On any given day in the classroom, our time is spent shuffling papers. All of us shuffle: students, teachers, administrators. So much paper, so much shuffling. When our students are in the process of completing projects, we shuffle even more papers, or folders, or notebooks. During projects, we like to see how our students are progressing, and we suggest revisions, and shuffle it all back and forth again and again. When we are dealing with 150+ students, that’s a lot of shuffling. Lots of trees.
I’m becoming an anti-shuffler.
One of my favorite projects for my tenth graders comes at the end of the school year as we are reading Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, called the Discover Family Project. It involves 5 writing efforts completed over several weeks. When each piece of the project is due, the students present that portion to the class. In the past, when students finished their presentation, they handed in what they’d written. I’d suggest revisions, then hand it back so they could revise and compile all the writings into a final copy of the entire project. As you know, a lot of shuffling is required for a project like this. If there is no movement in paper handling, the work sits idle and incomplete in the student’s backpack or on your desk, accomplishing nothing, accumulating only stress.
There is a way to keep everything in one place. Think of this tool as a project manager that takes over the task of distribution, even allows flexibility in the way that materials are distributed.
Set up a spreadsheet on Google Docs such as this one for the Discover Family Project. Before anything is filled in, it is a template. Click the publish button, and place the link on your website. Have your students go to the site, right-click select all, and make a copy for themselves. This eliminates the step where you make 150+ copies of the project timeline and pass them out.
As the students write their papers in Google docs, they will click the publish button to produce a web link, which they add to the column on the spreadsheet. You will click on that link, read their work, and suggest revisions. After they revise, you will review for the final grade.
Distribution flexibility comes in two ways: (1) your students can make their spreadsheets public, and select to have you notified by email when changes are made; (2) your students can email their spreadsheets to you whenever they make a change. You decide which option you are most comfortable with. This eliminates the steps where you collect their papers for each step of the project and hand them back.
Life presents plenty of opportunities for shuffling; Education 2.0 provides ways to diminish it.
More on Google docs and lesson plans: