Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Thing 9: Using Google Groups & Google Sites

What are they?

Groups and Sites are brilliant tools to help you work with your colleagues. They enable us to work collaboratively with much greater flexibility than you get just using plain email and shared file storage.
Google Group is a collection of people, gathered for some common purpose - a project, a forum, a team, a department - which may be long term or short term. You can share resources and communicate with the group without needing to know exactly who is in it. When new people arrive, adding them to the group means they will automatically have access to all shared resources. It’s like this:

Google Site is a collection of web pages, together with suitable navigation, that needs no special web skills to construct. A range of page types allow you to present information, upload files, receive comments and construct lists, and it’s quite easy to include Google calendars, Drive folders and other Google resources (such as YouTube videos. Best of all, you have control over who can view and contribute (edit) - a perfect use for groups.

Why use them?

In Google Mail you can set up mailing groups within contacts, but these are specific to your account. A Google Group, on the other hand, is available to everyone who is a member - and even those who are not, if that’s what you need. It has a web-page view that enables it to be used as a discussion forum or simple enquiry system, giving an altogether more flexible way of communicating with colleagues and beyond.
Many people already share Google resources (eg documents) with co-workers. Often it is done by configuring the share for each resource to each individual, but this is a very inefficient way of managing shares and can produce a lot of extra work. It’s better to use Groups to share resources.
What about Sites? We're all familiar with the concept of a ‘document’; this goes back to the days when everything was on paper, and the temptation is to assume all important information must be presented serially in A4-sized chunks. But information isn't like that; it is shorter, longer and connected like a web rather than a piece of string. Collections of interrelated pages let the reader map their own path, and are best implemented using web pages - a Google Site will do this brilliantly.


Join and use a Group

  1. Open a browser and navigate to Google Groups (‘Welcome to the new Google Groups’).
  2. In the search box at the top, search for ‘23 Things’. Several posts to the group will be listed, but at the top is the link to the web view of the group postings. Choose this link.
  3. When you’ve reached the list of posts, choose the star just under the name ‘23 Things’ to add it to favourites - this makes it easier to find again (look on the left for the favourites list).
  4. You will be able to read the current posts (that’s because the group is set up with very liberal permissions), but to take part you’ll need to join - choose the Join group control.
  5. Read one of the posts by Tom or Mike (or someone else if you know them) and reply to it (you’ll see a Click here to Reply link below the posted message).
  6. If you have something to say about 23 Things, post a new message of your own.
  7. Open your Google mail and send an email message to the 23 Things Group - the address is:
  8. Check again in the group (you may need to refresh the display) - your message should appear and will be sent to other group members.
  9. It may be annoying to receive a lot of mail via the Group. From the My Settings control near the top right (next to the gear-wheel icon), choose Membership and email settings for this group. Configure this to receive a daily summary.
If you're not already using a group for a project or team, set one up and start using Groups.

Google Sites

Take a look at these simple Google Sites. The first was created to help show students how to download references into the EndNote reference management application. The second one is a collection of useful information on Blogging:
Reference Management (opens new window/tab)
Blogging At York (opens new window/tab)
There's a 23 Things Example site available for you to play with. Again it has very liberal sharing permissions, so you should be able to edit it to your hearts content:
If you’ve never edited a Google site before, take a few moments to read through the Home page, and then take a look at Creating and Editing Pages - this runs through the basics of creating and editing pages (as you’d expect by the page title).
And now:
Create a new page and have a play at editing.  
Please remember this is an open site, lots of people will be able to see it, so be good. 
If you make a mess it doesn’t matter - contact the 23 Things Group and we’ll tidy up anything that will prevent others from being able to join in the fun.
Things you might like to try doing:
  • Enter text - use some headings and sub-headings
  • Enter images
  • Embed a YouTube video (Insert > Video > …)

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