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Google Spaces vs Google Sites

Posted on: June 2, 2016

If you asked me to put the new kid on the block, Google Spaces, against the grizzled veteran that is Google Sites, I would cite this humorous adage:

Old age and treachery will always overcome youthfulness and skill.

The choice is not just a personal preference. My verdict is based on using both for ICT modules I conducted recently.

Google Spaces is decidedly mobile, light on features, and chatty. I could have designed experiences for my adult learners to suit the tool, but that would have been a mistake.

My learners spanned what many label Millenials to Baby Boomers. The range of expectations was far too wide to bridge with Spaces.

However, the time they were born into was not that important. Like most learners, they had grown used to lectures and LMSes. Passive content delivery in person, on paper, or via woefully awkward online systems was comforting.

My modus operandi is never to give in to such low expectations. However, I recognise the need to provide structure and scaffolding. This is where the design-your-own-web-pages orientation of Sites was more powerful.

Both Spaces and Sites allowed me to embed a variety of URLs, videos, photos, Padlets, Dotstorms, Google Docs, Google Forms, Google Spreadsheets, Google Slides, etc.

Spaces made it fast and easy on mobile, but you had to play by its rules. Sites was mostly desktop-bound and comparatively slower, but it was also more forgiving and flexible.

In the end, both produced online experiences that were mobile-friendly. However, when you factor context, content, pedagogy, and technical affordances all at once, the more generic Sites beat the more specific Spaces with one arthritic hand tied behind its back.

I have been using Google Sites since its inception and have way too many course, module, and workshop sites hosted there than I can count. This open tool is like an old person that Google retired to an old folks home and almost forgot. There it remains spritely and strong.

As long as Google does not pull the plug, Google Sites remains the gold standard and reminds me not to fall into the cool tool trap.

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