Monday, March 25, 2013

Using Google Sites in the Classroom

As a Google Certified Teacher, I regularly use Google Apps for Education in my classroom, present on these tools at professional conferences, and sing their praises to colleagues, students and parents. I love Drive, YouTube, Custom Search, Search Filters and Chrome Extensions, and rely on them in both my personal and professional life. But Google Sites, Google's free website builder, has remained somewhat of a mystery to me.

I was first introduced to Sites at the Google Teacher Academy, and since then I have seen several colleagues use the tool successfully: Fellow GCT Brent Catlett has been working on an idea to connect educators from all over the world using Google + Hangouts, and he just recently shared the link to his new project, built on a Google Site: Another GCT buddy, JR Ginex-Orinion, has created personal websites for friends, professional sites, and sites for his students. In preparation for an upcoming NYSAIS workshop, I asked our Robotics teacher, Erik Nauman to come and share with attendees the way his students use Sites to build their own portfolios. He's had great success with his 7th Graders, and looking at what they've produced made me all the more eager to get on the Google Sites bandwagon. 

Having already committed to exploring Twitter, Drive and YouTube with my students this school year, I wasn't really looking for a new piece to add to the 2012-2013 curriculum. However, as we get closer to June I've started to think about the 2013-2014 school year, and Google Sites seems to be a natural tool to explore. A few weeks ago, when I attended a session at the NY/NJ Google Summit led by Karen Blumberg, her mention of Sites stood out to me. She shared a book review site that students contributed to as part of a class project, and I was immediately intrigued. My 5th Grade English students do a ton of writing throughout the year, and I've experimented with a shared Google Doc to record book recommendations, but a Google Site devoted to student written book reviews seems like a great way to combine various elements of our class curriculum and personal passions, all while exploring a new technology tool. 

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