Guest blogger Heather Moon describes how she uses Google Docs and Drive in her Spanish classes, the advantages for students and instructor alike and the technical/professional skills that are layered onto her traditional Spanish curriculum.
I use many different Google applications in my Spanish classes at Bryant University, but one of my favorites is Google Docs and Drive.
I love to play with technology, especially free and open-source technology, and I am always exploring new web apps to see whether I’d like to use them in my personal or professional life. Whenever I choose to adopt a new technology for my classes, my first question is always:
How the technology will benefit my pedagogy?
Since my primary goal for students–whether intermediate language students or majors taking a literature or culture course–is always language acquisition, almost all of my classroom technology usage centers on communication and collaboration technologies. I want to use technologies that allow students to communicate (in Spanish) more easily with me, with their classmates and, when appropriate, with the world beyond our campus.
Although I use Google Docs and Drive to some extent in all of my classes, it has proven to be most useful in our high-intermediate course, Reading and Writing. In this course we now use Google Drive as a Writing Portfolio.
Students in this course write daily: sometimes they spend 15 minutes reflecting individually on a reading passage, and sometimes they work collaboratively during an entire class period to produce a narrative piece in the past tense, but they are always writing. And now they do all of that writing in Google Docs and each of their writing assignments is organized into folders in Google Drive.
Students maintain their folders in Drive all semester, sharing them with me so that I can assess their work and, frequently, sharing with their classmates so that they can collaborate together on an assignment or for peer editing. It has become the ultimate communication and collaboration tool in our classroom. Students can collaborate with each other, and see each other’s changes in real time. They can have conversations about which vocabulary word works best in a sentence or how to make their conclusion stronger. They can learn from each other and help each other become better writers and speakers of Spanish. And, if they choose, they can share their folders with other professors or with potential employers who request a writing sample or with whomever else they would like, since they control all permissions.
For me, the benefits are greater flexibility in how and where I grade (since Google is available on every device I own) and the end of saving files, or more likely forgetting to save files and having the wrong version of a document. I can make comments and corrections directly on the Docs online and students see my work immediately. They can even respond to a comment that I’ve made to help me better understand what they were trying to say.
For students, the benefits include improved communication skills in Spanish, but also technology skills that they can then take with them into the workforce. I train the students on how to use Docs and Drive during the first week of classes, and there are always quick refreshers needed throughout the semester (which sometimes I give, but often the students are helping each other), but I don’t mind including this training into my course because it is all done in the target language. Students are receiving valuable input in the target language on a topic (technology) that they may not have gotten elsewhere in the curriculum. So, they are learning technology skills, and how to talk about those technology skills in Spanish, and becoming more proficient writers in Spanish. Win, win, win.
Heather Moon is a Lecturer in Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages at Bryant University. She is also a Certified Google Educator.