Tag Archives: writing process

Suggested Edits – My Favorite Tool in Google Docs

Suggested Edits MenuIf you assign writing assignments to your students, then be sure to learn how to use “suggested edits.” Suggested edits is similar to “track changes” in Microsoft Word. To turn it on, simply click on the Pencil (with the words “editing” next to it) and select “suggesting.” The menu will turn from grey to green.

Now, when you make changes to a document, they will show up as “suggestions” rather than direct edits. Users can even write notes to one another on the “suggestions” comments. This is a great way for multiple users to edit the same document or for students to do a peer editing exercise.

Suggested Edits

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The Power of Screen Time! Reading, Writing, & Devices

The next session I’m attending is “The Power of Screen Time! Reading, Writing, & Devices” by Beth Holland. I’m excited for this presentation because I helped Beth edit and revise her Edutopia piece, “The 4Ss of Notetaking with Technology.”

There is a common theme in research, articles, and newspapers on “devices” being bad for “x activity.” However, as Beth says, it’s not the device! It’s what we or are students are doing. She also said that we’re not going to talk about “going paperless” because, as Shawn McCusker says, “Paperless is a bureaucratic preference, not a learning objective!” This is how we justify costs to our bureaucrats.

Beth now tells us her story (telling your story is a theme today). When she was a college student, she was trying to write a paper on a Mac. Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 9.41.26 AMHowever, the Mac wasn’t cooperating with her and she wasn’t getting her assignment done. However, in the bathroom, she came across a roll of paper towels. She then rolled it out and used it to write out her work. It was the right tool for her at the right time.

So the technology that she had to build her project (paper towels and markers), but had to complete the process in the Mac. The moral behind this is that we are not going to put our technology on a pedestal. So many people claim that the tools are “interactive,” but it’s really electronic whac-a-mole. It has no objective.

Beth says that we need to focus on process vs. product. She shows us a clip from the film Finding Forrester

So what part of that scene was writing? The punching of the keys or the process of getting content out of your brain and onto the paper.

Start thinking about the process of writing! Let’s start with

Writing 1.0

Students organize and draft on paper, submit it to the teacher, the teacher annotates the paper, then students get it back and may or may not keep that paper. This is a straight forward and one dimensional process.

Writing 2.0

Writing went digital! Students can draft digitally. You can even draft in a non-linear pattern, using mind-mapping tools, create a storyboard, etc. Students and teachers can collaborate and incorporate tools. You can use multimodal feedback (audio, video, etc). The final product can even be shared or published!

Writing 3.0

Now we have a mobile devices. Beth asks us, who writes on their smart phone? The small screen is problematic as we have to slow down. However, we have this everywhere. Students can organize and draft (using multi-model tools) from anywhere. Students and teachers can then collaborate and incorporate multimodal feedback across devices. The final product can be shared, published, or modified. Beth likes to use Penultimate to draft both physically and electronically. She then shares it with Evernote and then puts it in Google Drive to share and collaborate (sometimes with me).

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 9.49.30 AMIn addition to typing, she can talk into the device. For students with learning differences, you can speak into the tool. This is also a great way to get students to think about formation of words and sentences; like with formal poetry.

Because students all have devices, we have a ubiquitous opportunity of screens. We can see what our students are doing outside of the classroom. It doesn’t matter what the tool is, it’s that we’re starting to bring up this opportunity.

Beth now references this famous New York Times Piece, “Is E-Reading to your toddler story time, or simply screen time?” They argued:

“Parents and children using an electronic device spent more time focusing on the device itself than on the story.”

What does this mean about impact on childhood literacy? Beth argues that when we’re talking about eReading, we need to look at the behavior of reading. So “what could reading look like?” In the New York Times, what they argued was that the value of reading should look like this:

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 9.54.53 AMSo if we’re looking at multi-media eBooks, the issue isn’t the device, it’s the behavior. Perhaps not look at multi-media eBooks as a “book” but as something else. Students can read a text on a digitized device. So think about how students are reading, not the device. Start to bring together the digital and the analogue.

Beth now highlights TodaysMeet, a tool for backchanneling. This a tool that allows students to collaborate behind the scenes. In a class where students were reading about the Holocaust, the teacher asked students write down questions as they popped up in the reading on the Today’s Meet.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 9.58.18 AM

By setting up the Today’s Meet, he got input from students who were normally silent during class. He gave students a voice, even in a quiet room. Using the screen in a meaningful and powerful way. These tools can give students a voice and extend the experience to outside of the classroom. These are not possible without paper.

Asymmetric Impact

When thinking about screens and process, realize that it’s not the same thing with every person and every child. Start thinking about different students and their individual needs. You may have a student that needs to look up every word in a story. With a built in dictionary, you can “tap Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 10.05.24 AMand know” (Shawn McCusker). You can even manage dictionaries. On a web browser, you can clean up the view and remove the ads or increase the font size. You can also “find” on the screen to look up the information that you’re looking for on a page. So if you want the population of Liberia in 2010, you can go to the website and search using “find” for the population. This allows students to focus their reading. Students can even look up words in context. Technology allows for differentiation at a higher level. Anything that is text can be heard by students. This is a great way to improve learning outcomes for younger students that are struggling with literacy.

Pen or Keyboard?

There was a prominent article called “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard.” After having students listen to a lecture-based class and take notes via hand and keyboard. After the lecture, students took a test and they found that those with handwritten notes did better. However, they did not do an assessment later. What would have happened if students were assessed at a later date? Is it the keyboard’s fault or another example of the right tool for the write task? This is similar to the debate over quill pens and ink pens.

Beth highlights the fact that we have a lot of choice and variety. The reality is that it depends on the student, learning style, and task. Beth references her article in Edutopia (link at the top). Digitized notes allow you to save, archive, curate, and reference it easily later (via search tools). How often have we had a student put their English notes in their Science notebook? If that student could search his notes would that help him? Would that facilitate that asymmetric impact? We need to empower our learners. Can you save, search, and share your work?

Beth finishes up with the point that we need to find balance with using screens. There is a book called Screen Time by Lisa Guernsey. She argues that it’s about balance. Do we want kids watching 5 hours of Scoobie Doo every day? Probably not. However, it’s balance. The questions you should ask are: is it appropriate, meaningful, and empowering?

 

 

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.

Voice Comments on Google Drive With Kaizena

Google Drive is one of my favorite tools (in case you cannot tell). I love that it limits the paper use in my classroom, encourages collaboration, and allows me to give more meaningful and substantive feedback. One of my favorite features is the ability to provide vocal feedback via the third party application Kaizena.

Screenshot courtesy of Kaizena

Screenshot courtesy of Kaizena

Kaizena has just had a major upgrade/overhaul that makes it more stable and substantive. It also plays nicer with firewalls (so you can use it on campus). Kaizena allows you to login with your Google Credentials (no extra passwords). You simply highlight a section and record (just like leaving a traditional written comment).

One of the new features that I like is it allows you to attach a lesson or a video to a common problem – if you notice students struggle with a concept (such as formulating an effective thesis), you can simply attach an established video that you use to help clarify it (Kaizena will even remember that you do this). Such a time saver! If you would like to learn more about their updates, you can read their blog here. You can check out a demo of Kaizena (the older version) below:

Redefining the Writing Process

The last session I am attending is “Redefining the Writing Process” with Beth Holland and Samantha Morra. Beth highlights the idea we all have about writing – that it’s about paper and keyboarding. Beth wrote a great article about this at Edudemic, “5 Myths About Writing with Mobile Devices.”

Now that we’re in a 2.0 world, writing has become a Digital Process. We can use tools like Google Drive to provide simultaneous feedback or even use audio comments instead of written ones. I wrote about leaving Voice Comments in Google Docs.

hero_penultimateBeth highlights the fact that we now live in a world in which writing is becoming mobile. Not just in the sense that we can pick up and go with our material, but that we can use multiple tools to scaffold and create our pre-writing projects. Not just the output, but the input! For those that need to hand-write for thought and comprehension, you can use apps like Penultimate that allow you to incorporate it into other applications (like Evernote). In addition to written notes, you can also use voice tools like Siri to help you think about and reflect on your content. Using multiple modalities allows you to explore the writing process in multiple ways.

Sam is now speaking about the tool “Speak Selection” that can be helpful for students with learning differences. Students that are speaking back and forth with the iPad, including punctuation, involve greater interactivity with the writing process. Students have to slow down and think about various elements of writing that are normally silent. Ultimately, writing is about communication!

Another great way to use the iPad in the writing process is to MindMap. The iPad construction facilitates mind-mapping in a kinesthetic way. Students can map  out their writing visually, using gestures, incorporating various media, etc.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Effective writing is also collaborative. There are many tools that you can use to make writing more collaborative, the most popular is Google Drive but there are many others (I also love Evernote for this purpose). It allows users to peer edit, see revisions, make comments, and more. There are many more ways you can provide feedback. For example, you can provide feedback via screencasting (using tools like ScreenChomp or Explain Everything).

Apple has begun to ship all new iOS devices (including iPads) with Pages. Using the technique of App Smashing (thanks Greg Kulowiecek and the great write-up by Beth on “Unleashing Creativity: App Smashing“). Beth highlights that we need to get beyond the 8.5 x 11 mindset (as stated by Shawn McCusker). Yes, the five paragraph essay has its place but writing has become so much more than that. Sam highlights that these tools can also help us to assess our students’ work – turning on speech to text, for example, can help us to explore a student’s piece in a different way.

In addition to a traditional writing project, we can use lesson plans such as digital storytelling to demonstrate mastery. I did this recently with my students, having them make documentaries about US History. Incorporating imagery and sound makes the process more involved and allows students to demonstrate multiple intelligences.

Writing does not need to be a solitary experience. It can be collaborative (just like presenting, right ladies?). With tools like Book Builder and the internet, students can collaborate with people outside of their classroom and even in another country! By creating visual elements, there is a digital literacy component. This includes exploring copyright and faire use. So, Beth asks, these are videos and little to no text – is this a “writing assignment”? Beth then asks, what about this as a poetry unit?

Not only does it explore the traditional elements of poetry (structure, meter, etc), but incorporates multiple dimensions to further explore the topic. Beth says that the iPad with its multiple modalities and mobile elements allows for students and teachers to greater explore their work and the products of others.