To Collaborate or Not Collaborate?

Collaborative Google Slides are awesome; however, I argue that students should learn the tech skill and understand digital citizenship before they work as a whole class  or in a small group.

The first time students work in Google Slides, teachers should assign the Google Slide template as "Make a copy for each student" in Google Classroom. Yes, student collaboration is an end goal, but some skills, both technology and student digital citizenship, must be taught before students can effectively collaborate.

I speak from experience. During my first month of teaching this year, I had my students complete two collaborative Google Slides presentations. My English classes completed an Introduce Yourself First Week Activity Google Slide while my Journalism class wrote a Thank You, Mr. Zach Ewing after the Sports Editor of the Bakersfield Californian visited our class. Below is the published Thank You letter.

If all we ever do with Google Classroom is assign worksheets via Google Docs, Slides, and Spreadsheets, then we are merely substituting an inexpensive notebook with an expensive piece of technology. Collaboration is Why, as in The Importance of Why we use technology in the classroom. This being said, we cannot jump into collaborating until after students have the how to down.

Here are a few problems that I, a very experienced English & technology teacher experienced during my first two collaborative Google Slides lessons of the year -

  1. Students worked on the same slide when they were asked to add an individual slide.
  2. Students accidently deleted someone else's slide. 
    • I then had to go to Revision History and Restore this version.
  3. A few students violated digital citizenship and purposely wrote rude comments.
Trust me, I handled the last example promptly, and it was a perfect moment to teach digital citizenship; however, researching a collaborative Google Slides revision history is difficult if you have 35 students. And that "troll" comment? It came from a top Honors student who thought he could out hack me! Yeah, right!

I believe that we should teach students how to use Google Slides before students work collaboratively on one class document. Students need to know, either by direct instruction, or better yet, exploration -
  1. How to Add a new slide
  2. How to change a slide's Layout if they make a mistake
  3. Graphic design rules such as 
    • dark background requires a light font color & vice versa 
    • insert a solid shape to make words or pictures stand out
    • insert images from Google Search from within Google Slides
    • add more fonts to create an aesthetically pleasing slide
  4. The importance of ownership and pride in work
  5. Digital citizenship and why we do not destroy a colleague's hard work
  6. Etc  . . 
Once students have been taught key skills, by all means, move onto collaboration! 

I must admit that student work greatly improved on the Journalism class's Thank You letter when I praised student work and showed them a few skills as students viewed each slide on their own screen. And, then, a student accidently deleted their slide or all slides (this did happen). I had to demand that everyone stop working so that I could review the Revision history and Restore to a previous version. 

Do you see why I insist that students learn tech skills before they start collaborating together?

Next Saturday, I will present Student Publishing with Google Slides at the Bakersfield GAFE Summit. I will recommend the following scaffolding for students by assigning Google Slides  a minimum of three times during the semester:
  1. Topic 1 - Create an assignment in Google Classroom with "Make a copy for each student" selected.
  2. Topic 2 - Create an assignment in Google Classroom with "Make a copy for each student" selected but only one student opens the document.
    • The one student then Shares the file with their small group by clicking Share and typing their group member's email address.
    • The group members then click on About and open the class Google Drive folder.
    • The group members click on Shared with me to find the collaborative Google Slides file.
  3. Topic 3 - Create an assignment in Google Classroom with "Students can edit file" selected.
    • Have fun!!!!! 
You may or may not need this scaffolding for your students. Your students may be more mature than my junior school students. Your students may have more technology skills. The only way to find what which method is best for your students is to try it.

Just remember, rushing to collaborate just to brag that your students are collaborating is not the wisest decision. Technology should not create learning obstacles and headaches in your classroom; rather, technology should only be used when it enhances academic learning.


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