Google sites to the rescue!

Talk to just about any educator these days, no matter what part of the country or world they’re teaching in, and they’re  all asking pretty much the same questions: how do I communicate more easily with parents? How do I keep absent students caught up in class? How do I teach my students to take more responsibility for their education? And how do I just make my job just a little bit easier? One of the most common answers you’ll hear to these questions is “create a class website!”

Yes, having a web-presence allows you to deal with all of the above questions, and more. But then another question arises: how do I create a website? Should I just create a blog or wiki? What service or platform should I use? Help!!!

Never fear, Google Sites is here! If your district has adopted Google Apps for Education, or even if you’re just using your own personal Google account, you have access to a very powerful and integrated platform for creating your website.

So with all of the other products out there, many of them free, why use Google Sites? A few reasons immediately come to mind:

  • Integration with Google Apps, including Drive, docs and calendars – and YouTube, too!
  • Templates
  • Themes
  • Student-created sites
  • Huge community of users to reach out to for support

Let’s take a look at each of the above, starting with integration. Having a site that integrates with your full Google suite means that you can connect your site to any document in your Google Drive, and that you can include a class calendar as well. Not to mention the ability to embed YouTube videos in a click or two. And since any changes you make to any of your documents are automatically reflected in the site, it creates less work overall.

Next up. templates and themes. These are closely related, so I’ll address them together. When you create your site, you choose a template for it. You can start with a blank one, which allows for complete control over the customization. Or you can choose from pre-made templates, many of which come loaded with useful features for the classroom. Google Sites has dozens of templates in the gallery that have been designed by teachers, and they are yours to use as you choose. Once your template is selected, you can choose your theme. Themes allow you to tweak the design of your site to your heart’s content, adding and adjusting your own color, font and other formatting choices to really dial in a specific look and feel.

Been thinking about having your students create their own websites or blogs? Maybe you’d like to have them create a site to serve as their own electronic portfolio? If your students are already using Google Drive to create and share documents, this one is a natural progression. With a little bit of knowledge, your students can create their own web presence that will not only allow them to publish work from any class, but that can be shared with parents, the school and community – and has the potential to help them when it comes time to apply for colleges and careers. How cool is that?

And finally, there’s the vast community that’s out there already using Google Apps who are willing to share their knowledge. A quick search will bring up literally millions of hits (which presents a great topic for another blog…how to search more efficiently!), so if there’s anything you need help with, just Google it! Of course, the ORVSD training site and team of talented trainers is here to help, too. Let us know if there’s anything we can help you with, and hope to see you at the Google Apps Summit next week!

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