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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Use Google Drive to Host Online Discussions of Primary Sources

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 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 or by posting it in your Google Classroom.

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

176 Practical Ed Tech Tips

Twelve months ago I started to organize the ed tech tools tutorial videos that I've made over the years. I called the list Practical Ed Tech Tips. All year I've added a new video or two to the playlist. The Practical Ed Tech playlist now contains 176 videos.

In the playlist you will find videos about tools for flipping your classroom, videos on managing workflow, social media tips, search strategies, and media production. The playlist also contains videos about tools like Remind, Duolingo, ClassDojo, Classtools, Photos for Class, and many other popular web services for teachers and students. The entire playlist is embedded below.


You can subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified whenever I publish a new Practical Ed Tech tutorial video.

Try Presefy to Share Presentations to Your Students' Mobile Devices

Presefy is a neat service that you can use to share your presentations to your students' mobile devices. Through Presefy you can control your slides from your computer or from the browser in your iPad, iPhone, Android phone, or any other mobile device that has a web browser.  When you advance the slides in your presentation the slides also advance on your students' mobile devices. Your students can take notes as they follow along with your slides.

To share your presentations just create a Presefy account and upload a PPTX or PDF file. Your account is given a channel name and URL. Share that URL with your students, have them enter it into their browsers, and they can follow along as you advance your slides. Learn more about Presefy in the video below.


Presefy - Go Mobile with your Presentations from Presefy on Vimeo.


The free version of Presefy allows you to store two presentations at a time. You can delete and replace presentations in the free account.