Students, faculty and researchers, strap on your rocket shoes: "Google Sites" was just released to ASU as part of our Google Apps for Education suite.
"Sites" is not only a killer web page and site building tool, it also excels as an intuitive web-based collaboration medium. Google has blended web pages, blogs and wikis into a seamless, virtually effortless whole.
Sites will let us - ASU students, faculty and staff - forget about specific software and special languages we've needed to manage blogs, wikis and web pages in the past. Now, collaboration and commenting is an option on any ASU sites page. Sites aims to be a one-stop shop - a Mom-and-Pop-easy-shop - for creating interactive pages that you can co-publish with others, whether they're in the next chair or on the next continent.
"Enough!" you say. "How do I get started?"
Just go here and follow the directions. Making a personal site is a great way to test the waters. You can also create a practice site and then delete it when you're done.
To make a new page, just hit the "Create a new page" button. You'll see several options that define not just form, but more awesomely, function. In addition to standard web page layouts, you can create a "Dashboard" page full of gadgets ("mini" applications embedded in the page; think "My ASU") or a "List" (really a whole set of functions for project management and other kinds of task management) or a "File Cabinet" (all of your uploaded files, lined up and reporting for duty).
Want to change the format of the navigation menu? Just drag-and-drop content blocks or edit them after hitting "Edit sidebar" in the sidebar. Want to stir calendars, spreadsheets, slide shows, video and other rich media into your page? In page edit, hit the "Insert" button in the toolbar, locate your file - it's done. Versioning is automatic so you can change your mind and switch to an earlier revision. And if you're collaborating, versioning allows you to see who changed what.
It took just 30 minutes to port the content of the blog you're now reading into a quick Google Site: check it out. It doesn't take much of a leap to see how researchers might - much more easily than before - exploit the power of The Cloud to build shared bodies of knowledge; how teachers could publish their course materials and encourage student interaction within course-based sites, and how students could work together, inside or outside of classes, to learn and to teach one another.
And here's the best part: the power and flexibility of Google Sites is free to ASU students, faculty, researchers and staff. The elves who brought us this technology from an advanced alien culture created it while we were sleeping.
There's plenty more to come. Stay tuned!