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.

YouTube as a Tool for Collaborative Learning

‘‘More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month. ’’ (http://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html). Youtube is the most popular website for sharing videos online and is part of students’ Web 2.0 habits.  Why not take advantage of that opportunity for educational purposes?

YouTube gives students freedom of speech and allows them to influence or impact viewers who come from everywhere in the world with the creation of a video. However, there is an ambiguity. ‘‘Because of YouTube’s ad hoc epistemological structure, the site is much more likely to reinforce stereotypes than to encourage critical thinking appropriate to the classroom’’ (http://learningthroughdigitalmedia.net/youtube-pedagogy-finding-communities-of-practice-in-a-distributed-learning-world).  For instance, YouTube follows the principle of popularity, so the most watched content does not reflect necessarily educational purposes. It is controlled by mass culture, which reinforces stereotypes and norms of the virtual community. As a teacher, it is absolutely crucial to be aware of the rhetoric of community norms, because they are selective of the content that will appear as significant and YouTube is not designed primarily for displaying academic content.

Youtube stays a very useful tool to put online lessons or tutorials. It enables students and teachers to create short videos about specific aspects of their course such as problem solving or grammar. Students benefit from this opportunity to learn or to study independently and outside of the traditional classroom context. For example, this original and pertinent tutorial gives the viewer the freedom to choose what content he wants to explore by clicking on the person directly in the video, which creates a personalized and meaningful learning output ‘‘(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrsdLou4IeU#t=12)’’. This is very pertinent, because students provide opportunities for learning and practicing class material to other students who are not necessarily enrolled in the same school. Meaningful tutorials intended to other students reinforce the principle of collaborative learning Web 2.0. In fact, the collaborative approach emphasized by the Québec  Ministry of Education increases through the use of social and sharing networks like YouTube.

‘‘The concept of social learning is the creation of understanding through interaction. Social learning focuses on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’ of education and emphasizes the need for students to be able to participate in study groups and the interchange of knowledge’’ (http://www.academia.edu/906679/USING_YOUTUBE_AS_AN_INNOVATIVE_TOOL_FOR_COLLABORATIVE_LEARNING_AT_UNDERGRADUATE_LEVEL_IN_TERTIARY_EDUCATION). YouTube therefore provides the explanation of the ”how” through the academic tutorials that are reinforced by meaningful social interaction. For instance, the Net Generation is considered social, experimental and team-oriented, which reflects a need to experiment learning by doing with the help of social support. Socialization with YouTube is primarily done by sharing videos, but also by leaving comments underneath the videos. It is not mandatory to create an account in order to watch the content of YouTube. However, it is necessary in order to comment or to like and dislike content. In a classroom context, students can discuss the work done by their peers, or simply post and debate about any significant topic by creating personal profiles on YouTube. In addition, the teacher can select different educational videos related to the same topic and regroup them on a Play List in order to organize the educational material.

At King’s College and Rowan University, the ‘‘Youtube Project’’ was a real success with the students.  Teachers emphasized that ‘‘Learners need to be actively engaged in processing information, to transfer it from short-term memory to long-term memory, and recall of information is facilitated when the learned material is encoded in some way’’ (http://journals.cluteonline.com/index.php/TLC/article/view/1110/1094). Consequently, YouTube becomes a very useful tool to emphasize long-term memory with the collaborative task of creating a video and making it public. Students who work together in this project are motivated by the same goal of sharing their particular point of view on a topic addressed in the classroom. YouTube becomes a tool to enhance collaborative learning with the video task, which develops creativity, awareness and confidence among students. They become alert citizens with a footprint to share to the world.

Moreover, Youtube is new pedagogical tool for teachers to explore because ‘‘Using YouTube videos allows for authentic material to be used in L2 courses, in order to work on signal decoding and meaning-building’’(http://ictrev.ecml.at/Portals/1/documents/Using_YouTube_in_class.pdf).  In an English classroom context, the development of the target language is essential. When showing videos that are only in L2, students can benefit from that opportunity to improve their communicative competence by listening to the right pronunciation of words in the video. Students appreciate to learn content through the lens of a camera, because they are used to watch television and to have access to a computer in their personal lifestyle. In addition, videos are a lot more interactive and dynamic than the explanation of the teacher alone, which represents a new meaningful learning style. However, to be able to use YouTube in a classroom, schools must have internet connection, speakers, and LCD projectors. This depends upon the factor of budget, and differs from one school to another. When a teacher uses YouTube, he must be conscious about the possibility of having problems with Internet connection, speakers or the projector itself. This is why teachers need to always have a plan B if they intend to use YouTube for educational purposes, and should test it beforehand.

In conclusion, even if personal profiles created on YouTube become icons for publicity campaigns to recognize what are viewers’ interests, YouTube is still a powerful tool for education. For instance, students can share tutorials and videos that they created for a particular educational task. In this perspective, YouTube becomes a tool for students to be present and to have an influence on a worldwide virtual scale. It also enhances collaborative learning both virtually and in a school context, because they work in teams to accomplish the task of creating a video project and they comment or discuss other videos made by their peers on YouTube directly. Teachers provide appealing and authentic audiovisual material when showing videos that are relevant to the course. All in all, the teacher must expect students to get easily distracted because of the predominance of entertainment and popularity on YouTube and it is his responsibility to keep them on track.

The Reconciliation of Two Enemies: Education and Facebook

‘‘Net Geners’’ and ‘‘Digital Natives’’, the new generation of students embedded in technology, have completely modified the old standards of traditional education. The rapid rise of technology forced teachers to reflect about how they must change their approach if they want to reach their students effectively.

Facebook reinforces the maintained social capital theory, which encourages the capacity of being connected to a community. People register in web communities from shared interests and they benefit from this symbolic interaction because of social support, which increases their sense of belonging. ‘‘After all, these methods of community building (online social networks) are the ways in which students today are meeting, communicating, and building community. Indeed, Facebook may be just the tool we need to stimulate collaborative student-led learning.’’(http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/02500160903250648)

For instance, Facebook represents students’ virtual communities and is the best method to reach them. Building an academic Facebook portal certainly increases students’ relationship to the course, because they are virtually connected in an academic context with their peers, who act as significant others. This positive atmosphere fosters collaborative learning through the community, in a social media which is not often associated with the school context. In fact, students tend to automatically separate entertainment from school work. Facebook is therefore an effective means to make students accept the intrusion of academic purposes in their powerful virtual world, supported by symbolic interactions between students and the instructor.

Interestingly, a study conducted at Queensland’s University of Technology explored how social networks such as Facebook supported students undertaking teaching practicums. Even if students were distant because of the different locations of their practicums, they were able to share their excitement, problems or solutions with regard to their personal experiences. ‘‘These posts were typically positive and encouraging in nature indicating that the group sense of community was strong among participants […] Hence motivation and engagement would appear to be quite high’’ (http://eprints.qut.edu.au/15706/2/Facebook_goes_to_college_Jennifer_Duncan_Howell.pdf). In this case, Facebook is a tool to reinforce students’ motivation and engagement in a virtual group. In addition, Facebook is the means to share an experience or to achieve a common goal collaboratively. This is very positive, considering that motivation is a crucial component for any type of learning.

How about teacher’s self-disclosure on Facebook? The teacher’s level of self-disclosure has a direct impact on students’ motivation, affective climate and motivation. According to a research made with 133 undergraduate students at Midwestern University, the teacher’s level of accessibility as a virtual person enhances motivation, affective climate and motivation inside and outside the classroom. In fact, students appreciate to affiliate with someone who has a significant level of mediated immediacy, because students feel that their instructor is more accessible and they get involved more easily in their course. However, there are also risks of decreasing the instructor’s credibility as a professional by violating the typical students’ expectations of a teacher. This is why teachers must be aware of what image they want to project to their students : ‘‘Student perceptions of a teacher’s credibility and their reports of motivation and affective learning may also be affected by what the teacher discloses on Facebook. The number of photographs and the amount of information provided on the virtual social network may positively or negatively alter student perceptions.’’ (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03634520601009710)

Facebook is a very useful tool when it comes to communicative purposes, but people often underestimate the impact that their virtual identity has on their credibility as an individual. It also concerns students, because the perception of their teacher can be negatively biased based on what students  decided to show on their Facebook page. This may be playing the devil’s advocate, but what influences public perception should never be ignored.

Moreover, free access to Facebook in class involves the possibility of distraction. Even if it is aimed towards educational purposes, students will inevitably get distracted. This is logical considering the fact that the main purpose of a social network is to promote socialization between individuals. The game mentality stipulates that ‘‘many students associate computers and technology with game playing. Though some teachers can use this to their advantage, if this issue is not addressed, some students may get distracted and off task quickly.’’ (http://classroom.synonym.com/negative-effects-using-technology-todays-classroom-4130.html).

Building teaching activities around social networks gives a lot of freedom to students. Consequently, supervision from the teacher is required because he has the obligation to create an environment that promotes learning, and with Facebook, it can be easy to diverge from this learning goal. The contrast with traditional seminar lectures is striking. In a seminar, the teacher controls the rhythm of the class and students fulfill the limited role of asking questions. With the intrusion of Facebook, students now have much more control over the content of reflections or topics addressed on the wall.

The strength of Facebook is that it attracts the eyes of the onlooker. However, is being captivated enough to promote learning? ‘‘The nature of multimedia can captivate students easily, but this visual engagement does not necessarily represent intellectual engagement’’ (http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ972449.pdf). Facebook is appropriate for collaborative learning, but it is not extremely effective for individual intellectual engagement. For instance, it is not Facebook’s main purpose to encourage studying or personal intellectual development. This must not be forgotten, because Facebook is primarily a social network, not an educational network. Since students have identified Facebook as a distraction detached from any school work, it may be difficult to adapt this social network for educational purposes.

All in all, teachers must be aware that if they use Facebook as a tool for learning, they follow the social capital theory, which reinforces the idea of being symbolically connected to a community. This is positive considering that students’ general motivation increases because of this psychological closeness between the instructor and students of the same classroom. However, the level of self-disclosure from the teacher can influence students negatively and positively, depending on what is a made accessible and if it alters professional credibility. This is also true for students. Using Facebook as a tool for educational purposes increases the risks of distraction and the lack of real intellectual engagement. ‘‘Net Geners’’ and ‘‘Digital Natives’’ are used to access information or to navigate on the web independently. For this reason, teachers must be ready and prepared to give a part of control and independence to their students in using a social network like Facebook.