Special Report
Classroom Technology

Google Docs Fuels Shift to Collaborative Classroom Writing

By Michelle R. Davis — June 12, 2017 3 min read

Collaborative tools, and Google Docs in particular, have shifted the way students write, collaborate, and get feedback and editing from teachers. It’s the first thing nearly all teachers interviewed for this story mentioned when asked about the use of educational technology in literature and writing instruction.

“Google Docs and the whole G Suite system for English classrooms is revolutionizing the way we interact with each other and create,” said Bill Bass, the innovation coordinator for instructional technology, information, and library media for the Parkway school district in Chesterfield, Mo., and a former English teacher. “That collaboration is key to helping kids make authentic connections with text and information.”

Allowing teachers to provide electronic feedback within text—instead of “red-lining” papers—paves the way for more transparent revisions and more targeted comments, said Kristen Hawley Turner, the director of teacher education at Drew University in New Jersey and the co-author of several books about ed tech and reading, including Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World.

Turner added that the ability for students to work with each other is just as important.

Group work extends to social-annotation tools, too, said Troy Hicks, a professor of English and education at Central Michigan University and the co-author of Connected Reading. Digital resources like NowComment allow teachers to upload texts and have students highlight, add questions, and create discussion threads with other students.

In a related vein, peer-review tools are also playing an important role. Sites like Eli Review and Writable—Hicks has consulted for both—support the peer-review process, provide step-by-step supports, and encourage effective feedback strategies, Hicks said.

Technology has also enabled personalization in english/language arts. Students have new ways of communicating knowledge, through presentations that might incorporate text, infographics, photos, and video.

Students now have “multiple mediums and modes of creation and consumption that have changed the landscape,” Bass said. Creating movie trailers as book reviews is one example.

However, many English teachers still have concerns that overuse of multimedia can have the effect of dumbing down students’ writing.

The use of personalized digital products is also expanding. Commercial products, like Renaissance Accelerated Reader 360 and LightSail, make it easy for teachers to deliver the same texts but at different reading levels or to customize reading and writing assignments based on those levels. Web-based Newsela, for example, offers daily news articles adapted to reading levels in English and Spanish. Adaptive products like READ 180, which assesses students then provides customized exercises and lessons, are also gaining in popularity.

But teachers need to ensure that adaptive and customized resources push students to read “outside their comfort zones,” Hicks said. “We still want to introduce students to challenging texts.”

One of the biggest struggles for teachers these days is the unreliability of digital tools and infrastructure, Turner said. “Technology fails. If your entire lesson is about students peer-reviewing and writing in Google Docs and the Wi-Fi goes down, you’re up a creek.”

Bass said he sees a future that allows students many more options for reading, writing, and collaborating, and a structure that permits them to choose how to approach the subject. That may mean augmented-reality and video-reality tools with 360 video for telling stories and the ability to communicate and collaborate in “multiple modes.” There’s likely to be more reliance on digital content—from e-books to streaming video. “We’re going to ask kids to interact with the content in many different venues,” he said.

Related Tags:

Coverage of learning through integrated designs for school innovation is supported in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York at www.carnegie.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Districts Are Centering Relationships and Systemic SEL for Back to School 21-22
As educators and leaders consider how SEL fits into their reopening and back-to-school plans, it must go beyond an SEL curriculum. SEL is part of who we are as educators and students, as well as
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
The Fall K-3 Classroom: What the data imply about composition, challenges and opportunities
The data tracking learning loss among the nation’s schoolchildren confirms that things are bad and getting worse. The data also tells another story — one with serious implications for the hoped for learning recovery initiatives
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Classroom Technology From Our Research Center During COVID-19, Schools Have Made a Mad Dash to 1-to-1 Computing. What Happens Next?
Districts that purchased devices for hybrid and remote learning will have to determine how to use them for in-person instruction.
8 min read
A line of volunteers carries iPads to be delivered to parents at curbside pickup at Eastside Elementary on March 23, 2020, in Clinton, Miss. Educators are handing out the devices for remote learning while students are forced to stay home during the coronavirus outbreak.
A line of volunteers carries iPads to be delivered to parents at curbside pickup at Eastside Elementary a year ago in Clinton, Miss.<br/>
Julio Cortez/AP
Classroom Technology From Our Research Center Most Students Now Have Home Internet Access. But What About the Ones Who Don't?
Here's what school districts, states, and the federal governments are doing to improve at-home access to digital devices and the Internet.
8 min read
Sam Urban Wittrock, left, an advance placement World History Teacher at W.W. Samuell High School, displays a wifi hot spot that are being handed out to students in Dallas on April 9, 2020. Dallas I.S.D. is handing out the devices along with wifi hotspots to students in need so that they can connect online for their continued education amid the COVID-19 health crisis.
Sam Urban Wittrock, left, an advanced placement World History teacher at W.W. Samuell High School, displays one of the Wi-Fi hotspots that were handed out to students in Dallas in April of 2020. The Dallas school district gave the devices to students who needed them to do schoolwork at home during the pandemic.<br/>
Tony Gutierrez/AP
Classroom Technology From Our Research Center 'A Year of Tremendous Growth.' How the Pandemic Forced Teachers to Master Technology
Educators nationwide say their ability to use technology for instruction improved significantly during the pandemic.
6 min read
Fifth grade teacher April Whipp welcomes back her students virtually during the first day of school at Moss-Nuckols Elementary School on Aug.13, 2020 in Louisa County, Va.
Fifth grade teacher April Whipp welcomes back her students virtually in August during the first day of school at Moss-Nuckols Elementary School in Louisa County, Va.
Erin Edgerton/The Daily Progress via AP
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Whitepaper
5 Strategies for Hybrid Learning Success
Discover five foundational strategies districts should employ when developing their hybrid learning initiatives, complete with concrete steps administrators can take today to ensure sustainable hybrid learning success tomorrow, and beyond.
Content provided by Securly