More on Google Spaces vs Google Sites
Posted June 6, 2016on:
I might have spoken in riddles when I first compared Google’s latest offering, Spaces, with its stalwart Sites. So here is one plain conclusion: Their use can be socially negotiated, but they are very different tools.
Let me be more specific with two of my most recent examples.
Google Spaces is a reverse-vertical tool. If its users are familiar with the reverse chronology of Google+ and Twitter, then Google Spaces is a no-brainer.
The latest posts rise to the top and demand attention. However, important conversations and content can sink to the bottom with neglect because there is no pinning function.
This is an inevitable consequence of vertical chat-like tools. Only the fresh and foremost gets attention and this might be good for dynamic and informal contexts.
Google Sites, on the other hand, can be a forward-horizontal tool. Its content can be laid out like book chapter sequences or branching options for users to take.
Such a structure might place a lower cognitive load on users more accustomed to an LMS. As Google Sites is less constrained than LMS platforms, a skilled designer and facilitator can make the navigation shallow but broad, the sequence logical, and the content more meaningful.
The horizontal menu serves as an advance organiser. This provides learners with an overview, helps establish expectations and goals, and provides quick access to components of a module or workshop.
This does not mean that Sites cannot be social. The tool has comment threads on every page. However, the designer must ensure that these are enabled and users must be logged into the Google system.
Sites is also open enough so that any chat or collaboration tool is embeddable. My favourite embeds include:
- TodaysMeet for backchannelling
- Dotstorming for brainstorming and voting on ideas
- MindMeister for mind and concept mapping
- Google Forms and Sheets for collating
- Padlet for note-taking, reflecting, and exiting
Every one of those tools can also be linked or embedded in Google Spaces. However, their use must seem organic or emergent from a conversation. This might be done in a team teaching context, e.g., one main facilitator, one techie, and a few tutors. This is how a few medical schools might run team-based learning sessions.
However, a facilitator flying solo in a blended learning environment needs to prepare and organise resources in advance. Since this is a more likely scenario because human talent comes at a premium, the better tool is more likely the more open and flexible Google Sites.