Collaboration and Google Docs

COLLABORATION AND GOOGLE DOCS (2)

At the end of 2015, I completed a Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) at Charles Sturt University. As a participant in the capstone subject, Digital Futures Colloquium, I conducted a Case Study.

This Case Study investigated, “In what ways are students using Google Docs for collaboration?” The use of Case Study methodology was relevant for gathering information through the views and interactions of members of the school community, focusing on their engagement with, and various perceptions of, the use of Google Docs for collaboration.

The Case Study “Collaboration and Google Docs” was completed in October 2015. A summary of Findings are as follows:

  • Students were at ease with sharing their document with other students; however, the regularity of commenting on the work of another student work was far less
  • Student ability and/or confidence to ‘comment’ on the work of another student, is not to the same level as their ability to create, use and share Google Docs.
  • Teachers overestimated how often students edited the work of another student.
  • Real time use of Google Docs in the classroom; that is, multi-user editing in real-time to co-construct a document, appeared to be the most enjoyable, comfortable and useful way students engaged with Google Docs.
  • The practices of correction, modification, commenting and editing all constitute collaboration; however, students were largely unable to articulate the connection between these actions and the skill of collaboration.
  • Students collaborated with others to share feedback in constructive ways in the classroom environment. However, this reality was not matched in the areas of students’ willingness (and possibly) their ability to think critically by individually commenting and editing the work of others, especially outside normal classroom hours.
  • When students accessed Google Docs outside of class time, it was primarily for the purposes of creating and sharing documents with the teacher, not with other students.

The recommendations I forwarded to the leaders and teachers of St Hosea’s (not its real name) were as follows: :

  • develop of a school wide rubric which attempts to measure student collaboration;
  • investigate why students use Google Docs more in class than they do outside of class time; and,
  • establish an online space where students and teachers share reflections and post comments about the use of GAFE to support collaboration.

One learning for me….. As part of the work involved with this Case Study, I developed a ‘collaboration rubric‘ particular to the use of Google Docs.  Whilst I will be the first to admit this probably could do with some improvement, it did provide a starting point for me when engaging with classroom observations. I am of the firm belief that schools are now required to engage in the co-construction of such rubrics with students to deepen their understanding of co-constructing such rubrics with students to deepen their understanding of the vital skills required for future work, collaboration being only one of them. If we can at least to being the process of measuring what we value; e.g. collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving etc.; we may start to ‘value’ these skills as much as we do literacy and numeracy, which are far more easily measured.

Any feedback or comments are very welcome.

Regards

Greg

4 thoughts on “Collaboration and Google Docs

  1. Hi Greg – another thought provoking post. It led me straight to thinking about how these kids will be better placed than others in the digital economy when they graduate. I think adults who have grown up using tech to do simple collaboration (ie via email rather than memos) forget that the next generation of workers will probably not have many purely individual tasks. By that I mean that many of our jobs will be task based, not by the hour or a general role description, and that many of those tasks will require the live participation of our colleagues rather than the ‘please find version 2.3.4 attached’ way we currently work. Perhaps one reason that the kids don’t edit each others’ work is that they are still being viewed and assessed based on their individual production of learning artefacts rather than being recognised for their efforts to improve each others’ learning? Ironically, I think teachers are also evaluated in this way much of the time. It takes a village!

  2. Hi Matt,

    Your commented prompted me to add this to the post….

    One learning for me….. As part of the work involved with this Case Study, I developed a ‘collaboration rubric’ https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-VfgA_AhAbLUZbyZDqv3dyQfbc1ChBep59toAmMIlI8/edit particular to the use of Google Docs. Whilst I will be the first to admit this probably could do with some improvement, it did provide a starting point for me when engaging with classroom observations. I am of the firm belief that schools are now required to engage in the co-construction such rubrics with students to deepen their understanding of the vital skills required for future work, collaboration being only one of them. If we can at least to being the process of measuring what we value; e.g. collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving etc.; we may start to ‘value’ these skills as much as we do literacy and numeracy, which are far more easily measured.

  3. Great food for thought, Greg. Many of our students, and teachers, are still stuck in the ‘Microsoft Word’ age. They haven’t yet discovered the power of Google Docs as a word processing platform, let alone as a collaborating platform. We need to expose teachers to Google Docs as a professional learning community tool, as well as a classroom tool. Last year my Year 1 students took to Google Docs like ducks to water! If they can, then teachers can too; we just have to keep exposing them to it and modelling good practice.

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