Tag Archives: ransom everglades

Google Drive & the Paperless Research Essay!

Even though I am “techy,” I always espouse that it’s never technology all the time. In fact, my classroom is always a hybrid environment. As such, my students write traditional, robust research essays every year. This assignment requires that they engage in sophisticated academic research, build a thesis, and then structure an academic argument. For many of my students (I currently teach 10th grade US History), this is the first research and argumentative essay that they have written. It’s a challenging project. In conjunction with our new roll out of Google Apps for Education, I decided to make this year’s research essay a paperless endeavor. This met several academic and school-wide objectives – building Digital Fluency and digital literacy across curriculum as well as promoting Ransom Everglades’s Greening initiative.

All Work Must be Written Within Google Drive

One of the benefits of drive is that it allows you to import documents from other platforms (such as Microsoft Word) either by converting them to a Google Doc or

Screen Capture of "Revision History"

Screen Capture of “Revision History”

using Drive as Cloud storage. However, this would defeat my intention of better watching how my students’ essays developed. As such, I required that all work be created within Google Drive itself. Students were not permitted to import content from another tool or copy and paste from a word processed document.

I did this because I wanted to watch how my students’ writing evolved throughout the assignment using the “see revision history” tool. This feature allows you to see how the document progressed – when content was added, changed, or otherwise revised. It’s incredibly useful in long-term projects as it not only allows you to keep tabs on your students’ progress, but it allows you to see what changes they made (substantive and minor) throughout the project.

Break it into Steps

I believe that larger projects should be “chunked out” so that students work on the process – focusing on the necessary elements step by step rather than trying to throw everything together all at once. As such, students had to submit to me: A thesis statement, Annotated Bibliography, Detailed Outline, Rough Draft, and Final Draft all through Google Drive.

I explained to them my expectations on each of the assignments and showed them how I would view their process using the track changes feature. I believe in being transparent with my students – I let them know why this process was important.

Peer Review with Comments Rather than Changes

Highlight content and select "make a comment" button to leave comments.

Highlight content and select “make a comment” button to leave comments.

One of the biggest changes for students (and teachers) in revision is that you’re doing it on screen – this means you cannot circle and underline, rather you highlight and comment. Still, it lends to a different focus in the revision process. Some students like to correct spelling and grammar for their peers. However, I find that when developing writing skills, it is always better for the author to make the adjustments and changes themselves. A such, I instruct students that if they noticed a lot of typos, they should leave a comment directing their peer to proofread. If a phrase was awkward, they should leave a comment explaining why the phrase was problematic and suggest that the student rephrase it.

Providing Feedback to Students

One of the best features of Google Drive is that it allows me to leave student comments in a variety of ways. I wrote an article a little while back entitled “Google Drive: A Better Method for Giving Student Feedback.” It highlights the fact that by working in the cloud, students and I can engage in a conversation; the comment process is no longer static. Additionally, it provides both me and the student greater flexibility in the process. Another cool tool that works in conjunction with Google Drive is Kaizena, a cloud based app that allows you to leave voice comments on a student’s a paper.

Watching the Evolution of Writing

The best feature of Google Drive is that, using the track changes tool, I can view the evolution of a student’s work. Overall, the writing process is the most important element of the work. Even if a student’s final product is not up to par, I can look at how often they worked on it, what changes they made, how they addressed their peers’ and my critiques, and overall how their paper evolved over time. Additionally, it provides greater accountability for the students – they know that they cannot just throw the paper together at the last minute, as I can see when content is added.

Engaging in a paperless research essay was a new journey for both me and my students. While the change in context and kinesthetics at time was uncomfortable (I don’t always like reading on a screen and neither do many of my students), there were numerous benefits that outweighed those drawbacks. The primary benefit was that students could work on the project wherever they were – on any computer on campus, on their cell phones while riding the bus to a game, or at home making changes before they turned it in.

I know that my students and I both need to engage further with Drive to feel fully comfortable with this tool (we had to with Word as well, although the 1980’s and 1990’s may seem far away). Still, I’m excited to move forward with a more portable, flexible, and greener assignment.

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Headed to the Google Summit!

This weekend I have the privilege to attend the Google Apps for Education Summit in North Carolina by the EdTechTeam, hosted by the Ravenscroft School. I’m excited to collaborate with colleagues and learn how to more effectively employ Google Apps for Education in my own classroom as well as at Ransom Everglades on a broader level.

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I hope to post some updates on the trip. I ask that you be patient, however, as it looks like they’ll be keeping me busy!

The Night Before the First Day of School

1186007_10100384508014834_1282121961_nTomorrow is the first day of school. While the focus of the first day is often on the students, for teachers this is also an exciting time. We have some of the same considerations – what will our classes be like, how will the year progress, will we be successful or struggle… It is always an exciting time.

For me, tomorrow isn’t just the start of the new school year, I am beginning at a fresh school in an untested position. While I have been at Ransom Everglades School as their Director of Educational Technology for “officially” six weeks, I have been working with the faculty for only one and tomorrow I will be meeting the students. I feel like it’s the night before 7th grade all over again!

Today, I went to a local restaurant for breakfast and to work on my syllabus and lesson plans for the week. I felt pretty good when I finished. On the walk home, I got caught in a torrential downpour – the kind that prop up in South Florida without warning. I looked like a drowned-rat. Let’s hope that this is not a foreboding sign of what’s to come… 😉

I am Moving to a new Position at the Ransom Everglades School

It is with excitement as well as sadness that I announce I am leaving my current institution, Trinity Valley School, to take  the position of Director of Academic Technology at Ransom Everglades School in Miami, Florida.

Trinity Valley has been an amazing school for me. I have been given the opportunity grow and learn as a professional and to work with students from around the globe. I will miss the friends and connections that I have made here.

At the same time, I am thrilled to be joining the staff at Ransom Everglades. A top independent school and right next to my alma mater (the University of Miami), I am exited to take up new responsibilities and explore new endeavors.

I will continue to post on my blog about my adventures in technology in education.