Our school has moved to a being a Google Apps school. Every student and faculty member has been assigned a Google Apps account which is protected within the domain of our school. We have all had at least one formal training session and have been assigned the task of using it and improving our instruction and ability to communicate and share with each other: student to teacher, student to student, teacher to teacher, et al.
This week marked our first attempt at using Google Docs in my Creative Writing classroom. My 8th grade students are attempting the Nanowrimo challenge (the Young Writers Program) and have been hammering away at their individual novels for about 10 days now.
I asked the students to write in Google Docs. This way they are able to access their writing very easily from home or school no matter which type of computer they have in either location. So far so good.
Today I blocked aside some peer editing time. We used a computer lab and I had students "share" their novel with another in the class. I told them who to "share" with. They took ten minutes to skim the story and leave comments. The comment feature is really useful and easy. All one has to do if highlight a word, a line, portion of text and then under "View" select "Leave Comment." A little post-it note pops up and you can type in your thoughts. It leaves a signature as to who left which comment.
As the students were editing, I was also able to see and comment on every story in my class, even while another student was commenting on the same story. Great feature.
Aside from "sharing" and "commenting" we also tested the Forms function today. I set up a simple form which asked the students to summarize their novel in two sentences. As they did and submitted it they were also able to pull up a spreadsheet and every summary in class began to pop up in front of their eyes in real time as others submitted. Now, everyone can see every novel summary. We are definitely going to continue to work with this feature during class discussion and homework.
I'm going away this weekend and don't necessarily need to lug a pile of papers with me...but the Google Docs function allows me to continue to comment on student work simply from a laptop.
I've been most impressed with ability to provide instant feedback to a student as he/she does not have to wait for me to hand back papers in order to see the comments.