Sunday, December 7, 2008

Query: Using Google Groups or Google Docs for classes?

Mmmm, so, I spent a restful and low-key day today avoiding overdue work by getting stuff together for my next class. (Now, having written that, I do acknowledge that I have to get on it with this class, so it's not like I'm looking super way ahead. But I am blowing off all the stuff that is currently due in order to play with a new class that is soon-to-be due. Ah well.)

Anyway, I went through a couple textbooks* and am playing with schedules and copying assignments and taking preliminary notes on stuff and suddenly had the idea about the Google apps. Has anybody tried making their class a Google group and having them upload documents? I know GradSchoolLand had, um, one or the other of those online course sites, which I don't think I ever used, but I had the sudden idea that Google Docs would be nice for collaborative writing --- have you ever put a thesis up on the board and collectively brainstormed an outline and then had each group get evidence and write one paragraph of the essay? You get to model all the steps of the writing process and it goes faster because each group writes a portion. Plus you get to show them the importance of revision when the different sections don't go together or make any sense and it sucks bad enough even they recognize it. In the past I've been in rooms that had computer access or could take students to a computer lab; right now I don't have that option. So, maybe setting up this online and having the groups paste in their paragraphs from home would work?

Help me, oh Internets, forsee all the different stupid shit that will go wrong here, so I can be prepared when/if I use this new technique. And do the online course thingies like Blackboard and Whiteboard or whatever allow students to post and edit each others' stuff? Or is it only able to do the little forum discussion things? I could also post the syllabus and assignments and stuff on a Google group, but obviously I don't want students to be able to edit those. Hmm. Thoughts?

* Random side note that you don't care about: So back when I was supposed to pick my textbook I didn't have time to read and choose between two of them so I just picked one. Luckily, I like it better, but I think I'm going to end up using about half of that and half of the other one, which will involve going back through them in more detail later, to pull all the crap I'm going to have to photocopy and bring in. Still, I did get a fair amount done today on the course prep, if not on, say, cleaning my apt. or putting on clothes or any of that other silly stuff.


Dr. Crazy said...

I've never done this, but I will give you my general piece of advice that I think applies for all technology things: if you're going to do this, be aware that you're going to spend time teaching the technology and be sure to build in time for that.

Although this would seem like a simple enough enterprise, I'm always shocked by how totally NOT tech savvy (for practical purposes) my students are. Sure, they can text up a storm and facebook and twitter, but ask them to put page numbers on a MS Word document in MLA style and they look at you like you're from mars. I suspect you'll get a fair amount of that if you don't build in adequate instruction on the tech.

LumpenProf said...

I really like the idea of using google docs for class writing projects. I think it's a much better use of your time and theirs than learning and using something they'll never see again like Blackboard or WebCT. I've been using google docs for my own writing lately since it means I don't have to have my own laptop with me to work. But I hadn't stopped to think about how to make use of google docs for class. I think there's a lot of potential there.

jw said...

First of all, I have had your post on my list of things-to-respond-to since, well, I guess the 8th. It's now the twelfth and so I'm feeling pretty good about my timeliness. I think the internets have moved on though. Dang.

I'm seconding Dr. Crazy on the lameness of students' techiness. I'm constantly surprised how a generation who is supposed to be super techie and wired and all that, but they can't seem to figure out how to add page numbers in Word or the difference between a MS Word document and one from MS Works (one I can read, the other, not).

I do use Google Docs extensively for my teaching. I write quizzes and syllabi in Google Docs so I can edit them at home and then print them on campus, and then I always have a copy of them. I make the (non-editable) syllabi available electronically to my students, which makes it nice and easy when I change the reading schedule.