In groups of two or three, the EDCT 552 class chose different forms of technology and media that we felt were useful tools in education. We learned about these tools and created interesting scenarios in which these tools could be used and then developed five things educators and parents should know about these tools. This was an excellent project for raising awareness of the implications and possibilities of numerous technologies in a short time while allowing the opportunity for further discovery and development within technologies of interest on an individual basis.
My group focused on: Google Docs.
Here is our scenario
Three college students, Ryan, Klaus, and Darin were trying to complete a collaborative project before a rapidly approaching deadline. Between multiple classes, illnesses, geographical barriers, scheduling conflicts, home life, work life, and just about every other aspect of life the three of them found it difficult to find the time to get together and collaborate on their ideas let alone create an actual finished product. The fact that their collaborative project was about the web based data storage service known as Google Docs., however, afforded them a simple solution, to use this service as a way to both collaborate about the project and create a final product. They simultaneously and asynchronously worked on the same document by creating, adding to, and editing each other’s work from any location that an Internet connection was available. From Ryan’s laptop to Klaus’s ipad and Darin’s android they saved their additions to one source, the web based storage service provided by Google Docs. The threaded messaging option, which also sent alerts through e-mail, allowed them to communicate ideas to each other at different times and provided a platform for fast accessible communication while working simultaneously from different locations. Despite the difficulties the group had finding time to meet in person, they were still able to collaborate and produce a finished product by both setting up planned working times to meet online as well as utilizing whatever times were available to them individually.
While for our generation this sort of asynchronous collaborative project is something of a novelty, the youth for whom this digital age is a thriving reality will find it to be essentially a standard mode of communication/collaboration. The perceived barriers to entry, that make this type of communication laborious for older people, are often nonexistent for the youth culture and skills such as these are woven into the technology that permeates their relationships and literacies. As such, when engaging youth in projects that make use of asynchronous conversation and collaborative learning, the results will be a more thoughtful and thought provoking discussion with less inhibition on the part of the participants. Accordingly, by utilizing Google Docs. as a platform for students to have a discussion of a class reading for example could be expected to reveal a deeper understanding than would be revealed by engaging in the same discussion in class as the students have the ability to think about what they want to say and respond when they are ready. This technology can provide the essential catalyst needed for educators to create a collaborative learning community based on what Jenkins (2009) refers to as ,“participatory culture,” in virtually any setting.
5 Things to Know About Google Docs.
What is it?
Google Docs. is a Web based data storage service provided by Google. Also known as a cloud, Google Docs. has the capability of not only storing documents for one user, but also share documents with others who have a Google account. When sharing a document with others, the “owner,” or originator, of a document may allow others three different levels of access from edit the document, comment about it, or simply view it. While collaborating on a document, individuals may also communicate through two styles of threaded discussion, one of which will also send email notifications of each comment.
How does it work?
Requiring nothing more than for users to sign up for a Google account (e.g. email account), Google Docs. stores user information on their server- also known as the cloud- allowing each Google account holders the ability to store up to 1GB of information for free. If users require more storage space they may purchase it at rates from $5 per year for 20 GB up to 16 TB.
Why is it significant?
Google Docs. is significant for several reasons, one of the most important being that it is free (up to 1 GB) to anyone with a Google account, which is also free. It allows individuals to collaborate on a project either at the same time utilizing the simultaneous discussion feature, or independently utilizing the asynchronous comment thread, which also emails comments to various participants, to communicate. The program auto saves continuously so there is little chance of data loss if the computer were to crash or be destroyed. The data would not be lost as it is stored remotely by Google rather than the hard drive of the individuals computer. Google Docs. is also accessible through multiple devices such as ipads or smart phones in addition to standard computers.By allowing various levels of accessibility, access can be limited or expanded depending on the needs (e.g. Students may edit, while the teacher may comment, and parents may view). Finally, users have the ability to see the revision history of their documents. No longer does saving a new version mean losing the previous. Much like Wikipedia, users can always go back and review past drafts (Module 2, EDCT 559, 2010). It also has a translation feature which affords users the ability to translate document into several languages.
While Google Docs. affords users many beneficial options, there are several drawbacks as well. For example, hard drive/flash drive based files are accessible anywhere one has a computer and electricity, but with cloud based storage systems such as Google Docs., if one is unable to attain an Internet connection they will not have access to any of their files regardless of whether they have a computer or not. Also, when accessing Google Docs. through a device such as a smart phone instead of a computer, users may not be able to utilize all of the features (e.g. difficulty synchronizing, delayed actions, Comment thread is not accessible). Too many users editing simultaneously may cause confusion.
Google Docs. can be huge for education. As stated before, Google Docs. provides a space where students can collaborate on projects communicating through the comment threads either, simultaneously or asynchronously such as we are doing with the creation of this document. The cloud aspect allows access from anywhere thus affording students the ability to work on the project from anywhere at anytime without having to carry a physical storage device. Teachers can arrange assignments and groups or allow students to form their own then comment and/or offer assistance on student progress. The draft history option also allows students to review changes they made along the way. Teachers may also use Google Docs. as a way to implement a paperless classroom as the program has options for creating, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings in addition to text based documents. There is also an option which allows students to publish their document to the web that way students are writing for a larger audience rather than just simply for their teacher for a grade. ESL students can utilize the translation feature as a way to write in their native language if they feel more comfortable then later translate the document when they are ready to submit it. The same feature can be used for translating directions.