Image by Kinologik via FlickrI'm a big fan of Google Sites, and we're starting to see some momentum in that students are creating their own sites for class projects or digital portfolios. Part of the fun in creating your website involves customizing your pages to express your own personality. Google provides opportunities for such expression beyond text and images through Gadgets. Unfortunately, a quick search of "hot" when Inserting a Gadget reveals many applications that are far from appropriate in the classroom. There was a suggested tool from Google (Feed Server Client Tool) that could be installed, but this seemed a bit more involved than it needed to be. Thankfully, courtesy of a recent GCT post by E.B., there's the Domain Gadget Directory Manager (DGDM), and I found this to be a very quick and easy way to manage a domain's accessibility to gadgets. More after the jump.
I found a simple set of instructions on a Google thread here. As the instructions state, you add the DGDM gadget by URL to a site in your domain (I created a site called Gadgets). Press Save, and you'll immediately see the DGDM interface (screenshot). You can either go with a White List (only designated gadgets are visible) or a Black List (only designated gadgets are hidden). I chose to start with the White List option, since it would be easier to add educational gadgets rather than to constantly keep tabs on inappropriate ones..
You can preview the directory through DGDM, and once you've adjusted your lists, the gadget did a pretty good job of implementing itself on our domain shortly after. This was one of those cases where I was amazed at how easy the setup was, and wondering whether I'm missing something or if there's a catch. It's still very early in the deployment, and increasing numbers of users are logging into Google Apps for the first time, so I'll be sure to follow up with teachers regarding any issues.
Suggestions for Improvements?
I'm also sure that I am missing some useful gadgets in our current White List filter. I'll be relying on teacher feedback to determine if there are additional ones to include. Unfortunately, they'll need to refer to an external Gmail account to peruse the possible gadgets. A useful addition to DGDM would be a suggested list of approved or educational gadgets that others have recommended. I'm sure users such as myself would be willing to help with recommendations. I would also be curious as to where DGDM came from, and perhaps a bit more information on how it all works. Overall, I'm happy with the solution, and I was really impressed with how easy it was to use. Solving the gadget problem has been high on my to-do list, and DGDM helped cross it off with ease.