Over the past 5 years using Google Apps for Education at the Collaborative, I have slowly learned through experimentation and loads of frustration (my own and that of other people) that Google provides the tools you should be using to simplify your collaboration and communication. The challenge is understanding the ways in which these tools work together and how to use them effectively (i.e. as Google wants you to use them).
Take, for example, using Google Groups. For a long time, I only used Google Groups as a listserv. It is only in recent months that I have realized that Groups is a powerful tool for being proactive about sharing and communicating. In many ways, using Groups is a gift to your future self. Your future self will be grateful to your present self and couldn’t we all benefit from more kindness and gratitude?
Before I get to the full recommendations, let me tell you a story. It’s a sad story of wasted time, much confusion, and tedium.
Once upon a time, there was a team (Queen and her village) who did everything in Google Drive. They had many collaborators within their team and beyond. They built an elaborate structure of myriad folders and subfolders (castle), each shared folder and document with different permissions and individual email addresses (keys made by the royal locksmith). This worked fine until they hired a new person (Prince)…. [Read More]
Whether you are a teacher using Google Drive in your class, an administrative professional responsible for organizing Drive, or the Google Apps Administrator responsible for managing your Google domain, you know the struggle. The struggle to feel clear and in control over your (Google) domain.
I have tried many approaches to managing my Drive so I don’t feel like this. From no folders to elaborate folders and I have finally settled on what I think are the three pieces key to finding what I need when I need it:
- A consistent naming convention is your best friend,
- When it comes to folders, fewer are better, and
- Groups are the only way to share.
When it comes to taking notes in class, the question everyone seems to be debating is tech or no tech? A friend and university professor recently posted this article to her Facebook feed: The Benefits of No-Tech Note Taking from the Chronicle for Higher Education. In this piece, a professor reflects on life the year since banning laptops for note taking.
The comments on my friend’s post generally praised the article and included criticisms of technology being used in classrooms (specifically secondary and higher ed classrooms). I can appreciate people relying on the tool that works best for them and I am pleased when educators are reflecting on technology’s role in their own and their students’ lives. What worries me about this (and so many ed tech integration-related conversations) is the all or nothing stance.
Technology is best used to improve our lives and redefine* what’s possible for each of us. And in most cases, this means a blending of what has worked well (no/low-tech) with emerging practice (previously inconceivable).
In this case, there is a blended option, which can benefit a broad range of learners. Instructors can support students through the very beneficial electronic note taking process AND encourage most students to hand write notes by using collaborative notes. Using a Google Doc, the instructor can define roles for a collaborative process. (See below for a template.) These roles can and should rotate. The basic roles we like are:
- Recorder: captures much of the lecture or main content (anything said or written on a board)
- Researcher: conducts further research about the content and adds in links, definitions, etc.
- Question Catcher: captures all of the questions raised during the lecture / class. The researcher or others could then look in to these or take the necessary action (asking the instructor).
- Additional / optional responsibilities for participants include:
- Define key vocabulary / pronunciations / translate: This can be especially helpful for acronyms.
- Observations on group dynamics: How often or much people speak, who gets called on, etc.
- Recording & posting homework / action items
Having this structure allows the old school note takers to scratch & doodle away, but provides all students with the amazing benefit of having SEARCHABLE notes. This also encourages collaboration. This approach allows students to create rich and robust study guides.
For someone like me (with ADD), I benefit greatly from this sort of process. My role is defined and limited (so I can still engage) and it alleviates the anxiety I get when trying to simultaneously synthesize & document info. I don’t mind taking any of these roles on, but sometimes I prefer to use a traditional or a Sketchnote approach and having this as a more formal/ searchable fallback is ideal.
For people using Google Apps for Education, we recommend creating a structure for your students before sending them in to a single live document. You are welcome to use or modify the sample Google Docs template we use with teachers and students. We would love to hear how you structure collaborative note taking! Please share in the comments.