Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Power of Seeing Google Docs in Action

I always say that I can talk about a tool "until I'm blue in the face," but I never know its impact until I see it in action being used by students. This happened the other day. I was walking past a classroom between classes and asked a teacher if I could come in ."They're not using --- (the tool I had shown the students months ago), they're just using Google Docs to write a story in pairs." I told the teacher that I always enjoy seeing how the kids are using technology, so, if it was okay, I'd still like to sit in.

Looking forward sometimes means looking backward
I'm often surprised by the number of ways that a tool can be used. In this case, 2 students were sitting side-by-side, both  in a shared document. The document was also shared with the teacher. The students had used a graphic organizer to sketch out the plot of their story. Now, they were going to take turns typing the story, so that neither tired of the process. Student A would type, while Student B read what they had drafted. Then, they'd switch.

What happened from that moment on was priceless.

Of course, there were comments about not being able to spell, so the partner kept an eye out for spelling errors. There was the time when Student B was watching what Student A typed and realizing that they needed a synonym. Then, in another pair, Student A noted that the word they chose wasn't the right word. Let’s try… However, it was the fact that they were taking the plot seriously, while enjoying the process, that took my breath away. As Student B read what Student A was typing, Student B began to elaborate on the story. Then, Student A began to question Student A about the characters, plot, and setting.
  • How about if we…
  • Is that really we want to happen?
  • Maybe the character is ….
  • Student A: I want to say something about… Student B begins typing a transitional phrase to introduce the plot twist.
  • I'm making this up on the spot here…
  • Student B: In real life, would he really do that? Student A: This isn't real life!
When I asked the teacher if this same process had been followed in past years, on paper, the answer was, "Yes, the students take turns drafting on paper and, they often have fun picking up where the other student leaves off." The teacher clarified that the revision process is definitely not the same. As a result, the teacher says that it is refreshing to see "how much the students enjoy the creative process when hand-writing is taken out of the process."

I continued to watch and take it all in. About three quarters of the way through the class, the teacher started telling pairs of students to return to what they had written and find the points at which a new paragraph should begin -- and press Enter. Then, each student was told to take responsibility for multiple paragraphs and begin to add detail. There was not a single moan or groan in the room! They began to add detail.

Did you notice what I just typed? They had to make revisions. They had to expand upon their writing. They had to edit. And they didn't complain.

Although on the surface, it didn't seem like a big deal, it was. These students were realizing the promise of technology in the writing process. Some were even having fun doing it.

What's next? The teacher will take a look at the text and determine what skills need to be addressed next week. Then, as they study literary devices, they'll begin to incorporate these devices into this living, breathing story. I hope I get invited back to watch the stories develop.


  1. Virginia- thanks for sharing your story. I think it is easy for us to often overlook the simple tools being used in a non-simplistic way. This is evidenced in your story when you asked the teacher if they had done this before. She answered yes, but in reality, the collaboration piece was never as strong as we saw between the student pairs you observed. We continually say that collaboration is a vital part of our classrooms and our Google work, but here we get to see the true power of that collaboration! After using technology for so long, this is still exciting to hear!

    1. Thank you, Brett. It is good to find the excitement!