Google Docs as a Hub for Collaboration
Collaboration is a meaningful way to connect with your fellow teachers. Whether you’re working on a new project or theme together, or crunching numbers and outcomes for a PLC goal, teachers need teachers. Gone are the days of closing the door and teaching on your own. Good teaching requires connections, and with the advancement in technology, it has become easier to connect with your neighboring teachers, next door to your classroom and across the world.
Here are just a couple of collaboration tools that take advantage of the increasing usability of social networking and web 2.0 web sites.
For the past three years, I have been using Google Documents, Calendar, and Sites within my classroom. This past year, my district made the move from an independent (and costly) email provider to Google for all of our email and applications. This opened up a whole new level of communication within the district.
The Google Calendar is a perfect way to keep track of after school meetings, upcoming field trips, deadlines, and important dates. In fact, this summer I plan to work on transferring my curriculum maps of the year over to it, hopefully it will help keep me on track.
The beauty of these calendars, is that they can be shared among staff. Now our school has a calendar outlining the computer lab schedules, and any open spots that are free to sign up for. District calendars could also be easily broadcast to any level of staff with the simple click of a button.
Google Documents is your standard word processing, spreadsheet and presentation creator. But it takes itself to another level when you can share those documents with your teaching team. Click, you have a set of math worksheets that I created. Click, I have a project based social study assignment. The collaboration no longer means you’re sitting in the same room, it means you can work on these ideas at any time. And we all know that good ideas come to us even at the latest hours of the night.
Google Docs allows collaborators to share their files, and even allows people to give permission to team members to edit and fix mistakes or add ideas to documents that may be missing.
This past year, I attempted what I had been hoping to try for some time. Since all students have their own log in accounts for Google Docs, I wanted to see how well they would do with building their own web site.
We started out with a simple template that Google Sites has available, and we explored the way that editing of pages is accomplished. It was cumbersome the first day, trying to get everyone to follow my lead as I clicked around, so eventually I gave up that pipe dream and settled on giving them the basics and let them run with it.
And they did indeed run with the ideas. Web sites were being built all over the classroom, kids heads were huddled together to dream up the next page and what would be the content. Students were working hard to make it perfect. They realized that the world would be seeing this, so *presto* spelling mattered. (Authentic writing, yay!).
Looking back, I would certainly teach web design/building to my 4th/5th graders again, but I would front load it with a project first. I would want the web site to act as a publishing step inside of a major project. That way, they do all the work ahead of time and then coast into the web design portion with all of their content in hand. That was the biggest issue, “what should I do my web site about?” If I can integrate this idea into another project, then the web creation becomes a natural next step just waiting for them to transfer their already created ideas.
Collaboration makes us better teachers. When we share ideas we strengthen our learning environments for ourselves and our students.
Oregon signed on with Google to offer a Google Docs/Apps account for every student in the state, many more are signing on each year, check with your technology administrator to see if your students have these accounts available.