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Posts Tagged ‘spaces

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.

Example: Google Space.

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.

Example: Google Sites navigation.

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:

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.

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.


Video source

Loved this video of the seven spaces for learning:

1. Secret spaces
2. Group spaces
3. Publishing spaces (love the idea at the 7min 45sec mark of a video/tweets being projected on the outside wall of a building)
4. Performance spaces
5. Participation spaces (based on the description in the video, this could be the same as the performance spaces)
6. Data spaces
7. Watching spaces (love the caption “collaborations during listening is encouraged”)


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