School-Wide Collaborative Writing – The Long and the Short – The Carrot and the Stick

It’s been a very interesting day in the staffroom. Yesterday afternoon I ran a session for staff on how to get started with collaborative writing and Google Docs, via the staff accounts created for our Google Apps domain. Now the staffroom is abuzz with activity and many teachers are genuinely excited about the possibilities this technology allows.

For the last year, I’ve been looking for ways to ‘get’ staff to try collaborative writing, but for some reason, most are reluctant to leave the sanctuary of the private MS Word domain. In part by chance (and in other parts, tenacity and design), I seem to have hit the nail on the head in the form of student daily notices through Google Apps Education Edition and Moodle.

Why should a Word document sitting on a slow, clunky network drive – which can only be opened by one person at any given time – be the platform for school-wide communication, when there are other faster, more efficient web-based solutions available? Using Google Docs, our notices can now be edited from any computer with a browser and internet access, by as many people as necessary – and can then be published to the web to be accessed on any internet-enabled device…

…all of which just brings us back to the creativity/control paradigm. Am I just using technology to control another aspect of teachers’ lives or am I helping to liberate them? If daily notices – the stick that forces all teachers to use Google Docs – are a platform for further creative thinking with this technology, well and good – I’m liberating teachers. But if teachers only think ‘daily notices’ when they think ‘collaborative writing’ – I’ve only done half the job.

Perhaps the real conversation should be around using Google Docs to:

  1. Make class notes on a topic
  2. Form specialist group reports
  3. Collaboratively write democratically negotiated class rules
  4. Conduct debates in pairs or small groups
  5. Develop learning journals created by the student and shared with the teacher
  6. Collaboratively construct web pages on a research topic
  7. Create documents then share them in pairs or threes for peer-editing

…and that’s just the start, right?

For my part, I was at pains to tell my teachers during this session that using technology to write daily notices is the ‘control’ but ultimately this means nothing for our students without the creativity to come of it. That’s the real challenge, teachers!

For anyone interested in the PDF guide I whipped up to help them get started, have a look at Adding a Notice in Daily Notices.

You might also like to check out my Demo Google Doc with some creative teaching ideas for using collaborative writing with your students.

About Michael

Cellist, singer/songwriter, school teacher, nerd, recent scooter enthusiast and failed philosopher.
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5 Responses to School-Wide Collaborative Writing – The Long and the Short – The Carrot and the Stick

  1. Hi Michael,
    I’ll be downloading your guide! I have not ventured much into using Google Docs with our staff yet. We have been collaborating using wikis for staff collaboration for a while…but it took a while for it to all take off!

    I’d be interested to work with you to devise a set of suggestions as to the advantages of either- & then suggestions as to the types of activities/communications each is best for.

    I have recently tagged all topics on out staff weekly briefing wiki- so that we can refer back to decisions made previously about routines/events etc. We can also see who has edited each page & when – also useful for future reference.
    I’d be interested in the advantages of Google Docs. Staff meeting notes etc would be good in this format, what other ways are you using them?

    • Michael says:

      Hi Frances,

      Thanks for the comment! Of course I’d love to collaborate with you on new and interesting ways of using Google Docs

      At present, I’ve set up the daily notices as a precursor to other things. In the longrun, I’m thinking calendars and spreadsheets could be used to streamline appointments, marksheets, programming, etc. This is just a start!

      Of course it all comes back to teaching.


  2. Oh- I should have said ‘what other ways are you using them- for staff?’

    I like your ideas for class use….have you ever looked into the work of Tom Barrett? He has a wealth of posts on using Google Docs in class too!
    Here is a quick link to some of his work…

  3. This is Tom’s blog address too.
    I have been following Tom on Twitter for a long time- his work is always inspiring! I noticed 34 tags for Google Docs in his blog. They would be worth investigating!

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