It’s no secret that Google Docs has made teachers more effective at teaching writing. After making a full Google Docs integration this year in my history classroom, I will never go back. I require my students to write every paper in Google Docs. This way, I can help with the process and not just the finished product. In this post, I will talk about using Google Docs and the need for a chrome browser extension called WatchDoc that allows for the most efficient, effective teaching with Google Docs.
WatchDoc displays a notification in your chrome browser every time someone updates a Google Doc that you share. Thus, whenever a student is working on his essay, I can meet him in his document and see exactly how he is doing. Of course, this requires me to be in front of my computer, but, as someone who believes strongly in the importance of student writing, I would much rather help a student while he is writing than grade at a final product with major deficiencies.
By meeting students in their documents, I ensure that I see their work at least once before they turn it in. Therefore, if they are headed in the wrong direction, I can steer them in the right direction before the due date. In the end, when students turn in their papers, this process ensures that I receive better work, as I have already addressed any major problems. This form of feedback and collaboration is crucial, especially for the 21st century learner.
Collaboration is often considered a pivotal 21st century skill. With Google Docs, educators can easily place comments in the comments box and in the margins. Both of these forms of comments are immediately emailed to collaborators. And, if another party is in the document, you can instant message them in the side bar. This way, the feedback is truly instant. Students can also reply to my comments and if so, I get an email notification. This makes the process of editing more of a discussion rather than a lecture.
In addition, with Google Docs, it’s easy for one student to share his or her work with another for peer editing.
Often, I will pair up students who are proving a similar thesis. Other times, I will pair up students based on ability. Peer editing with Google Docs allows me to watch the discussions that go on between students during the editing process. It’s hard to doubt the effectiveness of peer-to-peer discussion in learning–especially under the watchful eye of the teacher.
This process takes time to get used to and certainly requires extra time from the teacher, but Google Docs affords better feedback and better collaboration, which leads to better writing. My students have made leaps and bounds this year in their writing skills. Both the students and I love working in Google Docs, and with each additional essay assignment, they need fewer virtual meetings for assistance. Give it a shot; I think you too will love the results!
Please comment and let me know how you use Google Docs. Check out what my colleague, Morgan Harris is doing with Google Docs here.