instructional tech

Six Tips for a Successful Collaborative Student Doc

image from pioneer

Looking for a new way for students to collaborate while researching and taking notes?  Google Docs is a great way for students to create collaborative notes while researching a topic.  Students can access their research notes from anywhere and you as their teacher can monitor their work and progress.  You can view their progress by time stamp under file>see revision history.  It creates a collaborative working environment that they can work on at home, school, or anywhere they are online.

Collaborative group work takes a little organizing up front to ensure success. Here are six ways to set up your kids for amazing results when working together on a Google Doc.


  1. Group students in a way that makes the most sense.  For example, if you want your students to work in pairs have them name an A and a B.  This helps when giving the next directions.
  2. Have one person, A, create a document, name it, and then share it to their partners and you, the teacher with edit rights.  Naming conventions are important so have students put the last name of each group member in the title as well as the name of the assignment.  For example a title might look like this, Smith, Jones, Andrews, Biome Research. Allow group members to access their new shared document under the Share with me in their Google Drive.
  3. Create an organized example doc to project to the class and have students replicate it.  

    Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 3.52.13 PM
    example set up for researching biomes
  4. Use tables as a way to organize information. Simply insert a table and give it some headers to keep student work organized. This also helps to clarify who will be doing what. As students type their findings into the table it will expand.  
  5. Have each student choose a color and a font in which to type.  Again, this helps everyone know who is who and colors help the brain decipher information.  
  6. Encourage students to use Google Drawing instead of simply copying images off the web onto their document. Google drawings can be found under Insert>Drawing on the doc.  


One middle school teacher used this method in her science class.  Her students were excited to be able to easily collaborate using Google.  I overheard two students excitedly exclaim, “I am going to work on this tonight and we can use the chat feature!”   

There are always unexpected teaching opportunities and outcomes, when teachers try something new with their students.  For this lesson the teacher discovered that it created the opportunities to teach digital citizenship, respect for others work, copyright rules and law, as well as learning to accept constructive criticism.  Do you have unique ways that you use Google Docs with kids beyond a simple word processing tool?  Please share your examples or ideas here or tweet them to @jennyktechin!





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