Sunday, March 20, 2011

Connecting via Google Docs

From cnet News

since last semester, I have been thinking about how to make data collection simpler pour moi. (With blogs, the data for each student is relatively easy to collect, but not the aggregate response to one specific assignment. For data gathering, Ning is probably best).

I decided that Google Docs could be a simple way to aggregate responses, so this past week my Basic Writing students practiced their summarizing skills by creating one-paragraph group summaries of the CUNY Assessment Test in Writing (CAT-W for short) reading "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"--which, by the way, totally connects with Luke's earlier post of students/people having trouble just reading and understanding blocks of uninterrupted text. If you plan to make a lesson out of it, Luke, here is another take on the issue that may interest you.

I really, really liked the results of this experiment. First, unlike in the traditional classroom, where group responses tend to be ephemeral because they are shared orally or written on the whiteboard only to be erased, these group responses have become part of the class record and so can be revisited and revised. Students, then, have time to think about other groups' responses, as opposed to the quick judgments they usually make when group work and feedback is done in one class meeting. Second, having all responses together in one shared document helps discussion because the class can easily compare answers by moving up and down the document.

Also, connecting two or more classes via Google Docs is really easy and does not require extra logging in, passwords, etc. if the document is set to be edited by anyone who has the link and the link is posted to the blog, wiki, Ning, FB page, etc., or e-mailed (obviously, the more open the blog, wiki, Ning, and FB page is, the easier for others to work on the document). See HERE, for instance, Justin Rogers-Cooper's Seminar in Teaching Writing comments to my students' summaries.

I am sure there are many points about using Google Docs for group work, peer evaluation, and mentoring that I am missing. (I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject). There is one that kept coming back while I was writing this blog entry: I do not give a grade for class participation, but I could see how such group documents could help a teacher figure out how much students are actually participating in class, thus making "participation" less of an impression and more of a fact.

Coming Up: Stealing Luke's ENG 101 prompt to use in my Basic Writing class; peer evaluation of a CAT-W response across classes; more group work using Google Docs.


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  2. Clive Thompson's take is interesting-and does make sense. Yes, at some point I do want to discuss the text/hypertext issue in my cluster. I guess I am curious as to which readers Thompson has in mind though; I suspect he doesn't refer to our average cc student. But maybe I am being pessimistic. I did after all had my weekend ruined by having seen a trailer where Julia Roberts plays a cc teacher at a lousy community college (Tom Hanks is in it--I forget the title)

  3. Hey Luke, here is another version of Carr's argument, via one of Ann's students in the LRC 103 Ning: