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Google Documents rock! Where else can you get a free document editor that you can share and collaborate with others? Recently, Google released Discussions which were an improvement on the comments you could embed within a document. With discussions, you could leave a comment and have it be sent to a recipient, who could in turn reply in conversational form. Now students could work together to refine their work and teachers could give feedback all leading toward beautiful work.
With recent improvements, you can track when the last time a page was accessed and what they said. This was rolled out without much fanfare, but for educators, it makes a big difference! Typically to get this kind of data you would need to use a classroom management software like Moodle or Edmodo, both fine tools but they require you to leave what you are doing and go somewhere else on the web. All of this is within the Google Apps that you are already using.
This summer, Patrick and I are working on a hybrid multimedia/graphic design summer school class. We wanted students to be able to work from all over the city without having to come into town. Plus Patrick wanted to be able work with students while he and his Graphic Novel project students are exhibiting at Comic Con (congratulations to them by the way). A concern with the hybrid class was "seat time", how would the school be able to certify that the students had worked long enough to qualify for the Carnegie Credit Hours?
With Discussions, that problem was resolved. With the class a mixture of synchronous face-to-face video conferences, and asynchronous independent work students could demonstrate their mastery as well as seat time with time logs in their Google Doc. We are really excited about the prospect of conducting a full class without a classroom. More on our successes and struggles will appear in the next few weeks I am sure but I figured that many could benefit from this and I wanted to get the tip out as soon as possible. Enjoy!
A few improvements to discussions in Google Docs - Original Article
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