research using google docs

I’ve been working with my kids to navigate the process of writing a research paper.

Apart from being required to keep a research binder in which they keep copies of source material, notes, class handouts etc… we’ve also been making extensive use of google documents.

Our first big mile stone is the annotated bibliography. Basically, for each source they plan to use, the kids need to turn in a write up that includes an MLA style citation and 150-250 word discussion of the source’s content, relevance to their research question, and scholarly credibility.

The assignment is broken into two halves: five sources due today, and 5 on Monday.

Students are allowed to turn in the work in paper form, in email (discouraged, but allowed) or by “Sharing” the document on google docs.
I, personally, prefer the shared docs. I can leave comments for the students that they can address in the document by “resolving” my comment.
This application of my just-in-time feedback allows for student’s to fix any errors and hopefully not repeat them as they add the final five sources to the annotated bibliography, due Monday.

This just-in-time feedback allows students to see and correct their own errors. But it is the nature of my feedback that allows them to actually learn from those corrections. Instead of just pointing out that there is an error – or correcting the error – I’ll point them to a resource they can use to see and correct the error. This shows up for the student as a comment to the side of their work and doesn’t interfere with their text.

Other benefits: it’s neater than my handwriting, I don’t have to carry around (and potentially loose or spill coffee on) a large stack of paper and it’s available to me and the student on any internet-connected computer (no loosing USB’s or emailed wrong versions.)

As we move into the other milestone assignments: introductions, outlines and the development of each movement of the paper I plan to use google docs in it’s most collaborative form to encourage peer feedback and real-time editing of their work during writing workshops.

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