Fun and games with GoogleDocs

The school I taught at has launched GoogleApps for Education this year. Any school which hasn’t done this yet really should, its great, free, easy to use and the power of it for enhancing teaching and learning is huge.

Over the last six months I have particularly used GoogleDocs and I felt that now was the right time to reflect on the successes I’ve had so I can share and hopefully hear some other ideas that practitioners in different schools have had. Lots of this is History focused, but many of these ideas are easily transferable to other subjects (especially as I stole or adapted lots of these from a colleague in the German department).

1. A quick and easy online discussion

Set up a GoogleDoc with a big enquiry question at the top and change the share settings to anyone can edit if they have the link. Give students the link (or better post it via Twitter), then go. No wasting time with setting up logins or going through the rig-moral of the infrastructure of a normal online discussion website. No messing about with students that can’t remember their passwords. Just a simple document where students add their comments underneath an enquiry question. If you are bothered about knowing who wrote what, just get them to prefix any comment with their name.  This can be as quick as a starter or plenary or can turn into a lesson with a bit more structure.

2. The whole class writes the same essay simultaneously

This year I have had very mixed ability post-16 classes and I wanted the lower ability students to see the writing style of the higher ability students. I could have done this on paper but fancied having a play and GoogleDocs made it great. Split the class into small mixed ability groups and give each group a paragraph to write. Set up a GoogleDoc and again change the share settings appropriately. Ask the groups to complete their paragraph. At first this will weird them out as they will see each paragraph developing simultaneously. However, after 10 minutes the magic begins. Students slowly begin to steal decent sentence starters or connectives from each other, thus teaching each other about essay style (albeit covertly). Stop the group half way through and get them to swap paragraphs, either finishing off another groups, or reviewing and improving their paragraph. Each time I have done this its been chaotic but grade B or A essays have emerged.

3. Research diaries

With Year 10 we are running the post-16 Extended Project qualification. As part of the project they need to keep a research diary. At the start of the project we set up a GoogleDoc with access for the supervisor and student. The students were told to update the diary as and when they do work. This easily enabled us to see which students were working and which were not, first win, without speaking to them or having to chase. Once students begun to fill in the diaries we used the comment feature where if you add the @ symbol plus their email address it directly emails the student with your question or comment, thus allowing a learning dialogue to take place, second big win! This has been so successful we have decided to run our entire post-16 coursework this way so we can keep a beady eye on those students who leave this to the last minute and we have to constantly chase.

4. Joint research tasks

Collaboration is the key benefit of GoogleDocs and this is shown brilliantly by setting up joint research tasks, either use as a normal document or a presentation, as you can easily get the whole class to work on producing a single product. Last month my Year 13 group needed to produce a bank of historians quotes on each of the leaders of the Soviet Union. Done independently this is a difficult and time consuming task, however, working as a group this was completed in 30 minutes. I set up a GoogleDoc wrote the name of each leader and then gave students the link. Working as a group they looked for quotes. I commented on the good ones using the comment feature to model what I was looking for and then independently the students produced the bank. Some even took advantage of the discussion feature to egg each other on to find quotes for the more obscure leaders (Brezhnev is a right pain to find!)

These are just a few ideas of the power of GoogleDocs and as we continue to develop its functionality at school I am sure that more ideas will crop up. However I am really keen to hear how this is being used in other schools so I can steal your ideas! Please feedback ideas below.

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14 Responses to Fun and games with GoogleDocs

  1. educurate says:

    This all sounds superb. I want to set my Y12 french group a collaborative research project this term, so I’ll probably be asking you for tips to combine all of the above ideas and also somehow blog some of the students’ findings. Have you used edmodo in combination with the above, or is it a little redundant compared with GDocs?

  2. timshel82 says:

    I love this. I think it sounds fab and really want to incorporate it into Music lessons – question is, how?! I love the idea of the open discussion, could be great for home learning tasks in Music and peer assessment activities. Being timetabled in the Mac Suite every other lesson throws this wide open for us. Watch this space.

  3. Dave Stacey says:

    Love these ideas – especially number 2 – that’s on the list for next year!

    I’ve had my year 7 class make a group presentation, with different people taking responsibility for different parts. Works quite well, although the idea of getting them to complete as homework went a bit sideways – next year I’ll try and get two hours in the computer room instead of one!

  4. Thanks for suggesting I give this a read – it’s a really interesting post. It sounds like you’ve managed to build in some fantastic collaborative working using google docs. I particularly like the collaborative essay idea.

  5. Robin Phares says:

    We are (finally) go to Google Apps next year! YIPEE! Can you suggest a way I can get to know how to use them forwards and backwards? I will be the one who they all come to for questions and ideas. (I have tucked your ideas in my google tool belt.) I am looking at this book. http://www.amazon.com/Retool-Your-School-Educators-Essential/dp/1564842673/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1307545587&sr=8-7-spell
    What do you think?

  6. Teresa Wu says:

    Love these ideas. Thanks for sharing with us!
    Teresa Wu, Google Docs Community Manager

  7. Pingback: Fun and games with GoogleDocs – further reflections | The Kenradical School of History

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