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A description of the technology

Since it's launch in 2005, Google Docs has evolved from an online text and spreadsheet processor to a suite of online products including the original spreadsheet and document processor but with added drawing, presentation and form facilities. Users are not only able to create and upload documents and files, they are able to share, convert and collaborate with other users in real-time.

"Google Docs enables multiple people in different locations to collaborate simultaneously on the same document from any computer with Internet access" (Google Support, 2012) making this technology invaluable to team or group members of all kinds. By allowing users to collaborate and share files in real-time, the processes of attaching files to emails or faxing images back and forth are over. Users have fast access to documents from anywhere in the world, can edit these documents and then review the edit history to see the other changes that have been made to that document.

A Google email and login, as well as Internet access, is required to access Google Docs. This can be obtained by either creating a Google Mail account or connecting your current email service to Google Mail. The user is presented with a Documents List which is individual to each user unless files are being shared with other users. On this Documents List, the user is shown all the Google Docs, Drawings, Spreadsheets, Forms and Presentations they have created, edited and which are being shared. There are search, upload and preview options available.

Google Documents is "an online word processor that lets you create and format text documents, and collaborate with other people in real time" (An overview of Google Docs, 2012) Google Documents provides users with the capabilities to change and add to their fonts, colours, margins and images. It is also possible to translate an entire document into another language and chat to other collaborators in real-time.

Google Spreadsheets also allows users to create and format spreadsheets, as well as create charts. Google Presentations give users the opportunity to present their work in a creative way as they can import presentations from Microsoft PowerPoint and also embed their presentations in websites and insert images and videos into their slides. Google Drawings gives users the choice to express themselves with flow charts and diagrams or scribbles and doodles,.They can insert their drawings into presentations or documents and collaborate on the one drawing with different users.

Strengths of Google Docs

  • 50 people can edit the same document at the same time. Students can all work on the same documents without having to wait for each other to edit and save.
  • Collaborative Learning Space in real time.
  • Documents can be shared with up to 200 people. Imagine what 200 people could contribute!
  • Fantastic tool with a broad array of possibilities for creating digital portfolios.
  • Can be utilised as an assessment tool as you can see who contributed to the work and their contributions
  • Documents can be transposed into alternate languages. This can allow for trans-continental collaboration.
  • Students can create and import documents, presentations, drawings, spread sheets and forms within the one collection / portfolio.
  • Teacher and students can see and revert to previous document revisions.
  • Safe and secure learning space for the students. Setting the sharing settings will enable the teacher to set who can see and edit the documents.
  • Work can be uploaded and shared on the web.

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Examples of current classroom application or professional use by teachers or school administrators and Ideas about potential classroom applications or professional use of the application by school educators and administrators.

It is an assumption in this document that people understand what cloud computing is. Behrend, T. Wiebe, E. London, J. Johnson, E. (2010, p231) describe this as “software applications or other resources that exist online and are available to multiple users via the Internet, rather than being installed on a particular user’s computer”. Therefore you can use your applications theoretically on any computer that has Internet access.

Google Docs has come a long way in the last seven years. Initially at its conception it was really just a word processor that people could share and edit together in real time as a “web 2.0 application”. Dekeyser and Watson (2006) examined this technology back at its start and found it to be a good tool that allowed people to collaborate wherever they may be in the world in real time. Issues that were identified were that formatting was lost, data was only saved every 30 seconds and you were not able to work offline. Even with these short comings Dekeyser and Watson (2006) found that it was still worth persisting with the technology.

Weiss (2007), at the same time informed us that this new technology threatened the way we traditionally used computers. Then Carr, also at this time predicted that Google and Apple would partner up together to create a cloud computing future with a lightweight device that would tap into it. This came true with respect to the creation and success of the ipad and other similar cloud like devices. Google has its own ipad equivalent that it will soon start selling to the rest of the world. Education is one of their key markets.

Since 2006 Google docs has continued to change and improve itself with what it offers us as users of its technology. As such Google Docs is still one of the best ways to work collaboratively with a group of people working on the same document. Importantly the weaknesses have been addressed. Data is mostly saved as you type, formatting is better and you can now work offline. Added to that the latest features allow you to share and create drawings, presentations, forms (including feedback/surveys), and spreadsheets.

The advantages are now starting to outweigh any disadvantages to the point that people in the education field need to be examining how they can start to utilize these new tools. Behrend, T. Wiebe, E. London, J. Johnson, E. (2010, p231) “With its emphasis on the delivery of low-cost or free applications anywhere on the internet, cloud computing is a promising prospect for educational institutions faced with budget restrictions and mobile student populations”. Google says according to a US News and World report that 66 of the top 100 schools are using Google Apps.

Some examples of the uses according to Google are (at a university level):
  • To create and track spreadsheets on the progress of training programs
  • To work on presentations together, without having to physically be together. An example on Google talks about people working from home without having to get cold by meeting up in a library somewhere.
  • One group of people used Google docs for a resident checkout process for staff management purposes.
  • Creating surveys

Some examples according to Google from K-12 are:
  • For creating an assessment and management system (teacher). All children create all of their work online in Google docs and as such submit all of work through Google docs.
  • Main Township High school (five schools) migrated 7,000 accounts to Google Apps and reclaimed $35,000 in their budget. People found the change easy and the Google environment to be instinctive to use. The children all work collaboratively together. Work now occurs not only in the class, but also from homes.
  • Clarkstown District School in NY, USA mention advantages of constructing lessons plans and units together, making their teaching better.
  • NYC IS339 has doubled math’s performance, built engagement and saved their budget. Google docs is used for curriculum planning, data analysis, and teacher feedback. Students use it with teachers to help with editing and still work from home when they are sick. This school also has a mentoring program in place where mentors are assigned to help and coach other students with feedback. Even parents are more involved than ever before. Google docs provided this school with meaningful collaboration between teachers and students.

The future of Google docs is not well documented in education papers. What information is available is largely out of date and not backed up with reputable sources. From researching this product it is envisaged that the future of Google docs will be linked to the success of it greater product range, mainly being that of Google Apps (which Google docs comes under) and the success of the Chromebook. The Chromebook is Googles solution to low cost computing. Google docs has so much offer everyone in education. The question as to whether Google Docs does have a future in education will be linked to it being perceived as easy enough for technology resistant teachers to consider why they should give it go.

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Links to relevant resources that help to expand our knowledge about this application and its use in school classrooms

http://www.google.com/educators/activities.html - Some example classroom activities developed by international educators. Featured activities range age levels and provide tips and tricks for teachers.

http://educationtechnology-theoryandpractice.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/google-docs-for-teachers-and-classrooms.html - Provides a series of useful websites in regards to Google Docs in the classroom.

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A lesson plan for the mock class, outlining the intended target age group, learning objectives, learning and teaching strategies, assessment strategies.

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The above attachment is a lesson plan that is intended to be utilised as the beginning lesson in a unit of work based on Space and beyond. It incorporates many facets of integrated studies by including ICT, science, literacy, maths, geography, arts and interpersonal skills.

We believe that this lesson and the following unit utilises Google Docs to its maximum capacity, with students exploring, discovering and learning the breadth of the capabilities and opportunities offered to them within the program.

The ‘New Learning’ paradigm which was developed by Mary Kalantizis and Bill Cope (2008) advocates that the “21st Century classroom curricula needs to be actively immersed in technology, where inquiry is at the centre of curriculum design” (Sanjakdar, 2009, p. 65). ‘New Learning’ needs to be highly student centred and incorporates the students’ learning needs, expectations, interests and motivations which when implemented successfully will lead to constructive meaning making, unravelling of a deeper learning and development of higher order thinking skills. We believe that our lesson and subsequent unit within Google Docs successfully meets this model of learning.

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A description of the feedback strategies used in your workshop and a summary of the nature of that feedback and how you would modify your approach in light of the feedback.

Our feedback was gathered through two feedback forms / questionnaires created within Google docs. One was delivered in the middle of the professional development session and one at the completion.
The information provided to us was automatically transferred into a spread sheet through Google Docs, where we were able to read and reflect on the information contained within it. Once the feedback was gathered, we were able to consider what modifications we could make to our lesson and or our PD session

We wrote the questionnaire to gauge our peers thoughts and feelings on our mini PD and the program Google docs as a learning tool in our future classrooms. The feedback reflected the following:

The first questionnaire showed us:
  • That most people were enjoying the activity and would like to use Google Docs in their future classrooms. They also provided us with ideas on how to improve the activity in future such as sizing the planets correctly and adding facts in with the picture.
  • People enjoyed that the activities were interactive, engaging and collaborative.
  • Some peers found it difficult to work in groups as they found it to be ‘boring’ and not ‘authentic learning’.
  • Google Docs does in fact have a place in the classroom.

The final feedback reflected to us:
  • The majority of people found the PD informative.
  • The majority of people would utilise Google Docs in the future.
  • The majority of people enjoyed the presentation.
  • Some peers would have liked more information on each of the steps. Time was an issue however, and this impacted on what information could be delved into.
  • Peers wanted to create their own documents to make it more meaningful.
  • Log-in issues presented with unwanted issues.
  • Google Docs creates and fosters a collaborative learning environment.
  • The majority of people felt that after the presentation, they could see themselves utilising it in their future classrooms.
  • Google Docs could be confusing with a large group of students using it.

The feedback from both of the questionnaires was generally positive. Although we could change some parts, considering the time we had we would probably keep it the same with the exception of ensuring that people had access to the program before the PD started. We could consider having more basic steps and showing people how to create a page, but again for this to be achievable, more time would be required for the presentation.

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