Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Google Docs 11: Features with an Impact

We've been looking at Google Docs in the Heartland Area Curriculum Network meetings recently. For those that missed my presentations, a synopsis of them (how Google Docs works, its advantages and disadvantages, and how you can use it in the classroom) can be found on our 21st century learning skills page.

Here are 11 ways I see Google Docs having an immediate impact in your district, along with the features that make them possible:
  1. Since they are collaborative (you can share them, more than one person can work at a time), group projects no longer become 4 people fooling around while one types in all the content.
  2. The commenting feature allows students to peer review a fellow student's work, highlighting the text they want to comment on, and then providing a space to write the comment. Writing teachers will wonder how they taught without it.
  3. The revision history lets a teacher look at who has made revisions and changes, making it easier to assess participation and allowing for a teacher to formatively pinpoint how to best help the group in their task.
  4. Since they are web-based, students can work on them at home without worrying about compatibility and dragging around a USB stick.
  5. No web access at home? The quick import-export feature lets you save it at school as a .doc, .xls, or .ppt and take it home manually. Plus, it allows for generic formats if a student doesn't have Microsoft applications.
  6. Students in elementary classes need an easy-to-use tool that lets them a) see how a spreadsheet works, b) see the relationship between chart data and graph data, and c) be able to manipulate the data and apply it to their own studies. Google Docs Spreadsheet is just that tool, free and available.
  7. The presentation tool gives the tired classroom activity of students making a powerpoint a new spin: Being online, their presentation is easily accessible to those outside the classroom. The potential for authentic work just became easier... you can create a gallery of presentations on a website to share your learning with the world.
  8. Better yet, the collaborative nature of Google Docs means more than just sharing. You can work jointly on a presentation with someone in a different state or country.
  9. The easy-to-use form builder allows students to create their own forms, generate data from participants, and show the data graphically. Conducting social science experiments becomes a cinch. Hey, what are the favorite TV shows of students nowadays, anyways?
  10. Faculty can benefit too. I'm envisioning jointly crafted interdisciplinary lesson plans, budgets maintained by multiple activity sponsors, prior-knowledge pre-assessment via forms by professional development coordinators, just to name a few things.
  11. And... you'll save a mint on paper with all this online collaboration.

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