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To research more articles about online project planning then go over to project planning online.Collaborative Literacy: Using Free Google Tools to Turn Your Classroom into a Thriving Learning Community Led Virtually by Jill Castek, University of California, Berkeley ( For additional instructional ideas, visit Literacy Beat

Come join this session! You will learn about the free tools and applications Google offers for classroom and school based collaboration. The tools featured are user friendly for both teachers and students and can be used in flexible ways to support a wide range of instructional purposes. I've used these applications extensively with students to support their online literacy development and project-based work. They've made addressing new literacies easy and have truly transformed the way I teach!



  • learn how to create a Google Site that can be collaboratively edited.
  • explore the Google Custom Search feature and discuss its possibilities.
  • learn how to embed a Google Custom Search engine you created within your Google Site for easy student access. Click here for the Demonstration Video!>

Google Sites

Google Sitesis a quick and easy way to create a website for any classroom purpose. Students in your class can work together to develop or access content. Creating a site, and collaborating on it together with students or colleagues, is as easy as editing a document. As the site owner, you can control who can access the site. You can even publish your Google Site to share content with anyone on the web.
  • All collaborators can add file attachments, or embed information from other Google applications (like Google Docs, Google Calendar, YouTube and Picasa).
  • View this 44 second tutorial for an overview, then watch this video tutorial for a step-by-step guide to creating your own Google Site.

An Example

Drawing on the notion that deep, engaged learning occurs when students explore self-selected, open-ended questions about which they are genuinely interested, I infused Internet inquiry into my six-week Global Climate Change unit. The last two weeks of the unit challenged the students to build on what they had learned during the first part of the unit and take it further by designing a tool, technique, or campaign to combat climate change. Each group chose a focus (from a bank of five choices), conducted online research, and went about inventing a way to lessen the effects of climate change. The design challenge Google site spells out the project parameters and the assignment guidelines.

Google Custom Search

Google Custom Search allows you to create a personalized, customized search engine that searches only across sites that you specify and displays results that you know will be right for your students. Some of the unique benefits of this tool include the ability to:

An Example


To set up a customized search engine, simply set up a Google account (or use your existing one). Choose the Web sites and resources you would like students to access, then follow a few simple steps to create the search engine. You'll need to think of a name for the search engine and enter your preselected sites. An example customized for sixth graders studying ways society can lessen the effects of climate change can be found at Combating Climate Change.

Why Use Google Custom Search?

It helps scaffold students’ search skills and inquiry processes as they gather information online.
  • the customized search engine limits the Web sites that come up in search results, listing only those that are pre-selected by the designer/teacher. Given the sheer volume of information on the Internet, creating a customized search can be highly supportive option for novice Internet users.
  • since you can choose the sites you want students to search, you can guarantee students’ searches will yield limited number of highly relevant search results, making the time my students spend online more efficient and purposeful.
  • the advantages of narrowing searches to a more targeted and manageable size ensures that students gain valuable practice sifting through a limited amount of search results, freeing up time to put the information to use.

Having explored the use of a customized search engine, I can attest to its efficacy as a viable scaffold for online research. I observed even the most novice Internet users successfully locate relevant, reliable information in a short amount of time. I was elated to see students spend quality time digging into the resources they found, following the links to related sites, and making a range of inter-textual connections to content within and beyond the unit. All the while, they developed effective search strategies that they can apply to Google searching skillfully in the future.

How Do I Add Collaborators so We Create a Custom Search Engine together?

From your custom search engine's control panel, navigate to the left hand menu. Click on the Admin Accounts Link. From here, you can add collaborators by sending them an email invitation.

How Do I Embed A Custom Search Engine Into My Google Site? (see building Gadgets for Google Sites)

Click here for the Demonstration Video!>
  1. Create your Google Site.
  2. Locate your custom code (if this sounds complex, it's really not. I will demonstrate and you'll see its easy).
  3. Create your Custom Search engine.
  4. Go to Google Gadget Editor
  5. When you first log into the GGE, you will be presented with the traditional Hello, World!example. Using this example, the process can be completed in just two simple steps:
    • Add your custom code
      1. Place your cursor just after "Hello, world!" on line 5
      2. Press the <Enter> key on your keyboard to add a line break
      3. Paste in your code
      4. Delete "Hello, world!" from line 5. (The GGE will not let you delete this text before adding your custom code)
    • If you would like to see how your new gadget looks, or verify that it works as intended, you should now be able to give it a quick test by clicking on the Preview tab at the top of the editor.
    • Save and name the gadget
    • Click on the file name of your gadget & copy the URL from your browser bar.
  6. Visit your Google Site
  7. Click on Edit this page
  8. Go to the Insert menu
  9. Navigate to the bottom (more gadgets)
  10. In the left menu click on Add Gadget by URL
  11. Paste the URL of your gadget you copied in this box.
  12. Click on Save (you can adjust the specific height and width of your search engine).
  13. Your search engine is ready to access from your Google Site.

What Other Free Google Tools Can I Use in my Classroom?

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