Teacher Lee Briggs on technology in today's classroom. Brought to you by Weekly Reader.

Collaborating on Reports

Early in the year I experimented with different ways to get my kids to learn their vocabulary. I settled on having some way for the kids to demonstrate how their word was used rather than trying to bury them in examples of my own or learning the definitions by rote.

I tried once having each of them make a PowerPoint of their word, its definition and how it is used. However, being unable to watch each student as they made their slide created other problems. Too many children were slipping through the cracks and not understanding their own words, let alone creating a quality product to demonstrate to the class. Also, for anyone who has tried to have each student create a digital product, it was a headache to manage all those files, get names on them, check for completion and everything else.

At some point I went back to the drawing board and began using Google Documents for this. I had been using Google Docs for some time but had not used much more than the ‘forms’ feature to collect information from students. However, this time, I created a presentation (similar to PowerPoint) and gave each student their own page with spaces for their word, its definition, a sentence, and a picture to demonstrate the word. I then opened the document for sharing and allowed anyone who had the link to edit the document. I then made sure that said link is protected behind my password-protected Moodle page to avoid it being tampered with.

Students logged on and began editing their presentations. They then freaked out royally when they saw the other pages changing before their eyes, realizing that they were seeing each other’s work in real time. The plus side to this was that I could see them in real-time too. I could see all of their work and intervene when needed. Sure enough, many of them started to police each other, checking their peers when their slide didn’t make sense.

When the half-hour was over I could download the whole thing as a standard PowerPoint. I have their weekly vocab slides displayed now in a constant loop on my SMARTboard during work time. It’s a study aid they made together.

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