Google Sites – making a site and its use in the classroom

I’ve used Google’s suite of products to put together my sites.  I’ve used blogger for my main page/blog, I use Google Apps for email, docs and calendar.  I finally decided to use Google Sites (for Google Apps) to build a Wiki-ish website to store the resources I previously hosted on a wiki.

For those of you that haven’t used Google sites before, it is a simple page editor that gives you the ability to create simple nested pages, add files and google gadgets.  People who you give access to can edit the pages and add new content (to different degrees depending on their access).  You can even give a specific site you create a custom URL if you have a domain and access to your DNS.  There are a variety of templates and styles available, and editing is similar to using other google products.

I’ve set up a site with my science resources on here.  The structure of the site took minutes to set up once I’d decided on a structure.  Uploading lots of individual files took a while longer due to the sheer number of clicks required.  The site was created from start to finish in well under an hour.

I see plenty of potential for this within the the classroom (as part of the Google Apps for Education edition).  You can hide your pages from the internet (so surfers won’t stumble across them) and you can allow members of your domain to edit them.  Classes can work collaboratively on a set of pages for a topic and the teacher can subscribe to the page to see how it develops.  Malicious editing is deterred by the revision history.  Google sites has much of the power of a typical wiki without getting bogged down in esoteric wiki commands and formatting.

Google sites could even be used by a school to build a simple intranet if you haven’t got one yet in your school.   This video shows a little more of what is possible with Google sites:


It would be interesting to here from anyone who has used Google Sites in an educational context and how it went.

Making slime from PVA glue and borax

As part of our polymers topic we decided to make slime from PVA glue and borax.  The PVA is a polymer made of long chains.  As you gradually add the borax solution the PVA polymer chains begin to form cross-links.  This makes the solution thicken and become more viscous.  The slime that is made can be squashy and stretchy, and also supposedly bouncy although our pupils didn’t dare put this to the test. 

This is a great activity for science clubs and even primary schools.  Both PVA glue and Borax (Boots and some chemists stock this) are non-toxic, so as long as hands are washed and no chemicals ingested this is safe and fun for all.  We watered down the PVA glue before we started – neat PVA glue is harder to work with and the reaction is too fast for pupils to control the consistency of the slime.  A few drops of food colouring help make the slime look a little more revolting!!

These pictures show some of the better slime samples:

Electronic lesson planning

For years I have used a paper diary – having trialled a PDA some time ago and moved back to paper.  Being a user of technology I decided to look for a better way of planning using technology.

First of all I trialled Google Calendar as advocated by Doug Belshaw in his blog.  I liked the idea of the planning being available anywhere, even on my phone.  Setting up repeating slots for my lessons was easy but then I found several other snags that made me give up on Google Calendar for now.  I actually liked way you could integrate different calendars (eg public holidays).  I could cope with not being able to customise the time-frame displayed on the calendar.  But I found that entering the lesson details was fiddly and that there was no satisfactory way to view them.  I would have liked them to be displayed on my calendar .  I could even have coped if my emailed daily schedule information had included the description for each lesson that I had entered.  I decided to give up on Google calendar for now.

Determined to try out electronic planning I searched the internet and found the TPIM (Teacher’s personal information planner) which appears to be the best implementation of lesson planning and personal time management I’ve seen in a commercial product.  I downloaded the trial and found the interface very simple to use – with information readily at hand (this is a daily planning sheet).

Even with extra options such as an electronic register and markbook, electronic post-its and reminders I still found it more convenient to plan using my old paper teacher’s planner/diary!

Is there really nothing to beat planning on paper or am I just set in my ways?  I’d be interested to hear how anyone else has used technology to help with their planning….