Thursday, August 14, 2014

Teaching Writing With Google Docs

I started nibbling on the Drive after I ran out of space in my Dropbox. Up till then, I figured I had no need for the Drive. But at the end of last year, I attended a course on the Chrome books. There I met a guy who used to work for Google and I struck up a conversation with him. He made me realise that Google Docs had its uses too. I went back that day and immediately tried out the flubaroo scripts and Google Forms.

Was quite amazed with what I could do with it. I experimented with it for a couple of days, created a few forms and sets of questions. Unfortunately, I had no place to try it out. And so, the whole thing just sort of faded into the background.

That was till middle of this year when I cleared up an unused computer lab, which is where I carry out all my classes now. About 2 weeks ago, despite it being exam season, I embarked on another journey of discovery. I tried out Google Docs in class... to teach writing. It is now possible to do what I had learned the year before because I had at my disposal 41 units of chrome books.

And so I started with my classes. But before that I brought my gal and my friend's kids to the lab for a trial run. It was pretty amazing... the result. I felt I could make it work.

However, getting students to listen when the chrome book screen is staring at them is no mean feat. Our young has a fascination with the computer screen and it is often hard to get their attention when the screen is on. Chaos reigned because it was something new for me.

Much to my surprise my students were not as savvy as I had expected, but they learned fast. Many didn't know about the uses of Drive, let alone Google Docs. One thing though, teaching the young wasn't very difficult. They have no phobia. But the patience developed over the years from teaching my senior citizen friends helped a lot in dealing with the chaotic moments teaching the young. It is easy to get flustered...

I started with a short writing assignment... a postcard. And going by the response so far, I think using Google Docs to teach writing is quite cool. The initial wonderment when the kids felt when they realised that I was right there in their documents as they worked on it was quite priceless.

It was a rather steep learning curve for me. I had to figure out how to go around the problems a they presented themselves. You can imagine how chaotic it was with one voice calling out from one table he could not browse, and another voice saying she had no gmail account. Then yet another bringing his chrome book to me saying that it can't be turned on. One more would pipe out that her mouse pointer on the screen was very big.... the list is unending. My phone was used to verify so many new accounts that it was barred by Google! All these, while I was trying to sort out my own filing system and getting back to the students... Patience memang is a virtue.

But despite all those chaos.... learning still took place. Both for me and the students. Practical skills! I felt like my brain is on the overdrive these past weeks. So many files, so many students asking for attention for the littlest problem. And trying to keep a cool head... I think I got really good training in crisis management from this episode.

There is always a light at the end of the tunnel if you persists. It's been 2 weeks. And I am more settled. And I think to be able to use Google Docs to teach writing is quite cool. The experience has convinced me all the more that we need a rethink the way most of us teach.

Details to follow on the 'moments' be they the 'aha' ones or the 'Oh crap!' ones...

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