In the Spotlight: Joe Rein, of MVHS, using Google Docs

In this post, Joe Rein, English teacher at Mountain View High School, is showcased.  Joe has changed the writing process with his students, especially in regards to providing instant feedback to students through the use of Google Docs.  While Google Docs is not a new tool for most teachers, its practical and innovative use for the Feedback Loop is not always seen. Using the “Suggesting” and “Comments” function on his students’ Docs, he provides input to guide students in real-time.  Whether he is using this feature during class, or at 9:30 on a Thursday night, students are able to have an ongoing conversation with the teacher about their writing.

“The use of Google Docs changes the writing process from the individual student making a guess at my exact expectations based on a rubric into a collaborative process between me, him or her, and even their peers and sometimes… with their parents as well,” Mr. Rein explained.  “The best part about using Google Docs is that I can provide real time feedback on rough drafts and the writing process.”

Collaboration, a skill significantly valued by today’s most successful companies, is expertly facilitated through Joe’s Google Doc integration.  It also provides an authentic opportunity for personalized learning. “I can meet them right where they are at in the writing process rather than waiting for them to complete a full rough draft,” he stated.  Learning is interactive and deeper.  “Rather than a sit and get, where I tell them ‘here is how you write your paper, here is the proper format, and here is your rubric’ it instead becomes a process where I am analyzing and discussing their thinking with them in real time and they are participants in that discussion rather than receivers of less personal and interactive feedback. It also brings the focus away from purely content and back to the skills that develop critical thinkers.”

Mr. Rein mentioned a fantastic aspect of Docs, which allows for the teacher and student to look through version history and see all of the changes made in the process.  Students have responded well to this new style of the writing process.  “Students have given me overwhelmingly positive feedback,” Joe said. “You see them interacting with me much more during the writing process. When they respond to a comment, or make a change or changes and then ask me to take another look at it this tells me that they have become more engaged with the writing process.”  Best of all has been observing change from students passively changing their text based on teacher commentary to taking an active and engaged role in teacher feedback. “Essentially the dialogue that occurs allows for deeper learning and understanding of why we go through this process,” Mr. Rein explained.

Knowing that students are more engaged than ever in the writing process is a victory in itself.  But for Joe Rein, Google Docs has put students fully in control of their learning with the teacher simply facilitating the process.  Try this with your students, all that is needed is a internet-capable device and the students’ Google Drive.  When in doubt of how to manage the process, seek out Joe Rein, EdTech TSD, or other Google Doc teachers and find out how to make this work with your students.

By Joe Zappa

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