I had a conversation with a teacher today which prompted this post. It was similar to conversations I'd had in the past about twitter, its advantages and how it has been one of the most valuable learning tools for me as I continue to inquire into teaching and learning. I find it impossible to contain my enthusiasm for how twitter has revolutionized my information consumption as I tailor it to my interests and engage in dialogue deepening my understanding. My enthusiasm for twitter might be eclipsed only by my enthusiasm for google docs. I continue to be overwhelmingly excited by the facility with which google docs allows me to guide student collaboration, research and writing while tracking their progress, providing feedback and involving parents. It has also made assessment a total breeze.
I work at an innovative and creative institution. Perhaps it is because of the freedom we have to explore possibilities that we are often unaware of the depth to many of the simplest resources that are available. It is also without a doubt hard to be constantly adapting one's practice to ever-updating technology applications. Certainly, in this day and age, the sheer volume of resources available in education can be overwhelming. Navigating options and rating their relative value is always intimidating, particularly on the heels of a full 7 hours in front of students. But google docs is so worth it and I really am that sure. And while my presence on twitter often gives me the impression that all educators are connected, deeply familiar with technological resources and employing them in their every day practice; it occurred to me today that this might not be representative of all cases. As I continue to stumble upon features in google docs that make my job incredibly easier, I thought it might be valuable to share the simple features I have discovered and am so thankful for. This is either a biased and likely limited overview of how GDocs has been used in our classroom this year, for those who have not had the time or opportunity to explore, or it is a simple plug for the brilliance of google documents and their value in the classroom.
...which we linked to our google site
and shared these with student groups who edited in their own colours, uploaded photos, and separated their qualitative data from their quantitative data by inserting additional sheets
Students used the functions feature in google spreadsheets to verify their calculations:
They were able to graph various data using the insert chart function
We used google forms to create a survey allowing students to provide feedback on others' work...
...which transferred their feedback to a sortable spreadsheet which we were able to cut and paste into their original Science Lab spreadsheets.
The second time around, we have had students create and share their own google documents to design plant growth experiments.
We had them insert a link from this google doc to a spreadsheet in which they would track their data...
We have been able to provide feedback on particular sections of their work using the new comments feature which allows us to send them notifications and which allows them to reply and/or resolve* the comment.
*Resolving a comment removes it from the document but does not remove it from the discussion stream.
We have also been SO grateful for the revision history function which allows us to see every edit that has been made to the document since creation including accidental deletions and who has made each change and when... Furthermore, previous revisions can be restored!! Pure genius.
Google docs can be edited from any computer which makes working from home simple. It is so easy to hold kids accountable for the work they do. It takes collaboration to a whole new level and it is only getting better. I should mention that our students are only 9 and 10 years old and they have had no trouble navigating these features through their own google accounts. I can't even imagine what the future might hold for a creative mind provided with these tools. Please comment if I've missed anything particularly useful or obvious. It would make my day.