Many teachers battle with the decision of whether to use Google Sites or Google Classroom. In my opinion, it is not a question of either or, it is a question of how we can use them both to manage workflow efficiently and in a way that will transform the learning for our students. Besides, ask yourself this question: Would Google create two products that do the same thing?
So how can Google Classroom and Google Sites coexist? I believe that the answer is best summarised as Google Sites being used for course specific resources and Google Classroom being used for class specific resources.
Google Sites give teachers the opportunity to have all of their resources readily available so students can use them to learn. This creates the opportunity to transform learning by allowing learning to be accessible anytime and any place. Moreover, Google Sites also allows teachers to easily differentiate learning opportunities by having the site structured in a way that students can access learning at multiple levels, therefore allowing students to work at a level and pace that is suitable to their learning needs.
For example, the Algebra Site below never mentions any age level. It is structured in a way that students can access the learning objectives that they need to based on curriculum levels. Each learning objective in the drop-down tabs will link to its own page where there are links to video instructions, text-based instructions, interactive learning activities that offer real-time feedback and often a game based on that skill. With this structure, students have the opportunity to view, listen or read the instructions on how to do a certain skill. They can then practice the skill before playing an engaging game to reinforce the skill.
Importantly, if teachers can create multi-level sites such as the example above, it lends itself to teachers collaborating on the same site. As the levels will be relevant to many year groups, then all of the year groups should use the same website. This means teachers can work smarter by allocating various learning levels to certain groups of teachers to create.
The key to the Google Sites is that they are course specific. This means that they can be used again for the following school year (with a little bit of tinkering as we should always be looking to improve). Therefore, whilst it does take some time and effort to create a multi-level Google Site, it should become an amazing resource that can be used over and over by multiple teachers and students for years to come.
Google Classroom is an amazing tool that all teachers using the Google Suite for Education should use. Google Classroom has been set-up to be class specific and teachers should have a Google Classroom for each class. So how does this tie in with the Google Site? When creating announcements or assignments in Google Classroom, I would often be linking to pages on my Google Site. Therefore students can click on a link that goes straight to the various activities that they need to learn and practice a certain skill. Over and above linking to the Google Site, Google Classroom should be used for activities that are specific to that class at the point in time. For example, collecting data using a Google Form. This is class specific and would not be much use having on a Google Site as we would not want students in future years filling out the same Google Form (rather we would make a copy of the Google Form to use it for a new class). Online classroom discussions are another example of something that would be class specific and therefore sent out via Google Classroom. Sending out an assignment or a template to work on will be specific to the class and Google Classroom does that extremely well (especially with the ‘make a copy for each student’ option).
In summary, when creating your Google Site and using your Google Classroom, ask yourself whether that work is specific to that class or is it something that can be used time and again in future years. If it is specific to the class, then that activity should go straight into Google Classroom. If it is something that can be used time and again, then put that on you Google Site and link to it in your Google Classroom when you need to. If teachers can manage the workflow for students using both Google Sites and Google classroom as outlined above, we really have the opportunity to not only become more efficient through working collaboratively, we also have the opportunity to transform learning for our students by allowing them to work anywhere, anytime and at any pace.