How I Use It
Sites is a good blank slate tool for publishing content to a web page using a computer. Setup and access by students is very easy for Google Apps for Education schools as students use the same Google account to create or edit a site. Teachers or students can share a single site with different pages or each student can easily have is or her own site for something like a on-going portfolio.
Our students have used sites to publish a collection of text, image, and video content to the web for teachers, other students and parents to see. It has been used both as a digital portfolio tool and as the culmination of a long project where multiple artifacts are created. While there are some challenges when students are using iPads as described below, it is a workable solution. There doesn't seem to be much else to choose from for website creation from an iPad. Plus, the ability for students to login and be granted access via a Google (Apps for Ed) account is a big benefit.
Unfortunately, editing a Sites page on an iPad is little clumsy and our students use iPads. Menus don't always draw in the correct spot and the screen sometimes jumps around a bit when students are trying to edit a page. Inserting images is particularly non-intuitive. Choosing the obvious Insert image option does not work correctly if there is more than one image on a page. This can be worked around using Insert > Drive > Image. Even after doing that it is a little clumsy whenresizing the image to something appropriate for the page. Inserting from Drive also does not provide the ability to expand the viewing size of an image or video by the viewer.
This field note was written in February 2015. Google is frequently upgrading products so hopefully the "iPad friendliness" will change in the future. However, these iPad compatibility issues were similar a year ago. As of this writing there is no iPad app for Google Sites like there is for the Google Drive family of tools.
Engagement and pedagogy depend on the task or project students are asked to do not the tool itself. If students have Google Apps for Education accounts, the option to publish pages to only the class, only members of the school, or to anyone on the Internet is great. While multiple students could collaborate on a page, Sites is better when only one student at a time will be editing a particular page. (A set of pages each edited by different students in a class works fine.) Sites does not have the ability for more than one person to simultaneously edit a page. Google Drive is still the best option for that. However, Sites does provide the opportunity to present an organized collection of pages much better than Drive. While I have not done that, I could see a student or two being designed at the organizers of site whose content was produced by a bunch of students.
The tool would serve the students and teachers in my school better if the iPad experience was improved especially with regard to embedding media.