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As a writing teacher, I can tell you that I would have loved to have had GoogleDocs/GoogleApps for Education to use in my classroom. In fact, I still recall a story I heard from two classroom teachers a short 3 years ago who wanted all their students to collaborate on a newsletter, editing the work of other students, but being unable to. They had planned to work some elaborate process where one period of students would work with another period’s writings, but it fell apart instantly due to security restrictions in place at the school.

Simply, collaboration wasn’t easy to enable. At the time, I recommended using a blog or wiki but even those tools were blocked 3 years ago in this large urban district where my children attend school. Now, with GoogleApps for Education, those problems can be overcome…if only we can overcome the fear of CIPA and FERPA.

In the meantime, this is what collaboration in a writing classroom CAN look like for those nimble districts–notice I didn’t say "small," especially when it’s no longer small districts anymore, but mammoth ones like this District in Maryland–who take the plunge:

    • Thursday, February 18, 2010 4:02 PM

    • English teachers polled in the last decade of the last century about the one tool that they could not live without in their classrooms would probably select the overhead projector. In the first decade of the 21st Century, English teachers would probably choose a document camera, but in future decades, the tool will be web-based. I already teach in a web-based environment, and Google Docs is the web-based tool that has become the organizational center of my classroom.

    • I share assignments with my students as a view only file. Students make a copy of the file so they can annotate the directions. This is a weblink of an assignment: Expository Essay defining the word perseverance. This is an annotated copy of the assignment: Google Doc Annotated Copy of Expository Essay Assignment. No longer do I hear, "Mrs. Seale, can I have another copy of that assignment? I lost mine."

      Docs also teaches organizational skills. Students create folders to keep up with assignments. The most important folder is the folder students share with the teacher. All graded writing goes into this folder, and it serves as a writing portfolio for the semester.

    • Each student folder is in a group class folder. The class folder contains each student’s writing for the semester:

    • Each student’s online writing portfolio folder is also shared with his or her parents. Parents can even comment on student work and participate in the revision and editing process.

    • Students do not need a flash drive to carry drafts to and from home. Also, students can share writing with peer editors. After peer editing, students move their final draft into their English 9 folder. As the final editor, I leave comments to assist the student in revising his or her final draft. It is satisfying to browse through the revision history and see that a student is considering each comment as they revise: Yea! They are really reading what I wrote! Usually, students do not read teacher comments that are hand written on paper, but it seems to work in Google Docs.

    • Editor’s note: Google recommends you use Google Docs within the Google Apps Education Edition suite with your students.

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