Monday, November 9, 2009

MyNotes - Using Google Docs in the Classroom by Tonia Johnson


    • Adams City High School: E105, my desk is piled with newsletters, bulletins, magazines, books, articles, student gifts and few coffee mugs. What you will not find on my desk is piles of student work needing to be graded. This is not a testament to my organizational skills, nor does it reflect a teacher staying late into to the night to take care of grading. My student essays and papers are stored on Google Docs.
    • At the beginning of an assignment, I have students “share” their document with me. During the term of the assignment I can monitor and collaborate with them. My students have a rare ability to work amazingly hard at looking busy, they can seem to be working feverishly all week on an assignment, but on Friday have nothing to show for it! Using Google docs, I know exactly how they assignment is really coming and can give instant feedback.
    • Turning in papers through Google Docs is still a teacher to pupil model. However, if I have students share their documents with other students their writing becomes collaborative from the beginning. This becomes a less artificial feeling environment. As a learner, I frequently share my writing with colleagues and classmates during the writing process. Having students collaborate this way gives them a greater sense that their writing is for everyone, not just the teacher. They have a greater audience. I believe that this fact alone can give students a greater voice and create an environment where their best is all that is acceptable.
    • “The five, key 21st century skills,” says Brenda Musilli, president of the Intel Foundation, “are: problem solving, collaboration, communications, digital literacy and creative thinking.” (New York Times 9/27/2007).
    • Having students collaborate on their assignments sill does not delve deep enough into the opportunities that Google Docs offers along the lines of collaboration. As a high school teacher, I have my students “code” their reading assignments. I have them mark their text according to what kind of text it is and what we are looking for. Transferring this into digital literacy, I copy and paste an article into Google Docs. I then ask students to pick a color and highlight the article for things they find to be the most interesting, the most important or the something they need to remember. When they are finished we are left with a colorful article that has everyone’s ideas on it. As a class, we now have the opportunity for a discussion. Students can even go in and add comments next to the “coding” of other students. Activities like this not only get students into the text, but push them to use higher order thinking skills. Since their input will be seen by the whole class, and sometimes my other sections, they feel a sense of ownership.

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