Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Google Docs Enhance Web-based Projects

Google Docs make mundane tasks easy, and even exciting.

In the past, recording student URLs for web-based projects was a hassle. Passing around a piece of paper and having them write down the link to their Prezi, for example, was bound to be a messy and error-laden process.

Now when we have lab days and do web-based projects, my students just click from our class website over to the Google Doc ... and paste in their link.

We are currently doing a class project where students are designing the perfect school. We are using Prezi, and in addition to using a Google Doc to house links, we're also using it as a brainstorming platform - and a place to showcase best ideas.

Students can collaborate, see peer work, get ideas, show off a bit, and offer constructive criticism - adding a very cool, impactful dimension to our projects.

I'll be honest. I'm not completely sure impactful is a word, but it really describes what Google brings to our web-based class projects.

Update: We had great success the first time our class did a Prezi / Google Docs for sharing combo - so we hit the lab again for a lesson tracing the origins of freedom and democracy. We used this document here ... and the entire lesson went more smoothly given the students were used to the basic ideas here (do a Prezi, share your link).

This lesson was almost entirely learner-centered: I give instructions and a few guidelines in the opening part of the assignment. Students had room to maneuver in terms of what areas they wanted to focus on: Some got philosophical and talked about freedom coming from God. Some did a great job tracing freedom's development through major time periods. And a few just copied some Wiki entries with no real understanding of what they were doing.

Offering the guidelines like I did ensured a tight relation to core content - a lesson I learned before, when students were having great fun using GoAnimate, but designing nonsensical cartoons.

I don't think tech was at all forced here - Google Docs is a secondary player - but an important one. Struggling students were all steered to see what "first period" did - the honors class that went first and put up some good examples.

I also think this lesson is a big boost to student achievement: We are doing papers on the exact same topic, and I planned for this to serve as a rough draft ... organizing their thoughts.

Reflecting on this assignment, my biggest victory was the collaboration / sharing aspect. Dozens of kids watched each others' work, to get inspired and grab at ideas before starting.

My biggest challenge remains, "What do we do?" Students stare at the screen and see words, but they do not absorb them. A few bright students realize they have all they need and then some, in terms of materials and instructions to get started.

But overall I see a huge, unfortunate pattern with our kids, where they cannot realize words have meaning ... and if they simply read what's in front of them, they will have their guideposts.

They want it spoon-fed, and even minimal lifting on their part is met with resistance. This is the question I am bringing to the group for help with!

Not to sound too provocative, but Review Me!

1 comment:

  1. Tech integration does not need to be "wow." I think that is a common misconception. Technology is effective, that is why adults use it. Is that not why students should be using it too?

    I am a proponent for using the most effective tool available. If that tool is a pencil for a particular job, use the pencil.