Classy: Communal notes in gDocs

As I’ve written, Google Apps for Education is truly changing my practice this year.

We’re studying Jung’s idea of archetypes as they pertain to literature in my Sexuality & Society in Literature class. For an introduction, today, we read a simple introduction.

While the students were reading, I took my notes on key information and put them in a new gDoc.

On the side, I included comments on the ideas found in the notes. (We’ve been working on summarizing before offering up commentary.)

When the class was done reading, I had them close their computers and share their initial thinking on the ideas from the write-up. It was slow going. One of those moments where I can see the bigger picture and am thereby inherently more excited about the ideas we’re investigating.

When it felt like the conversation had reached critical mass, I moved to the screen and pulled up my gDoc of notes.

I pointed out that I’d included the title of the article (linked to the original text), author information, my name and notes on the key ideas, and notes containing my thinking and questions.

From there, I set them free to find more information with the directive of “build notes about archetypes in literature that work to answer our questions.”

The link to the editable gDoc was posted on the class moodle page. They logged in and started building notes.

As they built, I asked questions via the commenting tool to prod their individual investigation.

In the doc’s chat sidebar, I asked questions of the entire class to make sure our notes took on greater breadth.

Soon, the class will be writing essays with the help of their notes. Because of what they’re building, they’ll have the benefit of many minds as points of reference.

Next semester, when I’m teaching Storytelling, I’ll be able to produce the gDoc to introduce archetypes in conjunction with The Hero’s Journey.

Here’s what I didn’t do:

  • I didn’t build a wiki. I’m not interested in worrying about architecture, and a wiki would have required more click-throughs than seemed logical.
  • I didn’t have them blog. Though I’m making the work public here, the notes were meant for in-class use. Additionally, I wanted everything to live in the same place. While a common tag would have allowed the gathering of the posts, it wouldn’t serve the purpose of notes.
  • I didn’t use a discussion forum. The goal was putting the information in one place and allowing for the common culling of ideas. A discussion forum would have, again, required clicks. As the ideas within the students’ courses found connections at different points, threading discussion would have limited the intertextual connectivity of the reading.
  • I didn’t use guided notes. With the goal of exploration and investigation of dynamic concepts, guided notes would have put the onus on me and prevented one student’s uncovering of the periodic table of archetypes.

Though not perfected, this approach will be one I take again.

2 thoughts on “Classy: Communal notes in gDocs

  1. Lately, I can't get enough of this commenting feature in google docs. I've used it to collaborate with colleagues on the planning of end-of-unit projects, UbD unit plans, and EduCon session outlines. Students in my Science and Society class are currently using this feature to peer review their writing. And having everyone on the same google apps system makes it all so much easier. This tool is a great example of how sometimes it's the simplest tools that make the biggest difference.

  2. Pingback: Things I Know 42 of 365: I can’t anticipate imagination at Autodizactic

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