Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why I'm Drinking the Google Drive Kool-Aid

Guest Blogger Christina Pommer
2nd Annual CA Summit Attendee

Our school went 1:1 iPad this year in grades 6-12. How many times have I heard the following statement from teachers? “One of the advantages of the iPads is that we no longer have to gather our belongings and go to the library anymore.” Way too many to count.

As a librarian, part of me cries each time even as I cheerfully nod my response. In the library I still rotate seasonal displays, showcase student work, offer a wide variety of fun fiction reads, and have many nonfiction materials that support the curriculum. However, the ironic part is that the people saying this are using library resources more than ever before and see the concept of the library evolving beyond the physical space. They are teachers who have always supported the library and who are continuing to request my services in their classrooms. Students are accessing JSTOR through the app, filling out web evaluation forms for History class, and checking out books on Overdrive. Other classes are coming to the library for new projects, and I’m as busy as ever! Where does Google Drive come in?

I was inspired by the EdTechTeam California Summit ft. Google for Education last year, and we are going as paperless as possible for research projects. I work very closely with the 9th grade Western Civilizations teacher, and she teaches all the freshmen. Our big research project occurs during third interim, and we taught isolated research tasks in conjunction with units of study all fall so the full process wouldn't be as daunting. In September, in about 15 minutes, we taught her students how to set up Google Drive research folders with selected (and at this point, empty) files. We were uniform in our naming conventions, and we asked all students to give us editing privileges in their folders.

 If you haven’t used Google Drive before, here are some main differences from other word processing programs:

 • It’s cloud-based, and thus accessible anywhere with Internet connectivity. Files and folders can be private or shared with others. Sharing can involve viewing or editing privileges. It’s easy to collaborate via comment or chat features, and thus it facilitates revision.
 • Viewers can check the revision history to compare various versions of a document, as well as who made each change and when they did so. It was surprising to me that none of the students even mentioned privacy concerns, and all happily shared. The day that we did this, they were practicing web evaluation and note-taking.
• Multiple users can work in a document simultaneously, so I was able to watch exactly what students typed in real-time and assess their speed and skills in paraphrasing. I was also able to jump in immediately and stop them when they listed a url that didn’t meet our criteria for reputable websites. Students quickly got used to seeing the pink bar highlighting that I was “in” their notes, and the quieter students didn’t hide and work under our radar the way they have in the past.

 Any time librarians collaborate with classroom teachers, it’s important to make sure each person is offering the same advice. Since we can both see the comments we have written on students’ documents and the direction given to them, it’s made us more supportive of each other and a more effective team.

 If this isn’t enough, I spent two weeks this fall subbing for a teacher on paternity leave. I taught Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, a book I’ve always wanted to teach. I didn’t want to overstep my place and grade his students’ work, and he didn’t want to fall behind while he was out. The students all shared their class folders with me, and I could see how their work for me compared to their work for their regular teacher. Also, when I had a question about an individual student, the teacher was able to pull up their work from home and comment online.

 Finally, I’m asked to proofread a lot of papers. As more students share their work with me on Google Drive, I’m better able to keep tabs on their progress as they’re writing their papers. I now step in before the final day when they are panicking. I love that they are comfortable sharing works in progress and asking questions throughout the research process. I also love that there is no more concern about losing notecards or leaving a first draft at home. And I absolutely love that a byproduct is that I spend less time adding paper to the printer!

 What do you think? Other techniques for making Google Drive work for you and your students?

Christina attended last year's flagship California Summit which sold out! Will you join us at the third annual summit in Palo Alto on July 19th and 20th? Register here.

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