Students As Significant Peer-Tutors With Google Doc

Google Doc is certainly the most impressive tool in a classroom when it comes to peer-tutoring and editing tasks. Students are able to comment instantly the work of their classmates and keep record of those corrections and by who they were made. Google Doc is accessed via Google drive. To create an account in Google drive is very easy because it only requires a Gmail address and  a password. Once logged in to Google drive, clicking on ‘‘create’’ will enable multiple options, such as creating a folder, document, presentation or spreadsheet. In addition, Google Doc automatically saves everything that is written on a document, which forbids students to lose important work as it happens sometimes when the computer crashes with Microsoft Word.

Teachers must consider the utility of Google Doc for improved writing. For instance, ‘‘it improves student writing since students are not only writing, but also thinking about how to improve a buddy’s essay [and it] dramatically improves students’ attitudes toward writing and revision’’ (http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en//educators/learning_materials/WR_cribsheet.pdf). By enhancing personal feedback between students, they have the opportunity to fulfill the role of meaningful tutors rather than to act as traditional passive students who are in competition against each other. This individualistic system mostly aims at discriminating students and classifying them on a academic scale, which does not necessarily promote success of the whole class. With collaborative peer-tutoring, students provide direct feedback to their peers and the group’s level of performance exceeds individual talents. In addition, teachers can take advantage of peer-tutoring by mixing weaker students with stronger students, and this exchange in knowledge will result in lowering the gap between them. It is also beneficial for teachers in the sense that their correction work load decreases because of the peer-tutoring done between students. Therefore, students’ work quality increases through collaborative peer-tutoring.

‘‘Since Google automatically saves documents whenever changes are made, you can have a nice list of revisions to tell you how your students work and the thought process that they go through. By gaining more insight into their workflow, you can be more personal with how you work with them’’ (http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/10-google-docs-tips-for-teachers-go-back-to-school/). Teachers are thus able to monitor every student at home and via any computer before receiving final essays. This is very useful considering the fact that instructors can point out what are the major improvements to be done in an assignment while students are actually in their writing process. Interactive discussions can easily be initiated in Google Doc by using windows for comments in the margins and the author of the comment is always identified automatically on the page while he is writing.  The only requirement is to be a collaborator with the person who is doing the work, and this is done by sharing the document with peers using their Gmail addresses in order to add them as collaborators. The advantage for teachers is to be able to keep track of the work of their students and to show them where they made grammatical errors even when they are at home. Nate Green, an educator in the field who effectively uses Google Doc explains himself: ‘‘By meeting students in their documents, I assure that I see their work at least once before they turn it in. Therefore, if they are headed in the wrong direction, I can steer them in the right direction before the essay is due. In the end, when students turn in their papers, this process assures that I receive better work, as I have already addressed any major problems.’’(http://www.edsocialmedia.com/2012/02/the-advantages-of-google-docs-in-education/) .  In this sense, one-on-one tutoring with the teacher is replaced by interactive online discussions that occur directly on students’ assignments. There is also no need to meet in person, since teachers have access to everything done by their students.  Teachers must be ready to be more available for their students at any time, because they have to monitor the process of their writing in addition of correcting their final version.  However, some students may not be comfortable with the idea of constantly being read by their teachers during their writing process, since it is does not reflect their final product. More accessible monitoring by the teacher certainly gives more opportunities for students to improve their work, but their privacy becomes violated in the sense that their teacher could be reading their text at any moment. This would tend to intimidate more insecure students.

Moreover, Google Doc is not only a tool for writing and sharing assignments. Students can also create and share PowerPoints and insert videos. What is very interesting is that every member of a team can be working on the same PowerPoint at distance, and be able to write comments to their peers with the same process than with written assignments. Teachers also have the chance to build online quizzes that autocorrect students’ answers. For instance, ‘‘Google Forms (a part of Google Documents) can be used to create and post short quizzes online. Forms can be embedded into blogs and websites or simply posted online as standalone pages. When students complete the quiz all of their responses are captured in a spreadsheet for easy viewing and grading’’ (http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2012/04/google-docs-for-teachers-free-ebook.html#.UvfXEBruJCJ). If teachers feel comfortable with using Google Doc for collaborative peer-tutoring in class, they should try to build some of their evaluations via this tool. They only need to pass their own test once in order to establish the good answers and then save it. Therefore, they avoid a lot of correction and students feel as comfortable completing a paper copy as answering multiple questions on a webpage. Students can also see their marks directly after having done the test, which provides an immediate feedback that confirms or corrects their learning output regarding the content that they needed to acquire.

Managing all classroom assignments via Google Doc for beginner teachers may be difficult and stressful. In fact, documents are very easy to share but when they end up in teachers’ email boxes, it requires a lot of organization. As a solution, John Miller suggested that ‘‘Teachers create and publish a Google Form to be used as an In Box. When it’s time to turn in a Google Doc, students complete the simple form and submit a link to their Google Doc. The information submitted by students automatically populates a spreadsheet to be used by teachers to keep track of assignments and also to quickly access those assignments for grading and review’’ (http://gettingsmart.com/2012/12/5-ways-to-use-google-docs-in-the-classroom/). The concept of the drop-box for teachers is essential if they want to manage all submitted assignments effectively. Teachers should also ask students to save their work with their name and last name, the title of their work and the date, which would surely help them retrieve everything in order. If teachers are not ready to find strategies to organize themselves and to keep track of every assignment online, they should not use Google Doc.

All in all, Google Doc enables academic work to be automatically saved and to be easily shared and peer-tutored between students and the teacher that are collaborators. The strength of this tool is to improve students’ writing because they have been edited and reviewed by their peers or by their instructor directly on their document. It also initiates the evolution of a totally paperless classroom and greater academic performances are achieved. Even evaluations can be prepared via Google Doc, which results in less managing and less correction for teachers. Peer-tutoring between students appears to be very effective and this is certainly an area to explore in education because students’ feedback is very valuable and usually better targets the needs of other students. This is why Google Doc is an interesting tool; it provides a concrete collaborative approach online that focus on the importance of a good writing process and how major problems can be avoided by receiving feedback directly on students’ assignments.

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