We’ve been using Google Docs for two or three years now as a way for students to submit assignments and collaborate, revise, edit and store work in the journalism program. [New to using Google with student publications? Maybe this slideshow will help.] As with any practice, the more comfortable students are with the process, the more we can explore advanced features. This year we’ve been able to make use of Google’s Chat feature and take our online collaboration to the next level by conferencing online.
Why do I like it? Oh, so many reasons…
(1) As with all of the Google apps, it’s free, easy and Web-based.
(That’s three reasons in one, if you’re counting.)
(2) Students can ask questions about comments at the time rather than contacting me again later, slowing down the revision process.
(3) It feels personal and gives students a connection, which can be reassuring and motivating, especially when the Google Doc has lots of revision suggestions.
A quick recap from this weekend explains how it works:
A student journalist reports Friday night’s basketball game (see her live game tweets) and shares her story with me via Google Docs. At the same time, she sends me a text message that her story is waiting. The text gives me a heads-up so I don’t need to constantly check my account (I do have a life!), and the student texting indicates that this is a good time for a quick online conference. [Generally I make myself available from 8-9 p.m. for this activity, so everyone can plan accordingly.]
I read the story and insert comments as usual. But then I go to the top right area inside the Doc to see the student’s name (also viewing) and use the pull-down arrow to start a chat. Making comments here in the chat area means fewer comments to delete inside the Doc when it’s ready to copy/paste for publishing. I usually offer 1-2 specific points of praise and one general overall suggestion. The main thing is that I can ask, “What questions do you have for me, while I’m right here, after reading the revision notes and suggested improvement areas?”
Sometimes I get “What did you mean by…” and sometimes students want to rewrite or edit while I’m still viewing the Doc. If time permits, we go for it. They get instant feedback and it’s just like we’re sitting side-by-side in the classroom. It keeps students at the forefront, focusing on their learning rather than the story as a product. It invites questions.
And it’s faster for everyone involved.
This process is great between student/teacher but even better as student/editor. Often that happens much later at night, but the editors offer their perspective and a bit of camaraderie in the editing process. They treat it like a Facebook chat but with an outcome in mind.
News posts much more quickly, and students feel supported in each aspect of the process.