Google Docs for Collaboration (Part 1)

This is the first of a sequence of posts that I am going to make about how I am using Google Docs with my classes. We often hear about how wonderful web-based tools are for collaboration and learning in theory, but not so often in practice.

I am fairly new to Google Apps having been convinced by other 2008 eLearning Fellows to give it a try. I just looked at my oldest document and Gmail and they date back to Beginning September 2008 so 8 months experience is what I am giving.

First, I must say that I have become a huge fan of Google Apps, and Google Docs in particular. Here are a few examples of their use with my Year 11 History class:

The students all have their own Google Accounts (our school has a planned shift to Education Edition in the future). With the students quite new to Docs I started them off with a simple task of notes building, to help them become familiar with the environment.

TASK ONE: As the students worked through their online course I provided them with a brief set of notes published online (yes you can publish a document as a web page) which they could copy and paste into their own set of notes. These publish notes were formatted with Headers 1 and 2 – this is important as the students could create an easy table of contents using this formatting.

The requirements that they were given were simple: Go online and find relevant images to embed into their notes. They were studying “The Origins of World War II” topic. With the collaboration facility in Docs I got the students to share their notes document to me as a collaborator. This meant that I could monitor their progress and give them assistance, if needed, and feedback.

One of the students has published his final product. Follow this link to view.

The next History topic (just started) has led to an increase in collaboration between students and the difficulty level of the task.

TASK TWO: Students have now been placed in groups of three (in my view this is an ideal number for online tasks such as this – they can be help more to account by others in the group for their contribution, or lack of). The students were tasked with writing a new set of notes on the new topic which is “New Zealand’s post WW2 Search for Security”. They are given suggested headings and a theme for them to write their content – example here. Students have only just started on this topic/task – it will be interesting to see how they progress.

I will post more on my experiences with Google Docs over the coming month. I can only recommend that you give it a go…..Good Luck!

2 Comments

themeasureyouuseApril 26th, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Hi Mark

Just reading this post and found it very encouraging. Wondering if you could not justify your text to both margins. I find it harder to read although it may look tidier and research will back me up on that.

You will be aware of white space being a good thing also which the justifying tends to kill off.

TMYU

MarkApril 27th, 2009 at 9:04 am

There. Hows that!

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