Friday, July 22, 2016

A Free Website Could Get Your Teenager into a Better College

By Steve McCrea, advocate of free websites for students
You know that your child is more than a Grade Point Average and a score on the SAT or ACT.   What does “3.5 GPA” or “670 Math, 590 Verbal” say?   What if people could see the best work of your child? What if your school’s website had links to the work of its students?

California is ahead of us
Students at High Tech High in San Diego, California put their book reports and essays on the web.  Anybody can see the school work that earned the students a “B” or an “A.”  
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Fig. 1:  The High Tech high website lists its students by first name.

Would you like your children to display their best work?

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Fig. 2:  A student at High Tech High shows his portfolio of academic work.

Tony Wagner of Harvard University says that the cheapest way for schools to help students is….Set up digital portfolios.

Here’s a line that Tony Wagner has used in dozens of presentations:
What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 5.09.42 AM.pngFig. 3:  You can go online and hear the Harvard Professor talk about skills.
See more of the interview by typing :

A guidance counselor in Michigan writes in a blog:
I could see high school students creating digital portfolios throughout high school and then finishing with a cumulative assessment at the end of their senior year. These are sometimes referred to as a Senior Capstone e-Portfolio.  By providing students with a way to showcase work they will have a clearer vision as a learner, find pride in their work, and share with possible colleges or employers.  (C. M. Lindberg).

Free Website Project
I’ve been using the Internet for the past two years at SunEd High School in Margate, Florida, to showcase the academic work of some of my students.   I’ have placed short videos of my students explaining their projects and some of them have published small books using Createspace to put the books on offer on Amazon.  When I heard about the Digital portfolios of High Tech High, it clicked for me.  “Now the videos, essays and photos can be in one place.”

Four key principles
  1. The students are encouraged to keep “their observations” on a separate blog.  Experiments with comedy, humor and satire are placed on independent blogs.  Famous authors sometimes use second names.  Pseudonyms (pen names) are suggested.  Who is Richard Bachman?   (novelist Stephen King uses an alias).
  2. Students control the content of their websites
  3. The School chooses whether or not to link the student’s site to the “List of Websites Made by Our Students” list that is hosted on the School website.
  4. Students are advised to put POSITIVE INFORMATION on their portfolio that shows work that the students created for school.

Instagram and Facebook?  Sure!
I tell my students, “You have spent hours collecting photos and writing about things that interest you.  Colleges and universities will want to see that information.”  The free website, built using a Gmail account, can collect in one place the essays and photos that show the spirit and initiative of your child.  If you are careful and if you make sure your child keeps only positie images on his social media, then you might have a way to distinguish your child from dozens of other applicants.

Here’s what parents can say to guide their teenagers:   “Instagram is a digital portfolio of images that are important to you.  Your instagram account and the photos on your Facebook like list tell others that you believe that these images are important.”
An example of a digital portfolio by a student at High Tech High
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Fig. 4: Advice to teens:   A brief introduction of each paragrpah will tell the viewer about your interests and why this project was meaningful.

Free Video
Are you ready to get started?  You need a Gmail account and the free Google Sites software. For more information about the Free Website Project and how you and your child can get the free training, call (954) 646 8246 and find out where the next free workshop will happen near you.
A free video is available at   

For More Information
Look at other digital portfolios to get ideas.  Here are two links at High Tech High School:

Free Ebooks
When you start building a digital portfolio, you might want to add some projects.  To find interesting projects, look at Matt Blazek’s free ebook   video about projects

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I have learned the High Tech High school method of building DIGITAL PORTFOLIOS using Google Sites.   Show Your Work  I recommend this system for engaging the attention of students.  They can build free websites and attract attention to subjects that matter to them.

Make learning fun and engage the curiosity of students. Letter to Directors of schools about “digital portfolios”    links to free ebooks   A blog post from a visit to a school in New Jersey  FREE Personal History WORKBOOK
Blogs   the blog that gives updates about the next location of a workshop.  
A School Counselor:

Steve McCrea is a high school teacher.  He is coordinating the creation of 300 student websites at SunEd High School before February 2017.  He invites questions at and he blogs at at   He can be reached at (954) 646 8246.

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