Written by Mrs. Kim Vreeland, Upper Division & A.P. English Instructor
Gone are the note cards. Gone are the highlighters, the piles of papers, the ink smudges and eraser flakes. Gone are the plastic covers.
Rest in peace, note cards et al.
Google Docs has arrived.
I’d heard of Google Docs and even dipped my toe in, but this year, I was ready to jump in with both feet. I might sink, but without risk there is no reward.
No soul I know has been spared the research paper, and, likely, students would classify it as one of Dante’s circles of Hell, neighboring it with the science project.
I’ve been assigning research papers for 20 years, and I’ve also been on the receiving end of writing research papers. The memory is that of tediousness … plowing through to the end. No joy in that journey.
I wanted to figure out a way to make the process more enjoyable and efficient and effective. I was determined to find a new path.
I describe Google Docs as one stop shopping. Everything in one place. All the information. All the time.
My students forged ahead, digging for information, journaling their notes and reflections in their Google Docs. As they continued the research process, they simply added more information to the already created document. Soon, my students had composed pages and pages of notes, sources, main ideas, evidence and summaries.
And as they pieced together the process, everything was where they had left it. No searching for lost papers, misplaced articles, estranged notebooks. Translation: less frustration on the part of everyone and a great sense of pride to see the magnitude of their work – all their blood, sweat, and tears in one place.
Google Docs permits users to share their work with selected individuals. My students invited me to share and edit their research. The beauty of Google Docs is that it doesn’t sleep. I can access their work at any time. 1:00 in the morning? No problem. I can peek at my students’ work and leave a love note offering instruction.
Ultimately, the individual notes evolve into a recorded conversation that shows the writing process and the evolution of the writer’s work.
Google Docs saves everything – every edit, every revision. And you never have to hit the save button. Like Ever. Computer dies? Google Docs has your back. You erase all your work and exit? Google Docs to the rescue.
Students and invited sharers can view every step of the way and restore any version that once existed. Each version indicates revisions made by striking through deleted material and highlighting added information.
For the student, the ability to access revisions is comforting; for the teacher, it’s enlightening. I can see draft by draft my students’ thought process – how they got from A to B and then to C. For me, this is the beautiful part – the ability to see my students’ minds in action. The revisions. The edits. The learning process all chronicled.
So, good-bye, out of order note cards; farewell, hand-written drafts; sayonara lost papers.
Hello, Google Docs.