NEW Google Sites: 10 things teachers must know

Google Sites has been overhauled, and you're going to like the changes! Here's what you need to know. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

Google Sites has been overhauled, and you’re going to like the changes! Here’s what you need to know. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

I have a confession to make.

I’m heavily invested in Google, being a Google Certified Innovator, using Google tools all the time and suggesting them to teachers. (No, that’s not the confession yet …)

I’ve had great things to say about so many Google products over the years.

Except one: Google Sites.

I think “despise” might be the right word to describe my feelings toward the old Google Sites. (Personal preference, of course … if you loved it, that’s OK for you!)

In the classroom, I’ve always used Weebly to create websites. It uses a drag-and-drop interface and it’s much easier to use overall.

Well … Google has overhauled Google Sites. (It’s about time …)

And the result is a HUGE improvement. So much so that I’m finally confident in recommending that you use Google Sites.

You’ll find Google Sites at sites.google.com. If you’re logged in to your Google account, you’ll be able to jump right in and create your first site.

There are lots of Google Sites tutorials all over the web, but honestly … I don’t know that you’ll need much in the way of a tutorial. The new Google Sites is pretty user friendly.

Instead of telling you how to use it, I’d like to tell you 10 things that I think teachers need to know about the new Google Sites before using it (or once they’ve started using it):

And if you’d like to see them in motion, I’ve created a walkthrough video of all 10 (see below or click this link to see it on YouTube).

1. Click and drag content where you want it. This is the biggest improvement of all with Google Sites. It was so clunky and difficult to get content where you wanted it on the page before. Now, all you need to do is click the item you want to add (text box, image, etc.) and then drag it around on the page.

2. Share to let others edit it with you. There’s a button next to the “Publish” button that lets you add what they call “editors.” If you want a fellow teacher (or if students want others in their group) to edit the site, using this button lets you give others permission easily. Just add them with their email address — or even make an “Everyone with the link can edit” link you can share with others.

3. Predesigned themes. The new Google Sites makes attractive design pretty easy with themes. These are prepackaged, ready-to-go website designs you can change with a click of the mouse. They’re available at the top of the right-hand sidebar in the “Themes” tab.

4. Embed from Google. Embedding is taking interactive elements from a website and putting them on your website. Google Sites makes it easy with three options: YouTube, Calendar and Map. Click one of those buttons to stick a live, dynamic (works on your site without going to another site) video, calendar or map on your site.

5. Display your site nicely on any device. Google Sites features what web designers call “responsive design.” That means it customizes your text, images and other elements to look good on any device — computer, tablet or smartphone. This will give you the confidence that if a student or parent views a site that it won’t show up funky because they’re viewing it on mobile. (More info on responsive design here.)

6. Add interactive Google files on your pages. Want to add a slide presentation to your page where you can click through the slides? Or a document where you can scroll through the pages? A single click will do it, letting you pick a file from your Google Drive to stick on the page. This goes for Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms and Charts. (If you want to use a Google Drawing, you can always save it as an image file (File > Download as > JPEG) and add it to your site as an image.)

7. No file cabinet page or sharing pages privately. One gripe that many people have with the new Google Sites is that the cabinet page has disappeared. This page type created a page with a list of files on the site. In the new Google Sites (as of publication of this post), that’s not available. (However, it’s pretty easy to link to Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms and Charts now — see No. 6 above — so that’s not too bad.)

A second gripe is that you can’t give custom permissions for pages and sites like you could with the old Google Sites. If that’s a deal breaker for you, you can continue to use the old Google Sites for a while. (And maybe, by the time the old Google Sites disappears forever, they will have updated the new Google Sites with those features!)

The final three in this list are some great ways to use Google Sites in the classroom …

8. Create project websites, not just projects. When students create projects, we often don’t give their hard work much of an audience. Usually it’s just the class (or worse, just the teacher). If they create their work on a Google Site, they can showcase their hard work to a larger audience — anyone they share the link with to their website.

9. Create a parent portal. This is an easy way to keep parents in the loop with what’s happening in the classroom. Create a site with all the info parents want, like contact information, the calendar of assignments from Google Classroom, photos and video from class, and more. Make sure to update it regularly to give them a reason to keep coming back!

10. Create a video course/repository. When students work on class activities, occasionally they need a refresher on certain topics they’ve learned before. (OK, more often than occasionally!) Consider creating a website with lots of embedded videos that cover these topics. If they need a reminder, you can easily say, “Go watch that quick video on the website.” Plus, if parents are helping them, they might need a quick refresher — or a video can show them the specific way you’re having students do the work (think math concepts that can be taught multiple ways by different teachers!).

Question: What are the features you really like (or dislike) in the new Google Sites? How have you used Google Sites with students, parents or others? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:

  Date Event / Event Details City / More Info
+ 05/30/2017
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Innovate RE-4 EdCamp Windsor, CO
  Venue:Windsor Middle School
Windsor, CO
 
+ 05/31/2017
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Summer Technology Institute Norfolk, NE
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+ 06/01/2017
Franklin Township Community School Corp. Indianapolis, IN
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8:15am-2:00pm
PowerED UP Conference Leopold, IN
  Sponsor:Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearning  
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+ 06/06/2017
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Austin, TX 78746
Register to attend
+ 06/07/2017
8:00am-3:00pm
Innovation Institute Springdale, Arkansas
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Region 6 Digital Learning Conference Huntsville, TX
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+ 06/13/2017
North Central Parke Community Schools Marshall, IN
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ISTE 2017 San Antonio, TX
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18 thoughts on “NEW Google Sites: 10 things teachers must know

  1. I would say that Weebly is still miles ahead of the new Google Sites. I too am heavily invested in Google tools. For many reasons, I am disappointed with the limitations of the New Sites. I can see some very simplistic uses and uses for students, but given the current capabilities (or lack of), I cannot yet use it to build serious web site. However, being still a beta in reality, I will remain optimistic that it will eventually have much more to offer than it’s current rendition.

  2. I like the new Google Sites for my high school students–it’s much easier for them to use with little extra guidance from me. For me, though, it’s a little frustrating because I’m locked into certain things and I can’t edit or customize it as readily as I could the old one. It’s getting there, but it’s not where I would like it to be yet (for my own personal use). Positive changes in the right direction, though!

  3. Have they overhauled their discussion board yet (Is it called Google Groups? I forget.)? I would love an easy to use discussion board that doesn’t clutter up my Classroom Stream, but whatever discussion board they had when I last checked was extremely outdated.

    • Yes. You can embed the code and get it to show up. I am in the process of making a website for a course I’m taking, but here’s how it looks. You just embed the code and copy and paste the URL of the Google Group. Pretty simple.

  4. To me Google sites and GSuite was always a useable extra to Moodle. Now with the beautiful new Google sites, self marking Google forms and Google Classroom you have the perfect replacement – and all hosted free of charge by Google!

  5. Right now, the feature I miss the most is the ability to use the Slider gadget to make attractive slide shows embedded in Google Sites. With that gadget embedded slide shows just don’t look nice.

  6. Am I just not seeing it or can you reply not change font styles, font colors or font size in the new Sites? I want to be able to customize the pages. I like Blogger much better than the new or old Sites.

  7. Is there a way to add a newsfeed or blog to the new sites? We want to have something we can update, but also archive so parents can’t say “we didn’t post about it.” I know how to do it on the old sites, but all I can see is that you have to have an external blog that you can embed. Anythoughts

  8. I’m prepping for a training for college students using GoogleSites as an ePortfolio, which I’ve done in the past with the old version. With the old sites, it was very cumbersome to embed a pdf (they create their resumes in Word and save as pdf’s).

    The new sites makes it so easy! I’m excited to see if they like it.

    • Not yet….hoping for a page template that has actual blog functionality unlike the “announcements” page template in the old sites.

  9. I was contemplating building my new site with the New Google Sites, but there was no way to add a Twitter widget. This was enough to keep me from using it. Kind of a bummer.

  10. Every Google document has to be shared with every person who wants to view the site even if the site is shared with the person. I am frustrated with that as a teacher. I feel like we are double sharing everything. We are now teaching students to set sharing permissions on each document they upload to the site or just copying and pasting their information and leaving the doc behind.

  11. Is there a way I can have my Google sites attached to my Google Classroom? I inserted the Google sites link as an announcement but some of my students have had difficulty accessing it. Or vice versa?

    • I just use a link from my site to Classroom. Although my students tend to bookmark both Classroom and sites on their Chrome account.