I love using Google Drive with my students. Drive allows them to create and share a document so they can collaborate on-line on an assignment or project. It’s virtual group work. Even better, the teacher gets to be part of the group, and you can observe their on-line conversation, and nudge them in different directions if need be. Let me give you some examples:
Right now, my Pre-IB class is reading John Knowles’ A Separate Peace. They have all read the novel, but we have not yet discussed it as a class. Instead of doing the traditional novel study, they have been divided into groups, and each group will “teach” two chapters to the rest of the class. I modeled what I want them to do with chapter one, and now they are planning their own presentations.
So, for example, group one is looking at chapters two and three. One person in their group started a document on Google Drive and shared it with the rest of the group, as well as with me. Once everyone opens the document, they can engage in a chat to the right side of the document. There, they can throw out ideas, and make plans before they put the information that they want to save on the document. Once they get their ideas down, they can go back to focus and organize it. Everything gets saved on each person’s files.
Meanwhile, while all this chatting is going on, the teacher can be part of the group, either as a silent observer or as an active participant. I take turns dropping into each group’s discussion and add suggestions if they need them, or nudge them if the discussion is taking off in the wrong direction. Once the students are satisfied with the discussion of their chapters, they will use the document to plan their presentation to the rest of the class.
It takes some time and coordination, but it has been, by far, the most powerful tool for collaboration I have ever used. Because you can “see” each student on-line, you are very aware of who is contributing and who is not. And, because they are aware of this, they are more likely to participate. Also, because you can scroll back and look at what they have on the document, you are more aware of what has transpired than you are if you are going from group to group in your classroom. The notes that you leave on the document are also there for the students to refer to, whereas a comment in class might not get remembered.
So, if you want to use Drive, your students will all need a gmail account so they can access the program. If you are lucky enough to have access to a lab that runs the program, you can begin this process in school, and have them finish it up at home. If you don’t have access at school, it could be solely a take home assignment. If the students are doing the work at home, they will need to decide on a time to “meet” and share that time with you, so you can pop by and see what they are up to! Give it a try.