In my previous post, I waxed poetic about how it is imperative for teachers to make their materials easily accessible to their students. (Read that post here) As a quick summary, I stated that if a teacher is going to give assignments that must be completed outside of the school day, students should be able to access those materials digitally. For those teachers that aren’t ready to make the foray into creating a digital space, I suggested that they allow students to take pictures of the assignments with their cell phones, creating instant access for kids like mine that just can’t seem to get paper items all the way home from school. However, this doesn’t really help students that don’t have their own cell phones or elementary students who still rely heavily on parental support when organizing their lives.
This is where the new Google Sites can come in handy! This is a great way for you to share assignments, announcements, hand outs, and even a calendar of events quickly and easily with students and parents. All you need to create a Site is a Google account and materials stored in Google Drive. Set-up for Sites is easy and quick, and you don’t have to be a tech guru to make an amazing looking classroom site in just a few minutes. It is also easy to quickly update and add materials to your site, limiting the amount of time you have to spend managing your digital portal.
To create a Site for yourself, go to http://www.sites.google.com. You will arrive at a landing page that gives you the option of creating a site or navigating to the new Google Sites platform. Make sure you go to “New Google Sites” since the old platform will cease to exist in the future.
Once there, simply click on the red and white plus sign and you are on your way!
Google will create a blank site for you, and you simply need to click and type to make the classroom web portal of your dreams! The beauty of Google Sites is that it is a “what you see is what you get” creation tool. As you add elements, you can see how they will look live on your page, and you can easily add or remove elements by clicking on them. There are six themes to choose from, and while some people may find this limiting, I find it allows me to spend less time agonizing over my design and more time just getting stuff done!
Your blank site will look like this when you begin:
You will use the creation and navigation tools on the right side to create your site. The first decisions you will need to make are:
- Site and page name (it might be a good idea to use your last name)
- Theme and color scheme
- If you want all content to be on one page or if you want multiple pages
My recommendation when you begin is to go easy on yourself and go with a few elements until the school year is underway and you decide if you need more or if you need to alter what you can realistically manage time wise. A good beginning would be to have “Announcements,” “Homework,” and if you are calendar savvy, a Google calendar with all important events like quizzes, tests, field trips, and project due dates listed. You can have all of these elements on one page. Simply use the “Divider” component to create a break or place a line between each of these elements. Of, if you are all about layout, put each on its own page.
In less than 20 minutes, I was able to create a site to share my announcements, embed the materials for the assignments for the week, and add a calendar for students and parents to quickly find important dates. It was easy to grab the materials that were already in my Google Drive (creating the Form on the fly). Each day or week, I will just need to retype my announcements and change the materials I want students to access.
For the full site: https://sites.google.com/view/classroomofawesomeness/home
What I created was a very basic site for which I can share the link via email or on my school’s external web page. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles and some web designers might not love my sparse/bare bones set-up, but it gets the job done! It is a great start at accessibility, and as the school year goes on, I might find that I want to use multiple pages, add additional elements, include video links, etc. The point is that I now have a place my students can go to find the materials and information they need.
The limitation of Sites is that it is more like a repository of material, with very little two-way interaction between you and your audience. If you are looking for a robust way to interact with your students, you should investigate other options like Google Classroom or a learning management system like Schoology. I will cover these options in future posts, so stay tuned!
If you would like more information on how to create and use Google Sites, feel free to contact me through the Contact link on this blog. If you are a member of the Lebanon City Schools staff and would like to schedule a one-on-one session for training, email me via district email.