This is the sure sign that I am a total nerd: today is my first day of summer and I could not wait to build a site using the new Google Sites! My students have been using that in the Spring semester for their sites, but I have not really even had a chance to play with it myself. This morning, though, I built my first real Google Site, and I am really happy with the results. You can see the site here:
Days of the Week: India
My school is not using Google Apps, unfortunately, but I know that a lot of people here are at Google schools and are using the Google Apps integration with Canvas, so I though these notes might be of use even though I am not actually publishing content in Canvas. If you want your students to be designing sites, the new Google Sites is really fun, and I believe it is one of the tools that can be turned on as part of Google Apps. I'm also using GoogleDrive here for the content management. Anyway, here are some notes about this project and why I am really excited about using Google Sites and Google Drive:
1. Google Drive for content re-use. I built 100 "reading units" for my class UnTextbook that are based on specific books from specific regions (you can see the UnTextbook here).
Mythology and Folklore UN-Textbook
That's been great, but now I want to build some THEMATIC units: stories about tigers, about the devil, love stories, riddles, etc. etc. So, that will involve re-using the same stories for multiple units: a story like "The Leopard And The Crocodile" might show up in the "Congo Stories" unit but also show up in the "Stories about Crocodiles" unit and also "Stories about Leopards." Obviously I don't want to be copying-and-pasting the content because that leads to an editing nightmare; the goal should be to take literally the same content (same file) and display it in multiple locations. Well, Google Drive is my solution for that. Google Sites really makes it easy to embed Google Drive files, and I can also go back to my old UnTextbook and iframe the Google Docs in there as needed. Plus, it gives me the content at Google Drive for any kind of long-term future re-use, and Google Drive is also easy to back up locally etc. etc.
2. Google Sites, side by side with my students. My goal is always to use free tools that my students can use too, and even though we are not a Google Apps school, we can still use Google Sites as part of our individual Google accounts. My students used the old Google Sites which was okay but very clunky, and now with the brand-new Google Sites they can build sites that look the way they think websites should look, and which are also very mobile friendly. You can see this semester's Storybooks here (the Storybooks are websites that they build, and most of them used Google Sites; their Portfolios are in Blogger or WordPress):
The biggest challenge I face in teaching students how to use Sites is getting them to credit their images. Google Sites makes it scarily easy to add images to your site without crediting the source, so by building my own sites with image credits at the bottom of every page, I can hopefully model that behavior for my students (plus it is so much fun finding images to use with this "banner image" style). I'll also gain familiarity with Google Sites and its features that will allow me to do a better job of helping the students with their sites.
3. Modular resources. I am really excited about how each of my units will now be a freestanding website; that will make it easier for other people to reuse the materials if they want. Right now, the UnTextbook is modular, but all the units are part of the same blog. Now the units will be more freestanding, and I think that will increase their usefulness to others. This unit on the days of the week is a good example: I intended for my students to read all of it in order to learn about the storytelling traditions of India (one of the classes I teach is about India)... but I could see someone linking to this site as a resource just for learning about days of the week in other countries, where the students might or might not read the actual stories. I am pleased that the shortest story of the group is a really nice one about the god Shiva if someone opts to just read the shortest of the stories.
Anyway, this is just the first of many to come. When I asked my students which possible improvements to the class they were most interested in, these thematic reading units were their topic choice, and I am going to have so much fun creating them this summer. I've got basically an infinite amount of content I can use, and it will be fun wrapping up that content into these elegant little Google Sites wrappers.
HAPPY SUMMER, everybody!!!