Common Sense Review
Updated February 2013

Google Sites

Make your own website with customizable templates
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Common Sense Rating 3
  • The opening interface for Google Sites is spare and simple.
  • A range of site templates are available to choose from.
  • The classroom site template is dense with layers of information, such as Student of the Month, assignments, announcements, and reading list sections.
  • The More tab on the upper right introduces a range of options for editing.
  • The pencil icon in the upper-right corner introduces a toolbar and empty text boxes.
Pros
You can make a sophisticated website by altering a template rather than building one from scratch.
Cons
Some templates are more like completed websites than open-ended designs that encourage originality, and the steps for altering them are involved.
Bottom Line
With a few clicks, kids can design and populate a unique website, but customization requires multiple layers of directions.
Victoria Gannon
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Kids may be motivated by the challenge of customizing templates to meet their needs. There are many opportunities for problem solving as users decide what features they want their website to have and then figure out how to create them.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

Kids will gain an introduction to website construction as they learn about formatting, tables, inserting links, and adjusting templates. The process is compatible with a collaborative atmosphere in which users can share ideas and methods.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

Steps for altering templates are not obvious, and links for help are incorporated into the page, where they can be overlooked. The site lacks a clear progression of steps for users to consult throughout the construction process.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

You and your older students will find the most value in Google Sites. Class-related sites let users post daily features and polls, maintain a calendar, and upload assignments. You also can post photographs that document class projects and highlight student accomplishments. Sites can have multiple contributors, making this a good way to teach collaboration; projects could include a school newspaper, student club, sports team, or magazine of student writing and artwork. Kids can share information with their peers, parents, and teachers.

The tool is perhaps best-suited for kids interested in technology and willing to invest time in altering templates and updating their sites. Older kids also will enjoy experimenting with graphic design and layout, editing others' writing, photo editing, and learning the basics of web design.

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What's It Like?

To start using Google Sites, users log in, click on the red Create button, and choose a template from these sections: Business Collaboration, Activities and Events, Schools and Education, Clubs and Organizations, Personal and Family, and Government and Non-profits. You're asked to name your site, and the name becomes your default URL unless you change it.

Templates range from blank to complex, and different templates have different ways to insert content. Some ask you to create a new post, whereas others can be edited by clicking on the Edit icon (a pencil) in the upper toolbar. Instructions aren't obvious, and users will want to consult the help pages.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Some website templates are ideal for organizing class activities, and others are more suited to building student projects. The site is spare, and templates run the gamut from simple to elaborate. As some are based on existing websites, students must first delete and alter features and replace existing text with their own content, which can be complicated and more busywork than education. Instead of being included in the process, basic instructions are tucked away in the help section.

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