Tools, Apps & Texts

Google Docs for K-5 Word Processing (2009)

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…students can pick up any connected computer, anywhere and continue working.

Several classes at PS 124 have been using Google Docs for word processing for the past few weeks. Google Docs is a program that performs the basic functions of an office program like Microsoft Word, but the major difference is that it is accessed on the Internet. Having this free word processor online allows students to access their documents from any computer that is connected to the Internet. The ability to access school documents from Macs or PCs, at school or at home, is revolutionary for technology integration at schools, who are routinely faced with limited computer maintenance, and are rarely equipped with shared file servers.

What this means in schools:

  • when a laptop battery dies…
  • when a computer freezes…
  • when a computer is not connected to a printer…
  • when the Mac laptop cart is not available, but the Dell laptops cart is…
  • when a student is absent, but has a computer at home…

…students can pick up any connected computer, anywhere and continue working.

One more nice thing: this program helps keep students from accidentally losing their typed work because it keeps a “revision history” that allows a user to go back to any previous draft in a document’s existence and use what’s there.

Examples of Google Docs in action at PS 124

  • Ms. Abodeely’s 3rd grade class created video tutorials for students and teachers on the basics of logging in and opening a new document in Google Docs. Some of her students have worked on papers from home, and their tutorials were used in an introductory lesson for the 2nd grade.
  • Mr. McRae’s 3rd grade class typed personal narratives in Google Docs, then posted them to the school website.
  • Mr. Conrad is teaching 5th graders in his technology classes to use the program fluently — logging in, creating folders, managing files, using keyboard shortcuts and reinforcing basic web and typing skills in the process.
  • Ms. Caputo’s 5th graders have created online folders for storing each student’s written pieces, and used the program to write, and collaboratively edit, their pieces before printing for their bulletin boards. Here’s a quote from their board:

“To publish our pieces, students utilized Google Documents. We edited the pieces together online, using the projector so everyone could see the writing pieces clearly. Students contributed corrections to each others’ work and Ms. Caputo taught some new skills like how to use punctuation in dialogue.”

Additionally, the technology committees at PS 124 and PS 130 are using Google Docs to collaborate on planning documents online, for example 124’s literacy consultant will be experimenting with collaborative editing of online curriculum maps in Balanced Literacy Team planning sessions. I’m using it to create logs, reports and support resources for teachers that I can access from any school and share with my collaborators when needed. When I make changes to a document, the collaborators see them instantly.

This is a powerful new tool that can provide teachers and students more options for integrating word processing into the classroom. If a school has a reliable Internet connection, it can reduce the many potential file management and maintenance obstacles that can pop up on a single computer. The use of Google Docs also inherently ties 21st Century skills — navigating the Internet, and logging in and participating in an online community — into basic word processing. It’s a win-win example of how free online software can work in the diverse computing environments in schools and help in the development of 21st Century learners.

More about Google Docs: