Saturday, 25 February 2012

To Google or not to Google? (part 1)

'Google logo render - Mark Knol'
What are Google Apps? Are all of them easy to work with and free? And if they are, how can a teacher take advantage of them? These were some of the questions I asked myself the first time I learnt about these applications. I haven’t been able to answer all of them (yet), but I have come to realize how easy to use and convenient most of them can be. Today, I'll focus on one of my favourite tools: Google sites.

Well, after experimenting with this application I can say it is great to create web pages for intranets, class projects or e-portfolios. But that's not all, google sites can also be used to present topics, evaluate them and much more. What I like the most is that making them is free, easy (you don’t need to learn any coding language such as HTML), and the final result is an eye-catching, interactive website ( you can embed documents, presentations, video, etc).

Willing to create a site?

Let’s imagine you have decided to try this application. What will the website building process be like? At first, creating a google site might look challenging, but taking the first step implies just having a google account (if you have been using g-mail or blogger, you already have one!). Then, setting up the site won’t take long. These days it’s easier than ever to sit down and put together a great looking website that will do everything you want it to do- without any hair pulling.  Anyone who is able to navigate their computer’s desktop and internal folders will be able to create their own site. You may need to read or watch a couple of tutorials before you know how to adapt it to your needs, but you’ll have a high-quality free website in a couple of days ( or maybe weeks, at the most). For those who are “just do it” people like me and prefer a trial-and-error approach, learning might be frustrating sometimes, but it will definitely be a lot of fun!

And, what about its design? Don’t worry about that. There are plenty of great-looking page and site templates . If you are creative you can change the site’s layout and experiment with different fonts and colours. However, I would recommend reading some information on the topic  ( “6 Conventions of Web Design” and “Color Selection”, for example)  before changing too much.

My experience

 To start with, I tried using google sites to present, practise and test topics. I was given this idea during “Laboratorio Pedag√≥gico”, a course on ICT  provided by the Ministry of Education in my area. You’ll find a link to the first ones I created below.  My students have enjoyed doing the activities, but I’m not 100 % satisfied with how they came out. The good thing is I can keep editing them for as long as I want to.

And what about having a class site or a personal site? Well, at first I felt very intimidated by the thought of making my own personal website, but as I teach many classes I decided to give this a try and created one called “Ana Miotti” .Now, I see it as my home on the internet. Its main purpose is to publish information I wish students to read (announcements, test dates, useful links, etc), but I believe it will be a great tool to get in contact with parents and learn about students’ needs as well. Some of my students have already had a look at it and given me feedback. What  do you think of it? Would you like to have your own google site?

Google sites I have created:
Numbers (basic level, to present numbers to teenagers)
Lyfestyles (intermediate level/ present and practise present simple vs. continuous and stative vs. action verbs).
Ana Miotti (my personal site)

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