/  By  / 

Live virtual proofreading on Google Docs

favicon Want to see something that is really boring but incredibly powerful?

Take a look at the screencast below. It’s a student and I proofreading an essay together — live, from different places — on Google Docs.

It’s simple: I highlight places on the student’s essay where I see errors, and then the student makes changes. We use the chat box to ask questions, get hints, and reflect on what we’ve learned.

Here’s a five-minute snippet (if you can handle it!):

This virtual proofreading process takes about five to 10 minutes and has been much more popular for my students, who dislike coming after school, than real-life conferences.

Proofreading on Google Docs is not ideal, of course. Much deeper learning could be done in person. But until I figure out a way for more students to stick around school, I’ll make do using a bit of tech. favicon


  1. Trisha

    I like this! It’s better than what we were initially doing when we started using Google Docs, highlighting and writing comments on the students doc for them to then revise on their own. I would imagine more learning happens when doing it in partnership (and you know your time editing is not being wasted).

  2. Mark

    Yes, Trisha, doing stuff together (whether in person or online) is a happier experience for everyone. I wish I could schedule a 10-minute window for all of my students, but that’s not possible, so our old method has to be part of the process.

    I’m still figuring out how best to comment for content and highlight for grammar. My students get overwhelmed by their errors and the number of comments, so they resolve my highlights to clean up their screen. I need to figure out next steps. More to come!

    Have you been using Google Docs this year?

    • Dave Keller

      Wow, this is cool. I’d love to see how long it takes to work with one student and I’m wondering what would be the best way to choose which students to work with and which students to reach through other means. Because teacher time is limited this might not be possible for 80 or 120 students but I can see it working for targeted populations. Right now I’m working on writing mentors and think this might work well for a mentorship tool. Thanks for the post.

    • Trisha

      No Google Docs this year. It may be something I think about again for next year, especially with the issues of saving docs and students being prepared to work both at home and at school. We had numerous USB problems this year, and faced some similar challenges to LHS. (I was shocked at the lack of knowledge my students had about basic word processing.) I do think the highlighted text feature in Google Docs could be really helpful for students with learning disabilities. I’ve noticed some of my have a hard time finding where to make the changes on the screen when looking at the hard copy.

  3. Mark Isero

    Dave, you’re right: It’s not possible for more than, say, 30 students. One thing I’m figuring out is which students work well with comments in Google Docs vs. in-person conferences vs. virtual conferences.

    What are you doing with writing mentors? Each of my students has had an online writing mentor this year, which has been mostly really positive. I’ll be writing about that experiment soon.

    • Mark Isero

      Jannik, I completely agree with your point about Google Hangouts. Imagine several students and I reading a paper together, suggesting improvements, and discussing how best to revise an essay. That way, feedback is meant not just for one student but for multiple students. In addition, feedback is given not just to assess the quality of student writing but also to offer next steps and tips. Thanks again!

Please share your brilliant insights!