Sunday, April 22, 2012

Google Docs, Google Comedy

This is the 10th part (10 already?) of a series in which 5th grade musicians are researching composers and creating website based on that research using Google Apps for Education and Edmodo.

Most people would probably start introducing Google Apps by having students work collaboratively in a Google Doc.  Not us.  It has taken us 10 classes to get this far, and I have avoided Google Docs up to this point for two reasons:
1.  We needed the research and collaboration in Edmodo, the notetaking in Google Forms, and the creation of a Site to all happen first.  We did not need to use a Doc up to this point, but now the students will need to start typing their essays.
2.  I wanted to talk about embedding, sharing settings, and collaboration in Google Docs all at the same time.

So, this week, the students created a Doc for their composer biography.  The students had to be careful to name correctly, not so much for the future this time (as we did with Site URL's), but so that I could easily organize them when shared to my teacher account.  No problems with renaming - we did that with our Google Form template a few weeks back.

After a quick lesson about how Google Docs looks a lot like Microsoft Word and has many of the same features, I just had the students type a title on their Biography.  Then we went to our Sites and inserted the Document on our Biography page.  Again, no problem because the students inserted maps last class.  I think the biggest issue for elementary students as they do this inserting work is that you basically have to click "Save" three times to insert anything - once to select the media, once to save the frame settings, and then a third time to save the edits you have made to the page.  I told the students that Google just wants to make sure that you really want to make these changes - just keep clicking select/save.

Now the magic could begin.  Without confusing the students, they needed to learn that typing in your Doc would automatically change the Biography on your Site, as long as you refresh the page.  This way, the students see that even though your Doc and your Site are really two separate places, but they are linked.  If you change your Doc, it will automatically change in your Site.  Students added words to their Doc, tabbed over to their Site, refreshed the page, and found it had automatically updated!

Finally, we needed to tackle Sharing Settings.  To introduce this, a bit of comedy.  I just told them I was sending them all a new Doc to the home page of their Docs.  It only had two questions:

1.  What is the name of your composer?
2.  Where did your composer live?
Once I shared this Doc to all of them, and they all started trying to answer at once.  Hilarious, geeky chaos ensued.  I didn't plan to capture it on video, but I grabbed my iPad and started recording ...

They were hooked.  "You want to know how to do that?"  We had experienced Sharing Settings, and now I could teach them how to do it.  They all successfully shared their newly created biography doc to me.  They had to be careful to share it to me and not some other teacher, since all of our names are in the system.  I was able to show them instantly that all of their Docs were now in my account.  I will be able to comment on them as they write in the upcoming weeks.

That took 20 minutes, start to finish.  There was time leftover to start on biographies, finish gathering facts, fix issues with Sites, help catch up students who were absent, etc.  I am looking forward to a few classes of work time like this now that we have our Sites and our Docs created.