Sunday, January 13, 2013

Exploring Collaboration with Goole Drive: 5th Grade Reading Recommendations

Last semester my students used Google Docs to write their personal memoirs. They worked on their writing in class and at home, and shared their docs with me in order to facilitate editing, printing and general troubleshooting. They did not, however, collaborate with their classmates, and so I've been looking for opportunities to take advantage of this particular facet of Google Drive.

I have a few ideas and lesson plans to explore in the coming weeks, and first up is a grade-wide Suggested Reading List, which was inspired by a Twitter conversation with Katherine Schulten and George Swain. As we enjoyed a little pleasure reading over the winter holidays, George, Katherine and I tweeted back and forth about what we were currently reading and which titles we were looking forward to digging into. At some point in the discussion, Katherine, a former English teacher and current editor of the New York Times Learning Network Blog, tweeted this:

It immediately dawned on me that I should do something similar with my students, who are always asking me for book recommendations or sharing titles they've loved. When we returned from winter vacation I created a spreadsheet on Google Drive, titled it 5th Grade Reading Recommendations, and shared the link with all of my English classes. For the initial rollout, I made contributing to the list a required homework assignment, asking each student to access the file and add a single title. I was pleased to see how many chose to add two or three or five titles to our spreadsheet, and days later students are asking me if they can continue to collaborate on the list. I'm curious to see if I'll ever need to require contributions again, or if the spreadsheet will gain enough momentum to exist independently of me. Regardless, my classes were excited to recommend books to their classmates, and each suggestion is signed so that curious students can seek each other out to discuss titles. 

Next week I will again experiment with collaborating on Google Drive, as I ask my students to brainstorm questions for an upcoming Skype session with a former U.S. Marine.  More on that soon! 

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