Teachers these days are faced with many choices about how they could run their classroom in the digital age. There are so many tools, that sometimes it can be overwhelming to choose which ones will do the trick. Whilst this decision can be made a little easier within a Google school through the GAFE suite, there are still choices to be made. A question I often get asked is whether one should use Google Classroom, Google Sites, or Blogger. It is at this point that I say “use them all”. The reason I say this is that they are all tools that do their own thing, and they each do their own thing very well. More importantly, they all work together very well. If set up correctly, teachers can make learning for their students occur anytime, anywhere, and at any pace.
So what are the differences between Google Classroom, Google Sites and Blogger? Teachercast has done a superb job of outlining these differences in their recent post on ‘The Great EdTech Debate: Google Sites v Google Classroom v Blogger‘. Below I will outline how I have used each of these tools in the past and give a link to examples of my Google Site and Blog.
By creating a Google Site for my class, I like to use the analogy of my Google Site as a filing cabinet of all of the resources that my students would ever need. If I want my students to be able to learn anytime and anywhere, then it is essential that I have the information that they need accessible on the class Google Site. Out of my class blog and Google Classroom, the Google Site took the longest to set up (by a long way!). However, now that it is set up, it can be used year after year with a bit of tinkering to make the site better and up to date. I like to compare this to how teachers previously collected resources over a number of years and kept them in boxes (before the digital age). This is the same process, but the Google Site acts as a way of collecting and storing resources digitally that can be used time and again. Click here to check out an example of our Year 10 Google Site that we created last year.
I use blogger as a continually updated source of information for my students. To use another analogy, I like to think of my class blog as a digital whiteboard, where students can find the instructions for the block/day. However, unlike a whiteboard, this information does not get rubbed off, and therefore fits nicely into my philosophy of making learning accessible anywhere, anytime and at any pace. For each block of work, students are able to see the corresponding instructions on our class blog. These instructions would often have links to resources that are found on the class Google Site. While the class Google Site usually stays the same, the class blog is a ‘living’, continually changing source of instructions and information. As well as having a class blog, I also ask my students to create their own blogs. This is where they publish their work – and as such they have a global audience. I also like to display a list of the students blogs down the side of the class blog. Click here for an example of our class blog from last year.
While some would argue that a lot of what I do with Blogger could be done using the announcement function with Google Classroom, I like to also use Blogger as there is a lot more functionality (such as adding gadgets, labels, twitter feeds etc). So why do I use Google Classroom as well? Google Classroom is essential if you are using Google Apps for Education (GAFE), as it is a great way to manage the workflow for your students. It is so easy to share google docs with your class, and most importantly it allows teachers to create a copy of the document for each student. From here, Google Classroom also creates folders that are stored in the Google Drive of both the teacher and the students. The announcement function is also really useful for creating online discussions with your class, where even the quietest student can have a voice. So while I use Blogger for my daily instructions, I use Google Classroom as my main way of assigning and collecting work.
So that’s how I integrate the functionality of Google Sites, Blogger and Google Classroom. They are all outstanding classroom tools, and when used together, they can create a learning environment that is efficient for the teacher as well as making learning accessible anywhere, anytime and at any pace.