VTaL Subject Site Progress

What is the Purpose of a Google Site?

Having looked at several sites recently, enabled me to see what 'visibility' looks like on Subject Sites.   I was motivated by Parent feedback at the recent Student Parent Conferences, in terms of access to teaching and learning.  This post will discuss the following topics around Google Site Development.

A Snapshot of Visible Teaching and Learning

Visible Learning

What works best for visible learning

“Visible Learning means an enhanced role for teachers as they become evaluators of their own teaching. According to John Hattie Visible Learning and Teaching occurs when teachers see learning through the eyes of students and help them become their own teachers.”

Teaching and Learning Audiences

Parents want access to their child's learning, and they should have access to their child's or children's learning.  However, largely, subject sites are being developed for students, as opposed to multiple audiences eg. parents, other teachers, career-orientated agencies and the wider education sector.  For example, a parent supporting a child to select a course,  may struggle to navigate the site and find relevant information.  

Ways in which easy navigation can be achieved for stakeholders, could be to include the application of simple design principles such as tabs (that follow a ‘basic’ indexing system), calendars, course overall and content, vocational pathways, and interactive learning materials.

Understanding User Flow

Whilst the majority of teachers are not web designers as such, consistency of layout within a website, and across websites is a really big deal in terms of the end user.  In the instance of end users and Subject Google, Sites, the key stakeholders are students and parents.

The following article, A Guide to User Flow in Web Design, provides a brief overview of the relevance and importance of 'User Flow'.

Principles of Design for Websites

The following are a range of resources that relate to the principles of design for websites.

Google Site Development

Visiting sites occurred by going 'incognito' within a web browser, entering the school website, navigating to the class websites, and viewing the subject site for visibility.  The following are a range of issues and variances with Subject Google Sites and across Google Sites identified from recently viewing several sites.

Issues and Variances with Subject Google Sites

  • Sites are not Public and Visible
  • Vertical navigation bar instead of horizontal navigation bar
  • Year levels combined in the Tabs eg. Junior, Intermediates, Senior etc
  • Sites are not identifiable by 'Subject' with 'Teacher Name'
  • Pages with absolutely no content in them
  • Learning Area landing pads with a variety of different link features that navigates to Subject Sites eg. Tabs (with names), Buttons, Photos or Images
  • Navigation tools (tabs, buttons, text) can't actually be read or seen
  • Light text on light backgrounds, and, dark text on dark backgrounds
  • Subject Site Home Page (landing page) that doesn't include Year Level Tabs
  • Embedded Calendars that are not public
  • Embedded Calendars that are public but have no information in the calendar
  • Embedded documents, sheets, drawings etc that are not public
  • Embedded documents, sheets, drawings etc that are public but have no information in them
  • Out of date content eg. 2016, 2015 etc
  • Links that don't actually redirect to the location that the link says that it will link to
  • Sites where the home page is jam packed with so many links, images, buttons, background features etc, that it is actually difficult to know what to click on to navigate anywhere and use the site
  • Links that go nowhere
  • Name variances in navigation links and/or within website titles eg. Mr Ricky Baker, Ricky Baker, Mr Baker etc
  • So many buttons in the navigation bar, that the navigation bar takes up at least half of the home page
  • Classic Google Site Design and New Google Site Design, or, a combination of both Site Designs together
  • No actual teaching and learning resources within the site

Some sites have multiple design, aesthetic and functional issues.  Whilst, other sites have relatively minor issues.  

Future Focus

The following are a range of strategies and suggestions of ways that could enable the development of a Website Structure that is Visible, Effective and User-Friendly.  I'm certain there are more strategies that could evolve out of a consultation process, but at least here are a few to get our heads around.

  • Authentic Feedback of Subject Sites (within learning areas and across learning areas eg. Peer Review, and with other authentic audiences)
  • Consultation with Students and Student Feedback to see which websites are easiest to navigate and use
  • Consultation with Parents to see what they consider to be user-friendly attributes within Subject Sites.  Perhaps forming a 'Think Tank' based on the parent base who provided feedback from the Student Parent Conferences, and offering incentives to these parents for their participation in the consultation process
  • Consult with Staff to gain an understanding of why staff are developing Subject Sites in the way in which they are.  Identify solutions that enables consistent website design to be applied across the entire school, and integrating teaching and learning resources within effective web design guidelines
  • Consult with Expert Web Designers to gain advice on appropriate web design methodology
  • Consultation within Leadership of the desired web design attributes for all Subject Sites.  
  • Subject Site Template to make redevelopment easier for staff who are struggling to meet the Google Site Baseline Expectations
  • Develop a Google Site Framework that is the overarching design of the entire structure of the Subject Sites, starting from the entry point via the school's website, through to the Class/Subject Area Websites home page.

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