• Dave Foord
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Using Google Docs (Drive) to create a collaborative learning activity

Google Docs or Google Drive as it has changed it’s name to, is a suite of office tools that work via the internet and store the different files in the cloud (on the internet) rather than locally onto the computer. This has huge advantages in terms of the files are backed up automatically, can be edited on a variety of different computers (including Smart phones) and they allow multiple people to contribute or view the files.

It is the ability to allow multiple people to edit that makes Google Docs an excellent collaborative learning tool, as it is possible to set up activities where different learners are accessing and editing the same document at the same time – this means that they can see and respond to what each other is doing in real time.

An example of such an activity is one that I ran recently used at a training event as part of the Advanced Teacher Learning Coaches programme. This took me about 10 minutes to create and set up, so nice and quick, and the learning experience was far greater than doing this in a non-collaborative way. If you want to use the activity above (possibly swapping in your own websites for your particular area), click on the link above, then save a copy of this (from the file menu) – you can then alter the sharing settings to allow other people to edit it. A video showing how to do this can be found below.

Using Google Docs for collaborative activities – is a great way of working with higher order thinking skills. What I will often do is set a simple task where each person or small group of people have to edit an area within the document answering a question or questions. What I then do is ask everyone to swap areas (e.g. so they are looking at someone else’s contribution) – I can then ask a more challenging question – such as critique the other person’s responses, or present a counter argument to their point, or ask them to identify which of the points made by the first group would also be examples of….. etc. and if time allows, then I sometimes set a third question where they look at a third different set of responses and answer another challenging task or question.

Another really useful feature within Google Docs, is that you can see the revision history – so you can identify which people have contributed most (and when) – which can be useful if doing this as part of an assessed activity – and you can roll back to earlier versions of a document, so if someone does something very damaging (e.g. deleting everything, writing something defamatory, or using it to cyber bully) you can roll back to an earlier version (or restore point).

The fact that these documents will work on most if not all Smart phones makes this a really powerful, versatile and truly mobile opportunity.


7 Responses

  1. Dave
    All over this technology at Claires Court – 18 months down the line and the learning developments for our children from age 7 to 18 has been phenomenal. We have over 400 chromebooks and netbooks deployed, and although BYOD also exists here, the children’s preferred machine is Chromebook – because 8 hours battery life and up and running in 8 seconds. 9/10 year olds produced this last night as part of their english h/work – http://goo.gl/D0VK8 – such fun and so easily done.

    • It is really good to hear that schools are embracing these ideas as well. If we get young people used to the idea of responsible collaboration, it makes it so much easier when they get into secondary, FE, HE and then workplace to unlock the potential of collaboration.

  2. Hi Dave
    Thanks for the excellent screencast on creating and using Google Drive-based collaborative activities! A colleague and I used a similar web site evaluation task on our own ATLC programme on Tuesday but your online format looks much more engaging and would enable the task to be completed after the session too. Your posts on this blog are always really useful and this one is no exception!

  3. Hi Dave,
    Thank you for screencast to introduce Google drive. Our group enrolled for iPGCE course has already started working on Google drive. It’s very useful for collaborative learning where different learners can access and edit the same document in real time. An excellent platform to learning!

  4. […] collaborative functionality of Google Drive (formerly known as Google Docs) which I have previously blogged about, however many education organisations are nervous about using Google Drive in this way, and the […]

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