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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Using Google Drive for Online Discussions of Primary Sources

This same information is included at the end of my slideshow on Teaching With Technology and Primary Sources, but I wanted to share it as a separate post as well just in case people had trouble accessing the linked document at the end of the slideshow.

One of my favorite ways to use the commenting feature in Google Documents is to host online discussions around a shared article. Doing this isn’t a radical departure from having a classroom discussion about an article that you’ve printed and distributed to your students, but there are some advantages to hosting your discussion in Google Documents. The first advantage is that your students can participate in the discussion from anywhere at any time they are connected to the Internet. Students absent from your classroom can still participate and can read others’ comments. The second advantage is that your students can have a digital archive of the ideas shared by you and their classmates.

Here’s the process that I use for hosting an online discussion about a primary source.
1. Find a digital copy, preferably in the Public Domain, of the primary source document that I want all of my students to read.

2. Copy and paste the primary source document into a Google Document.

3. Share the document with my students and allow them to comment on the document. I usually use the sharing setting of “anyone with the link” and then post the link on my blog. Alternatively, you could share by entering your students’ email addresses. See the screen captures below for directions on sharing.
Click for full size view.



Click for full size view.
4. I will highlight sections of the primary source document and insert a comment directly attached to the highlighted section. In my comments I will enter discussion prompts for students. They can then reply directly to my comments and each others' comments.

Using this process in a classroom that is not 1:1
If you teach in a classroom that is not 1:1 you can still take advantage of some of this process. Consider having one or two students play the role of note-taker in the Google Document while you are hosting your classroom discussion with all of your students reading the printed version of the article. Have your note-takers tie comments to specific parts of the article. When the activity is over, posted the final set of notes on your classroom blog by selecting “public on the web” in the sharing setting of the Google Document and then post the link on your classroom blog.

Shameless plug: More about this activity and many other uses of Google Drive in the classroom is included in my Practical Ed Tech webinar How To Use Google Drive in School

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