Yesterday, Google facilitated the Education On Air Conference, a virtual conference for educators focused on and around Google Apps for Education, featuring their master teachers. I sat in on a few sessions – Managing Digital Portfolios w/ Google Tools from Kern Kelley, and The Paperless Classroom with Google Docs from Eric Curts. Both sessions were great, and both spelled out and reinforced a great process or workflow for teachers and students to easily and successfully use Google Docs for every day work, for group projects, and for digital portfolios.
I have a few teachers that have gone down this road of using Google Docs exclusively for student work, and their Docs/Drive inboxes have exploded with student work – and has been a struggle for them to manage. What I learned yesterday, and what I’ll outline below will make their lives easier, and will help me make the lives of the teachers that will follow this path much easier from the start.
Here’s the bullet points for success, and then I’ll explain each in detail below:
- Digitize student work, and store it all in Google Docs/Drive
- Students create collections or folders for their work, and share that folder with their teachers.
- Teachers create collections or folders for documents to share with students
- Teachers create an ‘Assignment Hand-In’ Form for students to submit both information about the assignment as well as the link to the assignment.
With this workflow in place, it’s fast and seamless for students to turn in their work, and for teachers to manage and grade the mountain of student work.
Now, let’s see how it all works…
Digitize Student Work
No matter what a student does, it needs to end up in a digital form, and then saved in their Google Docs/Drive space. All of your students will obviously need a Gmail account – either directly from Google or through a school/district Google Apps domain.
Digitization is a breeze for any sort of document, presentation or spreadsheet by working directly in Google Docs, but what about math homework or artwork? Enter the cell phone camera or a web-cam connected to an accessible computer! Students snap a photo of the work, and save that file in Google Drive/Docs. If it’s a skill in PE, acting in a play, or any other physical activity, capture a video and upload it to YouTube. Anyting that a student does can be quickly and easily digitized with the right tools.
With all of their work available in Google Docs, students will have a complete record of their own learning. Their best work can/should eventually end up in a Digital Portfolio, but let’s just stick with the Paperless Classroom workflow for now. Students create a folder or collection for each of their subjects (which can be later organized by school year) with a standard naming scheme: Subject/Period – Last, First or something similar. Then, they share this folder with their teacher with edit rights. Now, when it comes time to ‘hand in’ their homework, all they need to do is to drag the file/document from their Google Docs list to the appropriate folder. Since the folder is shared, the file is automatically shared with the teacher!
On the teacher end, they can organize these shared folders in Google Docs however they’d like – by school year, subject, or period. Just create a folder, and drag the shared student folders into it – since you used a naming convention, it’s all automatically organized alphabetically by the subject or student name. No more long, long, long list of student work!
Folders/Collections for Teachers
Obviously, teachers often need to hand out assignments or documents to students. To help make this instant and paperless, teachers should make two folders to share with their students.
The first is a ‘Hand Out’ folder with View Only rights. Here’s where you’ll put documents and/or assignment templates for students to access and view – and you don’t need to share it with EVERY student EVERY time. If it’s an assignment template, the students can use ‘File –> Save a copy’ to save the assignment outline to their own Google Docs to edit. Make sure that if you do share a document this way that students rename it from ‘Copy of Assignment 1’ to ‘Last, First Assignment 1’ to make viewing/grading easier later.
The other folder is a folder that will contain editible documents for collaborative papers and presentations that you’d like all of your students to be able to access and edit. Share it with your students with their email addresses, and give full Edit rights. Now, any document that is in that folder, students will automatically have access to!
Assignment Hand-In Form
This last step is an extra step for your students, but it is the last piece to really making management and grading easy for teachers. Create a new Form in Google Docs with the following items:
- Class Period or Subject (You can make a new form for each class, or use a ‘choose from a list’ question type for this for all of your classes)
- Quarter/Semester (optional)
- Last Name
- First Name (If you teach elementary, you may want to add all of your students in a ‘choose from a list’ question type)
- Assignment Title/Name (Can be a text type, or a ‘choose from a list’ type if you are that organized)
- Link/URL for the Assignment
Assignment link/URL? Students can publish their work with a copule of clicks so that anyone with the link can access the document. They do this by clicking on the big blue ‘Share’ button on the top right of every Google Doc. The document will list ‘Private’ for access, and the student below as the owner. Click the ‘Change..’ link next to Private, and choose ‘Anyone with the link’ and save.
Students will still need to ‘turn in’ the assignment by adding it to their shared class/subject folder with you, so why you need the assignment link in this form? The form will allow you to sort the contents by any of the fields or questions asked, and the link will allow you to quickly access that assignment right in the form spreadsheet – without needing to go to each students folder, finding the correct assignment, and opening it up.
With the Assignment Hand-In spreadsheet, you can sort by name, assignment, class – whatever to group the work as you like, access the student’s work with a single click to make your comments or edits, close the assignment and instantly access the next one. You can even add in your own information in the cells to the right with notes, grades or scores – as long as you don’t add columns to the left or change the information gained from the form, you’ll be fine.
This form/spreadsheet brings this whole process and workflow together and wraps it with a bow.
Student Digital Portfolios
With all student work digitized, available and easily shared in Google Docs/Drive, the creation or showcase of a student’s best work is now a relatively simple task. Using free online tools such as Google Sites or Posterous, student can share and link to their very best work for this year and for the school years to come. This portfolio can not only serve as a showcase for students, parents, and teachers but could also be quite useful when student apply for a job or attempt to get into the college of their choosing. All of the hard work of collecting and organizing student work is done naturally in th
e process outlined above. All that is left is to identify the students best and linking to it on their own web site.
Going Paperless with Google Docs PowerPoint:
Going Paperless with Google Docs Presentation in PDF:
Again, I have to thank the fine folks who presented at the Google Education On Air Conference. Below are links to the resources and information that they shared with myself and the other conference attendees to help them both make Student Digital Portfolios something easy to accomplish and to get us to the promised land of the Paperless Classroom.