This year, my students used Google Docs for all their essays. Here’s how the two-week essay cycle worked:
1. On Monday, students did a timed writing in class, then typed their essays on Google Docs before 11 p.m.
2. On Tuesday, their online writing mentor, their peer editor, and I would read their essays and leave comments on Google Docs.
3. On Wednesday, the students would revise their essays and write a reflective journal that chronicled their writing growth.
4. On Thursday, they’d turn in their essays, and I’d grade them for content.
5. On Friday, I’d return the graded essays, and a week of proofreading would begin — back on Google Docs.
* * *
When I asked my students about their experience using Google Docs, they were unanimously positive. Here are some of the things they said:
1. Google Docs made the revision process faster, easier, and more encouraging. Students preferred comments online rather than on paper.
2. Google Docs made revision more interactive. Students could write comments back to their editors to gain more understanding. We also sometimes had synchronous editing sessions, which were popular.
3. Google Docs saved paper and printing stress. (Most of my students do not have working printers at home and disliked having to run around the school for an open printer.)
4. Google Docs offered an easy way to store and organize their essays. All they had to do was to drag their essays into their shared folder. Instant e-portfolio.
* * *
This was my first year of moving entirely to Google Docs. Now that Google Docs has transformed into Google Drive, I can see myself teaching my students to house all of their materials there.
The only impediment is one of access. Because of the digital divide, it took several weeks for my students to learn the program. It was slow going at first. There were many failed attempts at document dragging, proper titling, and accurate spacing.
I worry that if I do too much too soon, I’ll alienate students. But this year’s Google Docs experiment suggests that if I give my students enough time and practice to master crucial tech skills, they’ll get the handle of it and be appreciative at the end.