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The Relationship Continues to Grow and Thrive

Written by Kristi Bancroft
March 26, 2011

New Discussion Features

On March 16, my colleague Richard Byrne posted on his site http://www.freetech4teachers.com/, a link to information “New Discussion Features in Google Docs” http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2011/03/new-discussion-features-in-google-docs.html. This feature expands the commenting aspect of Google Docs so that collaborators can respond to each others’ comments during the composition or revision process of a document.

I was eager to try out this feature, but unsure how I would use it with students, though I thought I would encourage them to use it when collaborating with classmates on a Google Docs project. I needed an opportunity to test this feature on my own.

A good friend, Michael Kenyon, is about to publish a wonderful book for adolescents called Fiona & the Fairy Princess and two weeks ago he asked me to proofread his manuscript and make suggestions for the final revision. I was thrilled to do this and suggested using Google Docs thinking this would be the perfect opportunity to try the new discussion feature.

Since the manuscript is over 400 pages long and Michael is unfamiliar with Google Docs, we decided to experiment with a chapter from the Fiona and the Fairy Princess Blog, http://fionaandthefairyprincess.blogspot.com/, which is not going to be included in the book. I copied and pasted the three-part story “The Chronicle of Rumple Dumple” into Google Docs. I had gone through Parts 1 and 2 before Michael joined in and found my comments. He was able to respond to my comments and even asked some clarifying questions or made observations of his own.

This is an excellent feature as I am one who is up early in the morning and he is a night owl who does most of his writing while the rest of us are asleep. When he logged on and retrieved the document, he was able to respond or make the revisions . And when it came to questions about grammar, I could even post a link for him to visit.

In one section of the story Fiona and her fairy princess friend, Aeyra, are given some time on their own to explore some small shops in downtown Frederick, Maryland while Fiona’s dad is in the local art store. Both girls are 10; Fiona is the daughter of a single father, and Aerya is a real fairy princess who lives with Fiona after her father was convinced that they had agreed to have an exchange student for the year.  Michael and I discussed whether or not “purse” was the best word that a 10-year-old would use for pocketbooks, handbags, or purses displayed in a window of one of the shops.

The comments turned into a phone call where we discussed our “discussion” via Google Docs. This is a great feature, but like other features it will take time to discover its usefulness. Michael and I talked about how this might be useful for a committee determining who might win a particular scholarship, for example. I agreed that it would be an excellent tool for a collaborative project like that. How much time freshmen in high school would spend using this feature, I’m not sure.

The fact is that I am still in a relationship with Google Docs and my love and interest grow daily. I don’t like the looks of the latest version, but have found that it is now easier to print a document created in Google Docs than it was in the past.

It’s guess it’s just best if we keep it as a “Friends with Benefits” relationship as there are so many others who want to “Share”. In the meantime I am happy to say that Google Docs has become a positive enhancement to my typical classroom practice.