This week, I am beginning to team-teach a graduate course for Seattle Pacific University entitled, "Issues and Advances in Educational Technology" using a Google Site for the course content and a private Google Group for the class discussions. David Wicks (my co-developer) and I thought it would be important for students to not only study these advances at a theoretical level, but also to experience these emerging technologies on a practical level. We also thought we should use tools that are free for teachers to implement in their classrooms. We are also using web-based readings rather than a textbook for the course content.
We recognize that there is a steeper learning curve with this approach, especially with most other SPU courses being implemented within Blackboard... but few schools use Blackboard. We are simply replacing desktop computer-based tools (bookmarks, word processing, web page authoring) with Internet-based tools (delicious.com, GoogleDocs, Google Sites). We are encouraging our graduate students to think about the application of these tools to their own situations in their classrooms.
We also wanted to model the collaboration that is possible using Google Sites: we kept most of our comments on the pages where we discussed the content and development process of the course as it was being constructed. We also set up a Notes on Development page, using the Announcements page type in Google Sites, as a journal or page (with entries organized in reverse-chronological order) where we documented our development process... much like a blog without RSS feeds.
Speaking of RSS feeds... when you are a member of a Google Site, you can go to More Actions and Subscribe to Page Changes (for the page you are on) or Subscribe to Site Changes (for the entire site). Any time a change is made to the page or site, you will receive an email showing the changes. For collaborative projects, this feature is essential! But it can add significantly to your email volume. So, we provided advice to our students on how to manage email from this class. We will be asking the students for feedback on the process and using these open tools, and I will blog about the process periodically over the semester.