It is quickly becoming common place for classrooms to have their own websites. Beyond that, teachers are starting to utilize website creation as a publication tool for student projects. With a number of options available, none are as versatile as Google Sites, especially if you already teach and learn in a GAfE school or district.

Sites is an additional offering in the Google Apps suite that enables users to create their own comprehensive websites without needing to understand so much as what an HTML tag is. Rather, by utilizing the App’s simple toolbar and inherent features, teachers and students alike can not only begin designing their own multi-page websites for free. As with Google’s other Apps, they can do it together as owners, collaborators, and viewers.

After accessing Sites through your Google or GAfE account, beginning to build your first website is as simple as choosing a name, a URL, and one of a number of templates that Google has made available to you. Keep a template as is or customize it to your liking. The further you get into Sites, the more you realize that this App was designed to meet your preferences and needs.

As with other website building platforms, Sites allows you to create multiple pages to organize content. Specific to Sites are the different options of page types (Web Page, Announcements, File Cabinet, and List) that you can customize and construct your web site from. Whether utilizing a Web Page to create the homepage of your class site, an Announcement page to host a weekly newsletter or classroom blog, a File Cabinet page to curate relevant resources for your students and parents, or a List page to feature a sports team roster or running vocabulary list, Google Sites provides you with the tools necessary to establish a meaningful online extension of your classroom’s culture and learning.

Since Sites is part of Google’s Apps offering, Site owners also have the opportunity to set sharing settings to meet school policy and classroom needs. Not only can you program these settings for your web site itself, you can also customize the privileges for each individual page. From “public to the web” to “viewable by” only those invited, Sites lets you publish content specifically for the people you intend for it to be viewed by.

Whichever level of access you decide on, Sites, like other Google Apps, integrates with GAfE without any problems. In other words, you can insert or attach specific Docs, Spreadsheets, Calendars, Presentations, Maps, YouTube videos, and more to enhance the level of communication and interaction that your website offers.

Additionally, inserting gadgets can further improve the functionality of your Google Site. By using user created gadgets, Google developed gadgets, or even gadgets you create yourself, you can include such things as recent post listings, live Twitter streams, files from Google Drive, and HTML editors, to name just a few.

Sites has also been designed to offer a number of ways to streamline the processes involved in creating your own websites, one of which is saving pages as templates. If you have created a page that you would like to use again (for a newsletter or a classroom project, perhaps), you can save this page as a template by clicking on the More dropdown menu. Once saved as a template, you will be able to choose this page format from the New Page drop down box which previously offered only four options (mentioned above). With this new templated page, you can update information, delete all content, or make any changes needed without your changes effecting the original page the template was made from. Likewise, changes made to the original web page do not affect the templates copied from it. Additionally, web pages can be copied to use when creating new websites too (so you don’t have to delete the content from last year’s class site for next year’s students to be able to use).

When considering options for taking your classroom online, Google Sites makes a lot of sense. But then again, what about Google Apps doesn’t? With Sites, you can create what you want to create, customize it to your liking, and share it with whomever you please. Fortunately, you have the entire summer ahead of you. So, how will you be using Sites with your students next fall?

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