As teachers embrace digital tools for online learning, many online tools can enhance and facilitate the organization and delivery of courses. Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Slides, and Google Jamboard have the power to deliver more efficient and effective learning experiences. These digital tools can support professors as they organize course information while also enhancing student collaboration.
Google Docs is an easy tool to increase collaboration, but it is also a digital tool that can help organize courses via course schedules and syllabi. In the Google Doc Daily Course Schedule in Example 1, there are many organized links for in-class tasks. The course schedule is essentially a lesson plan for the daily instructional assignments that will be completed in class. When students miss class, they are referred to the course schedule and asked to make up the in-class course tasks. There are two graphics that are repeated on the schedule. A target graphic indicates the topic that will be addressed each day, and a purple assignment graphic indicates what assignments are due each class. In the course, there are three types of class sessions: full class with the professor facilitating instruction, teamwork sessions with students working collaboratively on a team project assignment, and individual work sessions where students work on their own. Full class sessions are represented on the schedule with a white background, teamwork sessions with a yellow background, and individual work sessions with a blue background. This color-coding helps students quickly identify the type of class.
Another face-to-face course consisted of a full-day session. Because this course was six hours of instruction for seven days, the course was organized into class sessions with chunks of time for class time and independent work. See Example 2: Full-Day Course Schedule. For convenience, hyperlinks were included at the top of the schedule to directly link to each day’s schedule. Similar to before, the schedule for the day included hyperlinks to syllabi and interactive class tools. Often, course content was adjusted due to sometimes including too many tasks in one session. Professors were able to quickly remove and adjust the schedule which automatically updated for the students.
Google Docs can be used to create a course syllabus. Often a syllabus has quite a few accreditation requirements that make it lengthy. In Example 3, there is a Table of Contents which is hyperlinked to sections within the syllabus making the document easier for students to manipulate. Also, there are hyperlinks to department documents and outside resources.
Google Sites allow, through either private (via sharing settings) or public access, the opportunity to share multiple informational elements within a single, visually pleasing location. Using the pages feature on a Google Site allows the professor the opportunity to create individual modules for each week of class. Within each page, it is possible to include various documents, videos, slides, checklists, and other relevant course materials for the week. If changes or updates to the curriculum are needed, the ease of Google tools allows for quick and immediate updates that are accessible to all students. In Example 4, one week of class is shown which includes slides, a document listing weekly requirements and how long each task should take students to complete, texts students will read, videos to extend understanding, links to assignments and their descriptions, and extension materials for those students wishing to glean even more from this week’s topic. Students appreciate the ability to scroll down and see all of their materials in a single location.
Technology integration allows for increased collaboration and socialization within learning. Whether teaching in-person or virtually, several Google tools support increased levels of discussion and creativity. Google Slides is one Google tool that can be used to promote cooperative learning in any face-to-face or virtual classroom. Google Slides is an intuitive and user-friendly tool that allows students to share their thoughts in ways that best exemplify their personalities. In Example #5, students each selected a few slides to work on independently. Afterward, peers reviewed the work of their colleagues and commented. As demonstrated in the example, students can share traditional text responses and peers can add feedback and extensions via the comments feature. The student will be immediately alerted via email when the comment is submitted so the conversation can continue in real-time.
Other students, as illustrated in Example #6, may choose to utilize more advanced technology skills within their slide and include videos (self-created or found online), images, or other elements. When using Google Slides as a means of promoting increased discussion and collaboration, differentiation occurs organically because students can create and interact at a level that meets their needs and level of comfort.
Sometimes learning requires even more freedom and flexibility for our students to explore content. Jamboard allows students to interact in ways similar to the Google Slides shown in the previous examples. Jamboard is essentially a blank poster board that students can enhance and create to demonstrate mastery of any skill or concept. With ease, students can include embedded sites, videos, images, shapes, or anything else they feel is appropriate.
Jamboard is conducive to mind-mapping and other types of graphic organizers as shown in Example 7. Students can use Jamboard to organize their thoughts in a way that makes the most sense to them and their thinking. In this way, Jamboard, like Google Slides, allows for organic differentiation of technological ability.
Google tools offer a variety of ways to increase productivity and streamline the dissemination of information to students. Google Docs and Google Sites allow professors the opportunity to showcase a broad array of materials effectively and easily to students in a single location. Google Slides and Jamboard afford face-to-face and virtual students the opportunity to engage in differentiated and meaningful discussions in real-time. The tools, when utilized effectively, allow for a more streamlined, organized, and dialogic experience for 21st century college students.
Dr. Rebecca Stobaugh is a professor at Western Kentucky University in the School of Teacher Education.
Dr. Erin Margarella is an assistant professor at Western Kentucky University in the School of Teacher Education.