…And That’s Final!

May 5, 2010

Final exams will begin shortly at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences & Arts.  Do you know where your children are?  Mine are already frantically cramming.  Some are toting flash cards.  Others are chanting mnemonics.  A few are working on course projects.  I’d like to share a method that I’ve used with my college students that might help your students this time of year.

Build Your Own Study Guide
When I teach Fundamentals of Information Technology at Ouachita Technical College, I provide my students with a link to a shared Google Document with only that phrase and a few directions at the top.  They can practice word processing skills while working out their own system of organization for course content using a collaborative writing space.

Some Technical Limitations
Google Documents (in its current version) is a near-real-time collaborative word processor that allows up to 10 users to edit a document simultaneously.  When users click save, their changes are merged with the changes of others.  I have found that entries can get lost if the maximum number of users is exceeded, which is frustrating to the students.  The new version of Google Documents allows real-time edits — the students see the presence of other users, and their words appear as they type them.  I am not certain what the limit is for simultaneous editors in this new version.

Step-By-Step
To create and share this document is relatively straight-forward.

  1. From the Google Docs main screen, create a new document.  Enter a heading with directions to the students.  Save the document.
  2. Share or invite the students to the document.  There are two strategies:
    1. You can create a link to post, email, or otherwise share by clicking on Share -> Get the link to share.  Check both check boxes.  This is the less secure method, as anyone with the link can view and edit the document.
    2. You can share the document with a Google Group or list of email addresses by clicking Share -> Invite People.  Enter the address(es) and click Invite.  Students will need to set up Google Docs accounts for this method, but only those users invited will be able to view or edit the document.
  3. Monitor, encourage, and correct.  You can view the current state of the document at any time by selecting it from your documents list.  You can see who contributed what by loading the Revision History under the File menu.  You can encourage and correct the students by inserting comments.

Final Thoughts
This collaborative study guide has worked well for me in the past.  There are always students who engage immediately with the document, and there are usually students who need considerable encouragement.  That is not the fault of the technology, but a classroom management issue to be addressed by the educator.

Update
Google has updated their document security interface.  If the steps in the above post no longer work for you, watch this video.  You will want to share the BYO Study Guide as “Anyone With The Link” while also allowing them to edit the document.

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