔍 The parts that make up a portfolio

The portfolio you make in this class has several components. The first component is the technology used to create and display your online portfolio (Weebly, Wix, WordPress, Google Sites, etc.). The process of deciding what technology to use is a scaffolded choice that happens throughout Module 1, Module 2, and Module 3, although you can revisit this decision at any time.

Once you have chosen a technology, this course helps you build 7 required pages that go in your portfolio, although there can be great flexibility and individuality in how these required pages are implemented in your portfolio. These seven pages are:

  • A home page (Module 3) – You create a landing page, or the first page that viewers see when visiting your online portfolio.
  • A resumé / vita (Module 5) – You create a page that highlights your professional preparation, appointments, skills, and goals.
  • A showcase (Module 6) – You create a page that shows examples or artifacts of your best work from your master’s program.
  • An annotated transcript (Module 8) – You create a page that lists the courses and topics covered as part of your master’s program.
  • Three reflective essays – You reflect upon your past, present, and future learning in the form of three essays:

In addition to the seven required pages, you will add three or more components that are specifically tailored to you and your portfolio. We call these Pieces of Flair, and you mix and match these components in a way that adds breadth and depth to your portfolio. You might, for example, add a page that describes your classroom (that would be one Piece of Flair), or connect to your presence on LinkedIn (that would be another Piece of Flair).

One website technology, PLUS 7 required pages, PLUS 3 (or more) pieces of flair will give you a website that will be uniquely yours and that you can be proud of.

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