Google Docs for Collaboration (Part 3)

Well here we are again looking at ways that Google Docs can be used to help improve teaching and learning. My History class students recently wrote an essay in Google Docs which they shared to me as a Collaborator.

I was able to write directly into their essays with feedback (in teacher red of course). I gave them the obvious grammar and spelling corrections along with tips on how to improve their essay structure and writing. I was also able to link them to a model writing plan and essay for this particular answer. This exercise allowed for direct feedback to the students on their written work which, according to a major international study this year, is the key ingredient to effective teaching.

But the collaboration allowed for in Google Docs did not end there. Earlier in the year I had the students create a personal assessment record document from this published template. They collaborated this back to me which I keep in an assessment folder in Google Docs. The students were tasked with reading the feedback I had given them in their online essays and to summarise this in their personal assessment records. Next time they write an essay they will first read what they need to do to improve on their last effort.

Here are some examples of what the students wrote in their summary for their first essay. Students are Year 11 (age 15-16) and the essay was about the reactions to the Treaty of Versailles in the Origins of World War Two Topic:

Student 1: [Merit “B” Grade] – Good structure. Introduction is very good. Sometimes irrelevant, so need to work on cutting down information until only the key points remain. Don’t write the essay like a story, focus on the why as much as the who, what and how. The conclusion was too brief and rushed the end of the essay. It needs to sum up every aspect of the essay, rather than a general overview. The key to getting Excellence is to refine the essay.

Student 2: [Achieved “C” Grade] – Writing style is fine but need to work on content and focus on all the parties involved. I need to stick to my plan and not lose my focus on the question. I also must not give my opinion directly.

Student 3: [Achieved “C” Grade] – In my detail and content i was (waffeling) and much of my content wasnt relavant to what my essay was about. I did this quite alot in my essay and i will have to make sure i dont do it in future. I also should not have used ‘I’ and ‘me’ in my essay because it isnt about my opinion. My spelling also needs some work i shouldnt be in such a rush while writing.

How many times do we hand back marked work where students look at the grade and no further? At least the students have a permanent record of their essay, teacher feedback, a link to model essay, their own summary of where to improve and their grade.

Well, I hope this very practical use of Google Docs is of some use to you.

2 thoughts on “Google Docs for Collaboration (Part 3)

  1. Hi Mark,

    I like the way you are using Google Docs.

    I would question (and many experts have) Hattie’s conclusions on teacher feedback. They are based on a direct teaching model rather than a learner centred one. I think the key to effective learning is to get students working together to improve each other (as you obviously do) and that would include assessment. If a teacher can get them effectively critiquing themselves and each other then we are really getting somewhere.

    That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for teacher feedback (I do something similar to you with essay writing), but I really don’t believe it is the holy grail that Hattie suggests.

  2. Hi Mark

    Long time no hear…but don’t you worry, have been lurking at your work.

    Thanks for this insightful series on Google Docs, I picked up a few tips since I use them with some of my classes too. In fact, G/Docs are so easy that our staff still ‘don’t have the time to learn about them’ (kids do of course) – but that’s another story.

    As Darren suggests above, the key is engaged student – everything else is secondary.

    Keep up the good work. Regards from across The Ditch.

    Tomaz

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