(Trying) Google Docs with 160 8th graders

December 14, 2012 at 8:09 AM Leave a comment

Just thinking about Google Docs makes me want to bang my head on the desk, even as I realize it’s a better solution than the old co-constructed powerpoint. And here’s Larry Cuban’s blog on a similar issue – see especially the hilarious “Hype Cycle“. I guess it’s not a joke as it’s from an entry in Wikipedia. The activation energy to start new tech initiatives is significant. Maybe I can give you some hard-won tips to make it better for you.

– Be sure that the student computers have Google Chrome uploaded.

– Need a way to lock down kids doing only their own slides. We nearly lost an entire class slide set when a student accidentally deleted them all. Next time, each student will make their own presentation and share it with me and their partner only. I will schmoosh them all together just before class.

– There are several ways for kids to click on the wrong links and end up either logging on to Google Chrome instead of Google docs, or to make a separate slide show. They need to click on ‘shared with me’ link.

– Because of all the possibilities for mistakes, a ‘cheat sheet’ flow chart would help both teachers and students, ESPECIALLY special ed students as they need help with remembering all the steps and are not as facile with use of online environments. I would do this for next time, this time I didn’t have time nor the experience to know where they would be likely to go wrong. (This would be helpful for all teachers using the computer carts for anything – a site-wide policy for how to check out, tag out, trouble shoot etc. might really help too.)

– The computers were slow and there were access problems. If this is true for you too, be proactive in letting the powers that be know quickly, and highlight how success will be sooo cool for kids. Rather than aggressive complaining – tempting. But not all that effective. In the end, the principal/district/board get to choose what our kids have access too. Giving a powerful individual in the decision-making process kudos for getting it done, work hard with the tech staff on the ground so they don’t dread getting a message from you, and will hang out in your room while kids might be experiencing difficulty. Thank you Aaron from Marin IT for that. These are all ideals. Forgive me for stress-y snapping if any of our incredibly hard-working tech crew – Marin IT, Patsy T., Darryl – are reading this.

BUT here’s the good news:

Students could and did work on their presentations at home, and could work together on a live document, just like executives and scientists do. Well, anyone who is collaborating remotely. It’s really cool. This made group work much more feasible for our busy, busy families to manage. Students enjoyed this part much more than writing a book report alone.

Now we’ve struggled with it once, the district is working mightily to address the systemic issues. This and the experience students have of using the online environment means they will have a much easier time getting up and going next time.

Was the learning – process and concepts – enough to justify the 3 or 4 days of class time?

Well, this first time, there was so much emphasis on the process and the technology, that the content suffered. That’s pretty standard. Remember the first time we used PowerPoint – it was all about fonts and colors and crazy transitions.

We got alot of well, crap. Stuff that was obvious and cited with a gobbldy-gook url from Joe Blow’s activist blog site. Sigh. It points again to the huge need for more effective information literacy. I’m working with our librarian Linda O. to address this as we lead into our next project. Need to get together with Core teachers too. It’s all part of the new Common Core standards of course. Might as well get a jump on it.

We got a few excellent slides too. Yes, could have done a slide show myself and ‘flipped’ the class. I might try that for another presentation, for something different. But in the end, students have to, have to learn the skill of remote collaboration for their futures. It’s at least as important as learning about the plastic trash planet, and that’s saying something. Seriously, there is something like 27 times more plastic particles than plankton in the ‘trash islands’ in the Pacific and Atlantic. How sad is that?

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Entry filed under: Class Management, Environmental Education, Research Skills, Technology in class. Tags: , , , , , , .

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