Collaborative Aspects of Using Google Docs
Finally students were prepared to collaborate on their first assignment which was to create a slide show using Google Docs Presentation. In pairs, they were assigned 10 words from our new SAT vocabulary list. They had to create a slide with the new word, its part of speech, and its definition. On the next slide they were to write a sentence using the new word and a context clue, plus import an image that illustrated their sentence. Students were very engaged in this assignment during the class time that was allotted. They “shared” a document for the first time and were able to see the live revisions that were being made instantaneously. At the end of the period I told them that their shows were due at the beginning of the next class, which gave them two more days to collaborate. Some understood that they could collaborate without being together, yet others chose to seek each other out and work side by side on the final slides.
When I received the first “completed” slide show that was shared with me, I realized that despite collaboration there were still many errors in sentences – proper capitalization, punctuation and the correct use of the vocabulary word. During a Digital Literacy workshop session, I spoke to Bailey Means about this. She suggested that I not only model, as I always do, but also share student-created slides and ask students to identify the strengths and weaknesses before I send them off to complete the assignment. I later found this to be particularly helpful in teaching when and how a semi colon should be used to improve a sentence with a context clue. Now that we’ve done this collaborative assignment a couple of times, I have some excellent models of student slide shows to share with all classes while reinforcing students’ sentence writing skills and building their vocabularies.
The collaborative aspect of Google Docs is amazing. Students work on separate computers from wherever they are, in the classroom simultaneously, or on their own from home or any computer with Internet access. The collaboration and effort of individuals is easily monitored and makes students more accountable for their part in a project as individuals. It is great to be able to assess how much time and effort each student put into an assignment by looking at the “Revision History” which looks like this.
To organize the work received, I created folders for each class and inside each class folder I continue to add a folder for each assignment at the suggestion of another tech savvy colleague who has used Google Docs successfully for a couple of years now. I was placing assignments into folders by using the drop down menu, but soon realized that I can
just open a folder in the left column and drag and drop assignments into the correct inside folder much faster.
The first writing assignment on Google Docs was a power paragraph on irony in short stories we have read. I gave the students the topic sentence and the format for the power paragraph which I had modeled prior to Google Docs initiation with written paragraphs nominating a Student of the Month, and what they learned about their classmates while playing “Two Truths and a Lie.” Since then students have also submitted book summaries, quarterly journals, and an essay tracing the hero archetype through well-known hero myths that we read during our study of mythology.
While grading the paragraphs on irony, I found that with the features of inserting comments, using strike-throughs and being able to color code text, I am actually spending more time on individual writing and discovering each student’s personal idiosyncracies as a writer. Some common examples are failure to place ones’ self last in a sentence like “Me and my friend always hang out together on weekends“, not knowing when to use an apostrophe and where in singular and plural possessives, not capitalizing appropriately, or just listing details instead of using an example and supporting it with the correct details.