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!).[reminder]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?[/reminder]
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