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Use Google Docs for Your Student Essays and Homework

written by: Maryam DiMauro • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 1/17/2012

Using Google Docs to correct and interact with students helps with all the pitfalls of normal essay writing. Learn how to use them and teach your students to use them.

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    A New Day

    Have you become increasingly frustrated with all the paperwork and filing that grading essays requires? Do you get the feeling that students don't really understand what you want them to say? Google Docs is the perfect solution: it is interactive and allows documents to be shared at any time.

    Isn't now the time to learn how to use Google Documents?

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    The Advantages

    Google Docs or Documents are part of the Google family, it allows you to share a document you have written, and have it edited. Students can send their documents directly into Google Docs. This will eliminate the "My dog ate my homework" excuse. You will be able to access documents online and see in real-time when it was last edited.

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    How to Set Up Google Documents

    The first thing you need to do is set up a Gmail account. It should not be your personal account, but it can be the same address you use for your class. Take your class to the computer lab to go over the basics. Since most students are more tech savvy than their teachers, this may not be necessary.

    The Google components interconnect with each other so beware of Google chat and students thinking they can contact you at odd hours. Make your boundaries clear. Be firm.

    You can present the thesis for an essay and share it with your students. This might take too much time, however, for you would have to do one individually for each student. It's best that they set up their own Google Docs space first and add yours to theirs. Remind students to add you to the document or they might "forget." Giving clear deadlines will end planned student miscommunication.

    Once the assignment is created and the student sends you his work, proceed to work with advise and correct. Have students contact you when they are finished or set up a time that you'll be viewing their document.

    When correcting, make sure you don't write the essay for them. Underline incorrect sentences instead of correcting them. Add italicized suggestions or highlighted comments to point students in the right direction. Make sure your advice is clear.

    Establish firm due dates--for example rough outline due on the 20th, rough draft due on the 23rd, final copy due on the 28th. As you and your students learn how to use Google Documents, the process will be highly time-consuming. Once you and your students feel comfortable with the technology, and once they improve their writing skills, use Google Documents for peer editing and revising.

    Warning: You might become nostalgic for stale coffee, hunched backs, and piles of papers that magically disappear. Google Documents, however, may be the wave of the future

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    Further Uses

    Once the students have a good handle of how to handle Google docs and your methodology you can go ahead and try to do more complex things with Google docs. Here are a couple of suggestions :

    • Peer Editing with Google Docs- Try creating groups of students who edit each other's work. Make sure that you have the original copy of the paper before they go ahead and peer edit each other's work. Try to create a rubric which would help the students know the grading criteria. If you do attempt to do this bear in mind that they should be adept at peer editing before you start this exercise.
    • Group projects- Try for the students to submit group projects on Google docs and attempt the methodology that was stated previously
    • Sharing statistics and excel sheets
    • Connecting with a Google group, googlewave or twitter accounts- You can further the interactivity by using these tools and connecting various mediums with linking the Google docs page
    • Students can keep track of their schedule, homework planning and gym periods
    • Google docs can also help by updating student's blogs and websites
    • Students can take notes with Google docs in the classroom and make sure they have not missed all the important notes you want to give out
    • You can send handouts to their accounts and they can make notes about what is being taught in real-time as well as questions about certain points you can answer later. You can also highlight the important parts that they would need to learn for the test
    • Sending interactive flash cards that will help them study
    • Google docs can also support flash and PowerPoint presentations which enhances projects and homework.

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    More Insight

    • Beware of students giving in copyrighted or plagiarized material...which is far easier to do in printed material. Make sure you run copyscape all the time of student's work.
    • Google docs should be a support system for you but should not take the place of real life interactions with your students
    • Make sure the students grasp the technology properly
    • Disable chat features when using Google docs
    • Try to create well established parent/ teacher communication when trying this new methodology which might be viewed with a certain level of cynicism
    • Establish clear-cut deadlines for when things are given in and clear boundaries of when you will view the documents

    Warning: You might become nostalgic for stale coffee, hunched backs, and piles of papers that magically disappear. Google Documents, however, may be the wave of the future.

References

  • Source: author's experience

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