Sudha Aravindan has taught high school Math and professional development in Information Technology for over 10 years. Sudha has a Doctorate of Education degree in Mathematics Education from the University of Delaware, USA, a Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Kerala, India, a Bachelor of Education degree in Teaching of Math from the University of Kerala, India, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Math, Physics and Statistics from the University of Kerala, India. Sudha has a certificate in Java programming and Statistical Analysis.
What is Google Docs?
Ever wondered how you could introduce technology in the classroom, and allow for collaboration and real time feedback? Well, Google Docs could be your answer.
Google Docs is an online Word processing software where all the documents and files can be saved on the Google Drive for free. All you need is a Google Account (also free), which, if you use Gmail, you already have. With Google Docs, all the files are saved on the Google cloud so you have access to your documents from any place.
For all documents you create, you have the ability to decide who has access to your document and what kind of access they have. For example you might want to share a document on your adventures in Yellowstone with a friend but you don't want the friend to make any changes, so you would provide the friend with read access only.
Since Google Docs is available to everyone without having to purchase and install any software, it is a wonderful technological tool to use in the classroom. Here are some interesting ways to use to introduce this technology and keep students motivated and interested in the classroom.
Collaborative Writing and Editing
Let's say you have separated the class into groups and assigned each group a book review or science paper. This could be cumbersome and difficult for students as they would need to get together to work on the assignment, each with different notes or copies of the draft.
The collaborative feature of Google Docs allows students to learn to work as a team. With this program every student has an opportunity to contribute and include their ideas by working on the same document from different places or times. One big advantage of using Google Docs is that any changes made by one or more students or teacher can be immediately seen by all of the other students in the class who are working on the same document.
Without an online collaborative system, each student may work in isolation and create their own flow chart or visual diagram, however, with Google Docs a group of students can collaboratively work on the same flow chart and contribute to the groups' ideas and designs.
With visual diagrams and representations, students can collaborate to explain their ideas and work flow, and brainstorm ideas and solutions. Arrows and geometric shapes with different colors can be used to emphasize and summarize work, as well as track the latest changes. Each student can make a positive contribution to brainstorming the project each at their own time and convenience.
Google Docs has a feature where you can translate a document from English into a number of world languages including Spanish, French, and Dutch. Translating a document to a different language is simple, students can simply click on Tools - Translate document, select a language for the translation, and see the document translated to the language of their choice. They can then download the document and email it to their friends abroad, or simply share the document online with their selected friends and family.
Within the collaborative work environment of Google Docs, the teacher can review student assessments and provide comments and feedback in real time. The student does not have to bring the document to school the next day to be reviewed and then wait to get the document returned with comments added. The feedback can be immediate.
With Google Docs, teachers won't have a box filled with papers on their desk, or even an email inbox swamped with individual emails from multiple students from multiple classes. By using Google Forms, the teacher can create a separate inbox for an assignment.
When students turn in their work, they can fill out a form saying their assignment is complete. At any point in time the teacher can get a snapshot of the list of students who have completed their work. This saves times because the teacher does not have to read through emails and compile the listing of submitted work.
Saving Data and Files
Google Docs automatically saves the document as you work. At any point in time changes can be rolled back, and the number of previous versions of the document can be retrieved. This allows for students and teachers to confidently share and edit work in real time without fear of errors or unwanted changes. So for example, if during collaborative work someone inadvertently deletes or make incorrect edits to a document, previous versions of the document can be easily recovered.
Google Docs is a powerful online word processing system with useful features, many of which can be used productively in the classroom. Students have the opportunity to do collaborative work, get feedback in real time, share their documents on the web, and collaborate and brainstorm as a team. They can translate their document into another language, get feedback immediately from the teacher, and all without fear of inadvertently deleting critical information or saving unintentional changes. Google Forms allows the teacher to organize student submissions and documents can revert back to earlier versions if necessary.
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