By Mark Winegar on Thu, 09/27/2012
"No one person, no one alliance, no one nation, no one of us is as smart as all of us thinking together." - James Stavrdis
Natural Science students at Mount Marty College are required to complete a research project in their senior year. Each writes a research paper and presents their research to the Natural Science Division faculty and student body. It is a big deal!
Computer Science is part of this division so my students participated too. My students werestellar but our discipline is not known for scholarly writing and expections of them were low. Something had to change.
We discovered Google Docs. Google Drive, and it's predecessor Google Docs, provide free online collaborative word processing software with version control. That's just what the doctor ordered!
Most of my students already had gmail (Google mail) accounts. Some were even experimenting with Google Docs so it wasn't difficult to get them all onto gmail. Now, a gmail account is not required but it is very convenient when using Docs and Drive.
It wasn't difficult to convince them to use Google Docs either. Their files would be stored on the cloud so they could access them anytime and anywhere they had Internet access. Their files would be Microsoft Word compatible and they could download them to their computers anytime they wished. Besides, they shared a disdain for anything with the Microsoft brand.
The students had all learned to write college papers in accordance with the MLA Style Guide using Microsoft Word in their freshman year. Could they transfer their word processing skills to another program? In a word, YES but they didn't know that yet.
Once everyone was a Google user I announced their senior research papers would be written using Google Docs and shared with me so I could better serve them. They had one week to begin writing their rough drafts. They had no difficulties adapting.
Their transition was aided by the simplicity of the menus. Google's philosophy is to give users the features they really use rather than everything anyone might have imagined.
Version control is an added bonus. It automatically saves each version of a document as a separate file so recovery is fully supported should anything happened to an active version of the document.
I was able to read and comment on my students writing while it was in progress. Google color coded my comments so they were easy to distinguish. At times we actually saw one another making updates. This resulted in students focused on their researh questions and improved writing. The reputation of Computer Science students as members of the Natural Sciences Division improved on our small campus.
The Google Drive application suite also includes spreadsheet, presentation graphics, and survey apps. Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Drive are all free. There is even a free Google Drive app for the iPhone!
Sent from my iPad