Google Sites – Enabling students to aspire to a higher quality of research and presentation work

Last year my Year 9 History class was about to embark on their task of researching Old Boys from their school who fought in the First World War. The dual purpose of the topic was for these new entrants to learn about the history of their school, their country at the time and the battle fields of the War.

Having successfully challenged the class to use Google Docs to research and present the Ancient Rome topic, I decided to take it one step further and ask them if they would like to build a class website. This was a risky undertaking as it would require an already high level and difficult individual research task to be presented in a shared and co-ordinated approach. With some Web Design (Digital Technologies) teaching background I had confidence that I could assist a small team of enthusiastic students from within the class to help prepare and manage the technical aspects of the project.

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The topic background was introduced over the last two weeks of Term Two with the full research and presentation project introduced and completed during Term Three of 2011. Here is the completed class website with each student completing and signing off at the bottom of their respective page. Their research was completed on a separate Google document template. On the website I have written here fully about how the research project was implemented along with some reflections. I also presented on it in a workshop at the U-learn teachers conference in October 2011.

Google Sites in Education are being increasingly used for School Extra-Curricular Sports and Arts – Club, Team and Group websites – a good example here used by the increasingly successful Wellington College Rowing Club. I have even seen Sites being implemented this year in interesting ways for student centred houses at Nayland College (Nelson). And of course many teachers and students have Google Sites for classes or student portfolios.

The way that I have utilised Google Sites here is to get students to take their research work to another level. To set their expectations higher and to teach them about:

  • Research Quality and Standards
  • Writing Content for the Web
  • Web Presentation – Navigation and Consistency
  • Teamwork – Collaboration and Communication

What I have come to appreciate is that the higher the level of expectation that I set for my students then the more they aspired to meet it. For example, the more prepared, well designed and professional the student web development team made the website template look when presented to the rest of the class, then the more the sense of expectation of a higher quality of work that the class aspired to.

Of course this was my first attempt and there are things that I would certainly do differently given another opportunity at this sort of task, but I definite enjoyed teaching in this student centred, inquiry focused and collaborative style and I know that my students enjoyed it and undoubtedly gained from the experience.

1 Comment

DorothyMay 18th, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Great post Mark. We are using Google Sites extensively in our cluster as part of the managed learning environment. You may be interested in these ones from Tamaki College.
http://www.manaiakalani.org/school-projects/tamaki-college
Have you thought about presenting at the Google Apps Summit in Auckland on October 9th?

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