A year ago I reflected on how I used Google Docs to coordinate year-end group projects for my 10th grade World History students. They used a spreadsheet to keep track of their work and typed up their notes and created their presentation in Moodle. It was a substitution, or perhaps an augmentation, of what they would have been able to do without Google Docs (now Drive). This year I thought about how I could make the experience not just easier in terms of workflow, but also in terms of learning. I accomplished this by focusing on feedback and motivation.
Working from the premise that the quality of work improves when 1) students get prompt feedback and 2) feel they are creating something for an audience other than their peers, I changed the structure of project to incorporate additional components:
- A research skills component that required students to evaluate the credibility of the sources in another group’s bibliography and share their feedback with that group (next time I’ll have the kids leave this feedback as comments within the bibliography rather than a separate document so that it’s immediately apparent)
- More rigorous feedback on my part, using comments within Google Drive to give praise and constructive criticism promptly and regularly
- Regular showcase demonstrations of exemplary work to the class as we passed each checkpoint, which I could do since each group kept their work in a folder that was shared with me.
These three components required students to create for a peer audience and also gave them numerous opportunities, along with concrete examples, of how they could improve their work. Kids also appreciated being showcased and it created a real sense of camaraderie. There’s something really cool about having an entire class applaud someone’s work.
I felt I got closer to a redefinition this time around – not because leaving feedback is novel, but because giving intra-class peer feedback between 20+ students at a time is impractical to the point of impossibility. It’s just another way that Google Docs helps streamline the process of learning: it helps you get away from getting kids to DO things and lets you focus on getting them to LEARN things.