Using cloud-based apps to help students collaborate and share their writing.

by Derek Long

Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

Introduction

My strategy is using Google Drive and Google Docs to help students through the writing process. These cloud-based apps make it easy for students to collaborate in real time no matter where they’re located.

Once their drafts are started in these applications, students can get immediate feedback from others, incorporate real-time comments and suggestions, and publish the results in online formats that matter to them. I’ve found that working this way increases their interest in their writing, and inspires them to put more care into their final drafts.

Students:

–Begin by completing a rough draft of final document, and then use Google’s cloud-based apps to invite and incorporate peer-based edits;

–Employ the comments feature to make suggestions and annotations in the shared document; and, finally,

–Revise and polish their work based on this real-time peer feedback.

We’re also incorporating blogging software as well as social-media applications like Twitter to broaden the range of voices students consider as they share their experiences and explore their classwork.

Next year, for example, my students will read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me with students from very different backgrounds. They’ll collaborate online, sharing ideas as they read in ways that allow both sets of students to consider new perspectives and develop fresh ideas that make them better, more well-rounded people.

Reflections

What I did well (in sharing this practice with other teachers)?

Looking back over the videos, I think I did a good job of relating the information to students and their future success. Despite being crunched for time, I think I explained the different apps well. I have had a lot of opportunities to see students struggle, so I had an idea of where teachers would run into issues. I also think being able to share a real life example of how I use the technology made the learning more real.

What I would do more of, better, differently (in sharing this practice again)?

If I were to do this lesson over again, I would slow the process down. We tried to cover so much information in such a short amount of time, I am worried that some teachers did not have a chance to experience the power of collaborating. We spent a lot of time getting signed in and creating documents which isn’t terribly exciting. The exciting part is when you can share and collaborate using the technology.

In what ways do I still want to learn and grow in using this practice in my classroom?

With all technology, I need to continue to learn how the Google Apps for Education evolve. Google constantly updates their apps to make them more functional, so it is important to be aware of those changes. I also need to learn more creative ways to make students’ writing more relevant and real world. Technology is changing how stories are told and how writing is shared. Podcasting and blogging is revolutionizing the sharing of ideas, so it is important to me for my students to have experience using them.

About Derek Long

Derek Long is a high school English teacher and instructional coach at Pittsburgh Perry High School in Pittsburgh, PA. Derek loves teaching his stu...

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