Thursday, December 20, 2012

Free and the stuff that disappears in the night

One of the biggest frustrations with Google stuff (tax issues aside!) is this sort of thing:

Winter cleaning | Official Google Blog: "On January 4, 2013, we’ll be shutting down several less popular Google Calendar features. You’ll be unable to create new reservable times on your Calendar through Appointment slots, but existing Appointment slots will continue working for one year. In addition, we’ll discontinue two Calendar Labs—Smart Rescheduler (we recommend Find a time view or Suggested times as alternatives) and Add gadget by URL. Finally, Check your calendar via sms and Create event via sms (GVENT)—U.S.-only features for creating and checking meetings by texting information to Google—will be discontinued today, as most users prefer mobile Calendar apps."

Now, I know that free comes at a price.  And I know that for every 'free' tool you use online you should have a back-up plan.  A little contingency thrown into the mix.  But if your job is to see a tool for its worth in a learning and teaching context... and promote / support the way in which is might be used... and the rug gets pulled on the feature or functionality that actually makes a difference to people... then, going Google can be a frustrating experience.

No point crying over disappearing free stuff...
I guess some of it is because they're always concentrating on their core stuff rather than the extra faffy, sometimes experimental stuff... but unfortunately, it's that stuff that can be most useful.  So far, they've culled Google Notebook - which I found brilliant for online research; they're culling Appointments - which are fantastic for organising those one-to-many relationships where a group of people need to speak to you one-to-one; Gadgets disappeared from spreadsheets; Google search timeline went and support for Picasa on anything other than Windows drastically reduced.  Am sure there are others, but it is a pain.

Using free stuff is one thing.  Depending on free stuff or imagining it'll never change is another.  Maybe it's a nudge to us to continually look at what we're using and whether that needs a tweak too.   But one thing's for sure.  Imagining that that 'essential' tool you've found online is going to be there for the foreseeable future is going to leave you with a very sad look on your face!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

10 Ideas for using Google Sites in Education

Gotta love a bit of working together...
I was just creating a few bits and bobs for a workshop on Google Sites for collaboration and thought that it might be handy to share my '10 ideas for using Google Sites in Education'.  They're dead easy to use... no, they're not the most advanced, slick thing out there... but for sheer ease of creation and collaboration, they're a brilliant little educational tool!

Student-created discipline specific sites (what a mouthful!)
One of the best ways of knowing if you know something is trying to explain it to others, so why not use a Google Site to get your students doing that? For example, - brilliant site which shows the power of student collaboration and along the way improves students’ digital literacy as well as providing a great resource for prospective students

Team wiki
Create a Google Site to act as a team wiki with page templates to structure the content people put in and get them collaborating! You’ll have a living breathing dynamic wiki started in no time.

Club or society site
Belong to a club or society and want to promote it to others? Why not try a Google Site? You can embed a Google Calendar to share important dates of events as well as share files / photos / reports from the club too.

An example Google Sites ePortfolio, this one's for
Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology
Get students to create themselves an ePortfolio using Google Sites where they can use pages to structure the items they want to share and can embed media-rich examples such as video, audio, presentations etc, to demonstrate competence across a range of areas.

Research presentation
Have your students research a particular subject and get them to present their findings using a Google Site. They can include docs they’ve created, videos they’ve found as well as use pages to put their findings into their own words

Open online classroom
What about creating an online learning environment using a Google Site? If you want to collaborate between the university and the wider community, giving access to all parties can be problematic with standard virtual learning environments... but using a Google Site to share lessons / content / tutorials could be a great way to open up your classroom.

Departmental website
If you’ve got documents you’d like to share with a large group of colleagues, then sorting out sharing for all of them and making sure that they don’t disappear if someone leaves can be a problem. A Google Site, complete with page permissions to give authorship to the right individuals, is an excellent way of giving people a central place they can find out what’s what.

Help and support resources
Tired of answering the same question over and over from your students? Maybe a Google Site where they can easily find answers... and contribute their own as the course goes along... could be a great way of making life simpler for everyone. It doesn’t just have to be text, it’s easy to insert videos into your pages too.

Cross-departmental working
Students on French courses sharing work with Engineers? Chemists and Musicians? A Google Site could be a great way to get students from different departments sharing and for you to share content with them.

Online staff development
Finding time to attend a staff development event can be a complete pain in a busy schedule. A Google Site with resources which people can work through at their own pace is a golden opportunity for you to support others while demonstrating how useful online learning can be! What do you know about that others might want to know about? Could you get a group of people together to create a Google Site sharing their expert knowledge for others to work through? That could be the starting point for something excellent!

There ya go... 10 ideas for using Google Sites in Education!
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