Student Collaboration with Google Drive

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This past week a handful of my colleagues and I utilized Google Drive to brainstorm, draft, revise, and finalize a proposal for the National Council of Teachers of English Convention in Boston next November.  If you’ve ever prepared a proposal to present at a conference before, you know how harried and nerve-wracking it can be.  Trying to organize six people to do one together, with 24 hours until the submission deadline is…well…it’s crazy!  It’s almost as crazy as trying to get a group of students to write a paper or create a presentation together.  In both scenarios–whether it’s a group of adults or students– here are some collaboration pitfalls:

1)  One person does all the work.  The high-achiever of the group grins and bears it as they carry the weight of the project.
2)  No one does the work.  If the dynamics of the group fail to include the driven personality, then chances are, nothing gets done.
3)  Too many chiefs…you’ve seen it happen, or perhaps you’ve been in a group where everyone is trying to lead and direct.  This is almost as bad as having no direction.  The final project lacks cohesiveness and rather than a unified, solid presentation

The night before our deadline, our go-getter sent a call out through Twitter and text to get our attention that basically said, “hey, this thing is due tomorrow!  Get your butts on Google Drive before 10:00 am or it’s not happening!”  And so we took our brains, individually, to the document created by our group leader and started to draft, revise, and comment, which was cool by itself.  The magic, however, occurred when we were all in the document, working at the same time, our multi-colored cursors moving around the document, communicating through the chat feature about what we were doing and should we do this or that, adding comments and resolving comments until finally, with two minute to spare, we had a proposal submitted to NCTE.

From the other side of our various devices and locations strewn across the metroplex, we all shared a collective sigh and appreciation for the power of collaborative writing and tools such as Google Drive that breathe life and spirit in to the writing process.

So here’s the skinny on Google Drive:

1)  It’s free.  Doesn’t get any better than that.
2)  Google Drive operates through cloud computing, which means that you can create, store, and share your documents through the web.  No more wondering where you left that flash drive or stressing out over loosing a document on your laptop after an unexpected re-imaging.  For our students, this means that they can work on documents anywhere they have web-access.
3)  Google Drive hosts a miniature Office Suite line-up of products including Documents (Word), Spreadsheet (Excel), Presentation (PowerPoint) plus a whole host of apps available through Google Chrome web store that can be downloaded and added to your Drive.
4)  When you create a document in Google Drive you can choose to share it with collaborators, allowing them access to edit, view, or share the document.  You can make your document private, public (open to the web), or public through the link.

Applications for learning:
Some of my friends have 200 students this year. We know that powerful writing instruction relies upon students writing, talking about their writing, and receiving feedback.  The teacher, alone, cannot be responsible for continually providing feedback on student’s writing with a 1:200 ratio.  Peer response is a powerful tool for a young writer,  but teachers cannot provide the type of quality feedback and evaluation on 200 essays more than a few times throughout the semester (if even that much).


Can we still have the same learning goals for students and their writing if they are participating in a collaborative essay or project that we would an individual assignment?  YES!  Do we address more learning goals by having them use technology to work collaboratively on a writing task?  YES!

ISTE’s NETs for Students even address this skill as relevant and integral to today’s workforce and post-secondary environments:

2. Communication and Collaboration
Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Students:
a. interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.
b. communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.
c. develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures.
d. contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems.

If we consider the SAMR model as a protocol for planning technology integration, Google Drive falls under Redefinition,  allowing an entirely new experience that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.  

I can attest to the power of collaborative writing experiences.  Google Drive can engage students who are too timid to speak up face-to-face in a group.  It alleviates some of the responsibility for providing timely feedback from the teacher and engages students in the writing community as a class as well as the smaller communities they form in groups.  Group members can collaborate remotely, from their own devices and locations, or side-by-side in a computer lab.

Coming soon!  My Big Campus allows you to integrate Google Drive as an application, much like it does Facebook and Twitter, which means that students can collaborate on Google Docs and more through one portal: MBC! 

What is your personal experience with using Google Drive?  Do you see any advantages for using it with students?  Are there pitfalls or obstacles to integrating Google Drive into your learning activities?



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One thought on “Student Collaboration with Google Drive

    AMY said:
    January 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Great post and great reflection about our experiences writing that proposal. Thank you for the reminder that I need to use Google Drive with my students.

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