In 2009, my school became a Google school when we decided to transfer many of our electronic resources to the Google services available to schools. One of the resources made available as part of our Google tools is Google Sites. Recently, I began a project using Google Sites in my 7th grade history classes. While the project continues, my observations of the class are reinforcing my pre-project assumptions that I would notice fully engaged learners who are taking a larger responsibility for their learning. I am also witnessing much more collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking taking place.
Here is a description of the project:
Phase 1: Set-up
- I created a Google Site with the title of this trimester’s theme– The Birth and Expansion of the United States.
- I only allowed access to the site to people I chose to invite during the construction of the project. Once the site is finished, it will be made available to anyone to access.
- This site was shared with the students in my classes through their student Google accounts (each student in grades 6-12 are given a school Google account along with their student email address).
- Students are given editing privileges for this site.
- A page was created for each of the 10 topics to discuss under the theme (The Birth and Expansion of the United States).
- Now, I had the "bones” of the project in place: A website for students to edit including a separate page for each discussion point.
- Students were then instructed to create their own “notes page” as a subpage within each of the 10 main topic pages. The reason for this was to allow multiple users to engage in the site at one time without risking cross-editing confusion.
Phase 2: Daily use
- Students log into their Google accounts to access the site. Once in the site, they use the internet to research the topic on which they are working. Each student works on the same topic. Each topic is given about 4-5 class periods to complete.
- When students locate a resource that is relevant to the topic, they can simply paste the link to their notes page. This includes video, which they can embed on their notes page.
- Students are also encouraged to create their own work based on the topic. Some of these created works include Prezis, Wordles, and Glogs. Once created, students embed their work on their notes page.
- After 2-3 class periods, students are then instructed to do a peer review of another student’s notes page. The peer review includes a review of each item placed on a notes page with written comment/feedback (using the comment function located on the bottom of Google Sites pages) for each item on the page.
- Students can then go back into their notes page to read the reviewers comments and make any adjustments to their notes page based on those comments.
Phase 3: Evaluation
My evaluation of each student’s progress is based on their activity on the project as well as a demonstrated understanding of the topics being researched. this is accomplished in two ways.
- Daily review of notes page development, comment writing, and addressing feedback.
- Periodic “check point” evaluations to make sure students are on the right track in terms of topic understanding.
The daily reviews are simply me going into each notes page, often as students are working on them, to check for progress and to leave my own comments for students to read. This review is done during class time when I am not answering questions or providing some tech support.
The “check points” are more formal evaluations and are graded. These are a series of 6-8 questions designed to check for topic/concept understanding. Basically, I want to make sure the research being done is relevant to the topic, so I share (using Google Docs) a list of questions for students to answer. Students who are on the right track should have no trouble answering these questions. Students are allowed to use their Google site as a resource to take the “check point.” Answers are shared with me in a Google Doc so I can read and provide feedback for students to access at any time.
As I stated earlier, this project has had a tremendously positive impact on the active engagement level in my class. In addition to providing practice in finding sources, annotating them, and critically reviewing possible sources, this project is mobile and can be worked on whenever a student has a internet connectable device powered on.
If you have any questions regarding this project, please feel free to ask. Once we are done (late winter/early spring), I will set the site to be available to anyone, and I will write a follow up piece including student feedback.