Using Google Docs in the Classroom

Last week Kathleen McGeady and I decided to try something a little different in our reading rotations and used Google Docs with our Grade Two students. As I had a student teacher who was taking my Guided Reading groups, I was free to work with the computer group each day and introduce them to Google Docs.

Google Docs is a free service from Google which allows multiple users to collaborate on the same document. People from all over the world can join in on the document if they have the link. At the recent Ultranet training day, the Ultranet lead users demonstrated how Google Docs is a fantastic Web 2.0 tool for connecting and collaboring with others. I immediately thought of the potential it could have in my Grade Two classroom so I was keen to try it out.

Our current Integrated Studies topic is dinosaurs. I set up a Google Doc with a series of questions about the dinosaur Cretaceous Period. Students worked on different computers to answer these questions using an information website. Their job was to find a question, locate the answer on the website and type in the answer on the Google Doc. The students loved seeing their answers pop up on all of the computers and by the end of the session, they had collaborated to answer all of the questions!

 

Check out the Google Doc below to see an example of the work the students completed

Google Doc 1

 

The students used the website below to locate the answers to the dinosaur questions

cretaceous info

 

It was also important to discuss with the students that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet and it’s sometimes necessary to cross-check information before determining whether it is true or not.

 

Benefits of this activty were…

– Students learnt new technology skills to navigate and operate Google Docs.

– It is a great way to demonstrate research skills and strategies.

– Students worked on their own computers but collaborated together.

– It is an authentic method of teaching students about not believing everything you read on the internet.

– Students transfer their knowledge in various subject areas.

– Students experience the power of collaboration and it allows them to break down geographical barriers.

 

I would encourage other teachers to try using Google Docs in the classroom with their students. It is helpful to have an adult working with the students the first time they try it out, but the experience will prove to be beneficial for both you and your students!

 

Have you used Google Docs with your students?

How do you think Google Docs could be used in the classroom?

 

  13 comments for “Using Google Docs in the Classroom

  1. Nick
    August 22, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    hey there Kelly..

    I like this idea. I was just looking for teaching ideas for some of my high-achieving students, and this seems ideal. I think they would appreciate the variety, and the sense of collaboration.

    I have a grade 2 class. Did you create a new account for each student for Google docs individually, or did you let them do that themselves?

    I’m familiar with Google docs, but haven’t used it with my students before.

    Thanks, Nick

  2. Kelly Jordan
    August 22, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks for the comment! I agree that Google Docs is great for the more advanced students, my higher reading groups are very competent readers and I like the idea of giving them new challenges.

    I created the initial Google Doc using my account and each student just logged in using the link (I saved the link onto the school network and the kids had to just copy and paste it as a web address). I changed the settings on the Google Doc so that anyone who had the link could edit the document (to avoid random strangers touching it).

    As I did this activity over three days with three different groups I had three separate documents so that each group had their own to work on.

    Hope that makes sense! It worked really well and the kids enjoyed doing something different on the computers.

    Kelly.

  3. August 22, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Hi Kelly – What a lovely posting, and a nice idea of an activity to do with your pupils. Can I just clarify, is your Year 2 the same as UK Year 2 (6-7 year olds)?
    We also have Guided Reading sessions, and what I picked up on straight away was the initiative your took in having a student teacher to work with a group, which left you free to observe & work with another group.
    In this respect, therefore, are you training the children up to use GoogleDocs as an independent activity when your student teacher completes their practice?
    Is this sort of activity managable with all ability groups within your class?
    Is the Internet Connection reliable within your school?

    It is a lovely idea and got me thinking about the issues/questions I have raised, as I think about how to integrate into my own teaching, with my Year 2 class when we start again in September. I am thinking that I could train up my teaching assistant to manage/overlook such activities.

  4. Kelly Jordan
    August 22, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Hi Colin,

    Thanks for the positive feedback about the post! My Grade 2 students are 7-8 years old. As it was the first time I had used Google Docs, I decided to just do this activity with my top three reading groups (about two thirds of the grade). We use a lot of technology in our classroom and have a class blog etc so the students’ skills are pretty good.

    My student teacher is in her final year at university so she was doing the majority of the teaching and taking all Guided Reading sessions, so I felt it was the perfect time to work with the computer group on the Google Docs activity. We always have a computer group in our reading rotations but it is usually a very independent activity (eg. looking at blogs, spelling websites, reading programs etc). I wanted to assist the students with Google Docs and I also felt it was important to explain what Google Docs actually is and why people use it.

    The students picked it really quickly and I would be pretty confident to get those three reading groups to try it out independently next time. Once I’d explained what to do, they pretty much completed the questions independently. It is always helpful to have someone overseeing that kind of activity though and I think it would be a great idea for you to train your assistant to work with students on such activities.

    Our internet connection is very reliable and fast now. It used to be a little slow and unpredictable but we changed to a new server this year and it is much better. We do have issues with certain sites being blocked though.

    I hope this has been helpful and let me know if you have any more questions!

    Kelly.

  5. Dan
    August 23, 2010 at 5:17 am

    Hi Kelly

    Thanks for sharing you ideas on using Google Docs with the kids. I am anxious to use web 2.0 apps with my students this year. One problem I encounter when choosing sites is that they often require email accounts to register. I know some educators use fictitious email addresses for their students to create accounts but I sometimes question whether this sends the wrong message to kids. We want the students to protect themselves but we also stress being honest. Your approach to Google Docs allows the students to work together without needing to register.

    I was also curious how you track who answered which questions.

    Thanks again.

    Dan

  6. Kelly Jordan
    August 23, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Hi Dan,

    I agree that using Web 2.0 tools is a great part of education. My students love all things technology and I like introducing them to new ideas so the Google Docs idea worked really well.

    To determine who answered each question we printed the document for each student and discussed who answered what. It was quite evenly spread which was good as all students were involved.

    I also liked that when the students were choosing a question to answer, if they pressed their cursor on that answer box it changed colour. Everyone had their own colour so it was easy for the students to see which questions were currently being worked on. This avoided multiple students trying to answer the same question at the same time.

    Thanks,

    Kelly

  7. August 28, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Thanks for the ideas. I have just started using Docs to maintain a weather chart with my Year 2 class, but each morning I was logging in so that they could update it. I was unaware that settings could be changed so that anyone can edit it. Think I’ll do that now, and the children can update it each morning without me.

  8. Mel Cashen
    August 29, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for your post. It gave me the inspiration to use it in my class. This week for Literacy and Numeracy Week we are using Google Docs to write a collaborative story. I have started the story and the children are going to add either a word, sentence or paragraph.

    It puts a new spin on sending the piece of paper around the classroom! And the kids can check on the development of the story throughout the week.

    We are looking forward to reading it out at assembly on Monday.

    Thanks for your great ideas.
    Mel

  9. Kelly Jordan
    August 29, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Hi Mel,

    I love the idea of having students collaborate on Google Docs to create a story! I might have to borrow that idea and do it with my students next term! I hope it goes well! 🙂

    Kelly

  10. January 29, 2011 at 11:49 am

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