Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Collaborative Playground in Google Sites

Freedom!

The powerful thing about using Google in the classroom has always been the collaborative nature of their products. If you are a lover of GSuite, do you recall the first time you experienced a collaborative doc? My mind was absolutely blown away by the thought of not having to email a document to my colleague and getting it back. The multiple versions of a document created a nightmare! I was instantly done with the email tag with attachments. I felt like William Wallace for a moment and wanted to yell, "freedom!" Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but it was awesome. 

Out of Site(s)

2017 was an interesting year of changes for Google's lineup, but my favorite was the update to Google Sites. A user could get used to the old version and it ended up not being too bad as long as you put the time into learning it, but the new Google Sites is intuitive, clean, and simple. Teachers actually love the fact that there are not a million font or color choices. "Just pick one already!" will not echo through the hallways of school as much. If you haven't had a chance to try the new version of Google Sites, get started by visiting your Google Drive. Act as if you are going to create a document by clicking on the "new" tab. Google Sites is now able to be organized just like a file in your Google Drive. Pretty awesome, huh? Also, if you're new to it, I created an entire guide about using Google Sites when my school district received an early preview of it. You're just a click away! 

Collaborative Space

Remember that feeling of first experiencing collaborative documents via Google I mentioned earlier? That same sense of freedom is also available in Google Sites! I have teachers that will use it much like a Google Slides presentation. We have a great space in our middle and high schools that have tables with televisions attached. Students gather together there and collaborate on building a website around an entire project. There they can pull in images, text, videos, and even directly embed items from their Google Drive (Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings) into their project. It really ends up being a project to house multiple other projects much like a portfolio for the learning experience. 



So what about you? What would you have students do with Google Sites? It is a great place for students to jigsaw their learning for an all-encompassing topic. As they include links to outside resources, they can also link to one other's content. Thus forcing them to read and digest what their peers produced. This format obviously works in the small group setting, but it could even be used with the entire class. Here are some ideas:
  • Inventors or inventions are always a fascinating topic. Students could produce a website advertising their invention as a product for purchase. These inventions could be broken up among individuals or small groups, but the entire class could essentially be building their own company featuring the products and the inventors. Classmates could even provide fake reviews of the product like it is for sale on Amazon. This could be easily done with a few screenshots pieced together within Google Drawings
  • For you geography teachers (earth science could be included here), a vacation guide website featuring a region of the world would be a lot of fun. Videos, custom maps, and banners with Google Drawings could be all inserted throughout the site to feature places of interest. Geography class can be a complete vacation guide. 
  • Khan Academy, couldn't the class become Sal Khan? Several videos and learning resources could be built and the best options would make the cut. Initially, I was thinking this would be a great resource for future classes, but the reality is that every class would need the experience of building this resource. It isn't about having a resource. It is about the process of creating it. Creating is powerful.
  • In history, a website could be built all around an era and the propaganda of the day. Several websites could be built for the purpose of having a political bent of the time. Students could choose which direction they want to go based on what interests them most and not necessarily their own opinion of the topic. It would be interesting to have students try to support the opposing viewpoint. 

Getting Started

So now that you're all fired up to have your students building Google Sites, you need to get things organized. You'll need to think about the structure of your site. What are the major breakdowns of the topic and group size are all questions we ask when students are going to embark on a group project regardless of the use of technology. In my video, I discuss the setup of a site and how to structure pages to fit the learning experience. This is especially dependent upon the student experience with Google Sites as well as the age level of the students. As a former elementary teacher, I'd at least want some structure in place to get the topic rolling and then allow students adjust it to match the need. I hope the video is helpful in getting rolling with your collaborative Google Site


Have Fun

Students will be excited about the process of building their own site. The collaboration that could take place in making decisions of what pieces/elements need to be added and who will complete the tasks is a powerful process in the learning experience.