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Jennifer Woods teachers a number of subjects for the Interior Decoration and Design program in Architecture and Design. A large part of her work is the use of Google Sites for both content delivery and  as a place for students to show their design work and ideas.  Her subjects include the History of Interior Design, several studio based projects, soft furnishings.

Do you use Blackboard?
I use a program level shell for Interior Design and look after the particular courses in there I teach. I use it for course guides, schedules and briefs. I also use it for submissions and use gradebook extensively for final assessment. I started using the Blackboard blogs but didn’t find them satisfactory.  The problems were mainly with the interface. It is hard to make them aesthetically appealing which is important for a design course. It is also challenging to manipulate images or change the look. And I need to be modelling good practice.

So what alternatives do you use?
I mainly use Google Sites and Pinterest. With the Google Sites the students can learn how to design basic mini websites. I also use Sites as a portal for sharing content, either as a blog or just making content available such as a video. Sites are a little bit clunky but they help achieve my purpose. And it takes less time even ‘tho I have to load in 80 students into the sharing permissions each time I start a course. For students they are learning a basic digital literacy in setting up a Site. It becomes easy for me to jump in and give feedback or formative assessment. They can create the Site in their own style.

With Pinterest we use a lot of mood boards anyway. I have created a staff account for all our staff to use. Student can create boards as a working tool. A lot of students are using Pinterest anyway so it is a natural choice. It is easier to track what students have been doing in Pinterest too.

What are some of the limitations with using Google Sites?
Sometimes it can be tricky with working out how to do things and it is not as clear as other website building tools. There have been some issues at times with different browsers. The biggest issue is with the permissions and not being able to easily share content with people outside of the RMIT system without copying the site to an external gmail account.

What are your future plans with Google Sites?
The Sites also become eportfolios which in future I will be making sure they take with them before they leave. I might also start looking at alternate tools such as Blogger or WordPress as it is easier to share the content outside of the institution if needed. And the students will have to be comfortable with the tool they are using. Some are not so happy that Sites is not very intuitive and has limited visual appeal.

I have a Virtual WIL (work integrated learning) project where I have 4 sets of industry mentors that I have to line up with 4 teaching programs simultaneously. There will be 3 physical meetings, one for creating a brief and 2 for concept critiquing. As well there needs to be ongoing contributions to a virtual WIL site to which both the students and the mentor can contribute. Google Sites may have some limitations here and I will be looking at other tools for this as well.