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Google Docs: Transition Traditions

How do teachers move from traditional to transitional teaching?

Traditional Teacher Centered Rows

Traditional teaching (left) keeps the teacher in front of the class guiding the lesson. Transitional teaching (right) moves teacher and students into more open-ended and collaborative work with students. The goal, I believe, is to guide all students into self-directed learning. The key words are guide and self-directed: as we know, kids’ brains are not fully developed even at age eighteen; that means their decisions for what is best are not always well-planned nor well-chosen. Even though today’s technology provides the stage for students to choose what, when, where, and how to learn, they may not always make the best choice for their futures. Hence, the teacher still guides. We are in transition from teacher-centered to student-centered, or rather learning-centered classrooms.

In my post, Google Apps in Education Collaboration, I explained a collaborative real world writing project whereby students created their reflective “Thank You” for our outdoor education day. Yet, in the day-to-day of my classroom, what happens? How can I maintain this transition to the kind of learner tomorrow’s world needs: a learner who can consider, critique, communicate, collaborate, and create?

Literacy 5 Cs

For our Thanks Project, we considered all we had learned during our Owhi Lake Day workshops. We critiqued what worked and what didn’t. We communicated on the slides our reflections. Then students collaborated as editors to add photos and edit ideas and errors. Together, we created our Thank You Presentation, which several students presented.

We could have completed these activities on paper, including the conversations and collaboration. However, our Google Presentation allowed students to simultaneously communicate their reflections on slides. Students collaborated in pairs on editing. Projecting the slides on the screen, we collaborated on appropriate pictures and final editing. We created the drafting, editing, and final presentation on one document together in far less time and more professionally than to draft, recreate in final form, and collate a final hand-created project.

The technology allowed us to practice and apply skills: speaking, listening, critiquing, drafting, editing, organizing, design. Jason Ohler explains the importance of these skills:

“Currently, many media collages are based on the four components of “the DAOW of literacy”: Digital, Art, Oral, and Written. Being able to understand and blend the best of the old, recent, and emerging literacies will become a hallmark of the truly literate person. Of the four components of the DAOW, oracy—the ancient literacy of speaking and listening—deserves much more focus than it currently receives. It is central to many of the media collage forms currently in wide use, including storytelling, narrated documentaries, movies, PowerPoint presentations, and even games and virtual realities. And it is central to leadership as well. After all, we often look for evidence of leadership in the way that people speak to others.”

Throughout this project, students were constantly collaborating: listening to each other and considering the inclusion, omission, and organization of ideas and images. That’s key to our work in Google Docs.

As writing teacher, I know students need to learn traits and styles of quality writing from ideas and word choice, to introductions and conclusions. I know to guide them in these. So, the question remains: How can I maintain this transition to the kind of learner this world needs? a learner who can consider, critique, communicate, collaborate, and create? a learner who can combine the digital, artistic, oral and written components of literacy?

In teaching traits, styles, organization, etc., I include the social and thinking traits of learning: consider, critique, communicate, collaborate, and create. For example, after analyzing and practicing group models of introductions and conclusions to establish the criteria for excellence, we applied our learning as a collaborative experience.

The Cove AssignmentI created these directions in Google Docs, making digital copies of the document and sharing with students. Students worked in pairs chosen at random on one of the documents. First, the pairs read the body of an essay. They considered the main ideas of the essay and brainstormed ideas and examples that would best introduce and conclude the essay. They critiqued their own ideas and collaborated on writing the introductions and conclusions. They self-evaluated their work. As a class, we critiqued each piece, considering the pros and cons of good introductions and conclusions, offering compliments to the traits and styles of writing shared by the pairs of students in their documents. The conversations  — the listening, considering, and critiquing — enhanced the learning while the tool — Google Docs — allowed the conversations and composition to occur seamlessly: no difficulty reading handwriting, no one waiting while another wrote by hand; everything is accessible and visible for analysis and input on the ideas in the Google Document at their computer and later projected on-screen in whole class discussions (no need to transfer files). When students now create their own essays or photo essays, the art part will also be included. However, the conversation and composition will be paramount.

As a classroom teacher, I am moving with my students from a traditional style teacher into a transitional teacher. And new traditions are forming… How could Google Apps transition you and your students?



“The Adolescent Brain.” University of California – Science Today | The Adolescent Brain. Web. 19 Jun 2010. <;.

Update 2018: Now found here: When Does the Brain Stop Maturing? on SoundCloud

Ohler, Jason. “Orchestrating the Media Collage.” Educational Leadership 66.6 (2009): 8-13. Web. 18 Jun 2010. <>.

Sheri Edwards View All

Geeky Gramma ~~
Retired Middle School Language Arts/Media Teacher ~~
Writer and Thinker~~
Art from the Heart

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