Through NEO and beyond! Classroom Application of Google Docs (a.k.a., Value of Paperless, Real-Time Thinking!)
Type of Technology: Web-based application – Google Drive
SAMR Model Rating: Modification
Subject: Any of the core subjects
Eureka! As my knowledge of classroom applications technology gradually widens, I stumble upon what, in retrospect, seems like obvious and more efficient student uses of technology within the classroom. This blog post won’t introduce you to the latest golden app you’ve never heard of, but it will hopefully encourage your classroom experimentation with one of our readily available but underused technology applications: Google Docs. We use gmail, complete forms, and share documents with each other; Google is so pervasive, it’s the virtual air we breathe. Yet, with a couple of occasional exceptions, I rarely use its applications to their full instructional, collaborative value.
I’ve primarily viewed Google Drive as a vehicle to create surveys for students or to engage students in paired peer-editing of their writing. Only recently did I discover the value of a creating classroom Google documents that all students or student groups can contribute to and access for review. In my A.P. World History class, as we near the exam in May, review of material is essential. My students are organized into regional and thematic groups that focus on social, political, economic, cultural, and environmental elements of a particular region’s history over time. Typically, students work on a chart, completing their row, and then sharing with other groups via presentation or jigsaw rotation. Only now it occurs to me that the groups could do the same much more efficiently and meaningfully using the same chart uploaded or created in a Google Document, which they can simultaneously work on and share. This saves my cutting and pasting and xeroxing, or peers missing critical information in their note taking based on presentations, or having to decipher a classmates’ illegible writing. Further, I can give feedback and so can the students, given some training on how to offer school-appropriate, constructive comments. (Providing sentence frame can do wonders). Or the students can raise questions of each other to clarify meanings or correct inaccurate information–or even to add and essential piece of information that another group forgot to include.
Today, in my AP World History class, the students investigated multiple primary sources, attempting to round out their understanding of the Mongols and their impact–for better or worse–on world history. The Mongols don’t always get the historical credit they deserve. Students first read and marked the documents, conducted a share-around with classmates who read different documents on the Mongols, with the objective of them gathering evidence of why some admired and some resented the Mongols. Because we are short on time, instead of conducting a walk around of groups’ appraisal of the Mongols–or presentations or even the trial that I would normally have the students stage, I required students to post and cite their evidence on a common, class Google Doc. Each group posted their work in a different color and identified group member names. Student groups could use their cell phones, iPads, or borrow a classroom computer. All manageable. The result is that students have the content in a place of easy access for review. Groups color-coded their comments to distinguish their ideas from other groups.
- Immediate information dissemination
- Elimination of paper piles
- Less xerox copies to distribute & time lost deciphering illegible student script
- Work is automatically saved (no loss of data)
- Opportunity for student & teacher commentary, clarification, and dialogue
- Efficiency of review process
- Easy access to information for absentees
- Documents can be shared with all students through one web link that can be posted via NEO (formerly EDU 2.0)
- Visible student accountability
Some how-to screen shots.
Sometimes, the best way to ease into 21st-century teaching is not to try every new app that presents itself (an impossible and frustrating task), but to simplify and find ways to transform, augment, and redefine traditional classroom tasks through the very technology we use each day.