Digital tools have given us an exponential number of ways to collaborate with our students, colleagues, peers and community. Collaboration that can help us build, communicate and learn together. But there are few tools available that take collaboration to the amazingly natural, intuitive and effective level as Google Drive Apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides). Whether it’s watching the colored cursor of your co-collaborators, using chat to start a conversation, or leaving comments and notes, Google Drive offers a collaborative learning environment that is the closest you can get to working face to face.
Pricing: Free – Google Apps for Education
Access: Google account
Privacy: Customizable (Privacy and policies)
A Quick Look
1. Group projects
If your students are working together on a single project or document, the simple act of keeping all their work in sync can be unbearably difficult. Whether it’s the wrong version being emailed, a lost USB key or even just bringing the final product together, Google Drive can save a heap of time and digital agony. Have your students create a single Google Docs/Sheets/Slides file and have them share and collaborate in real time. This will not only make life easier, it will also provide them with the opportunity to work together in class, at home, or anywhere else they choose to be.
2. Class microtasking
Microtasking is the process of splitting a large job into its smallest components and distributing the work over the Internet. This concept can be used with your students to take on projects that could not be completed individually as well as introduce them to the concept of microwork. This could be used to collaboratively edit large datasets or spreadsheets, edit or annotate large works of text or even something as creative as writing a collaborative story.
3. Collaborative problem solving
This is a brilliant idea from UK educator Elani McDonald where her class worked together using Google Sheets to answer the question: “Would an even number always have an equal number of factors?”. By having her students collaboratively traverse a list of numbers, students were tasked with finding factors and highlighting exceptions. Not only were her students able to answer the original question, they were also enthusiastic participants in inquiry based learning while developing their confidence in mathematics.
4. Staff resource collection
While Google Drive can be used in many forms for student collaborative learning, don’t overlook the tools for your own collaborative professional development. Try setting up a shared Google Sheet to collect and archive links and sites of interest. Use a shared Doc to take collaborative notes at a conference. Even consider using Google Drive as your collaborative lesson plan repository.
5. Feedback and peer assessment
Once your students are comfortable using Google Drive Apps collaboratively, try having them review, edit and assess each others work. Google Drive tracks each and every change so that every interaction is marked against a student’s name. This can be of particularly value to give transparency and prevent inappropriate comments or any forms of online bullying.
Links and Next Steps
- Google for Education – Google Docs Suite training
- Using Google Drive to Collaborate With English Learners – Video (8 min)
- 50 Collaborative Google Apps Activities
- For Teachers: Using Google Drive around the SAMR model
- Collaboration with Google Docs in the classroom – Video (2 min)
- Writing Collaborative Essays in Google Docs – Slides
- Using google docs for collaborative learning in mathematics
- 40 Ways to Start Using Apps in Schools
- Story Builder – Create your own Docs story
Feature image adapted from image courtesy of Flickr, ginaleekim.