Google Document Collaborative Discussion


Student -> student collaboration / Assessment - general
 What I did

 Using a Google Doc, students can synchronously or asynchronously develop a collaborative document to summarize their ideas. Possible uses include:
  • share-out after in-class discussions (allowing anonymous posting of ideas or times when we are accountable)
  • summarize a class session or a unit (each team is responsible for one aspect of the summary)
    • Students create their own collaborative "study guide"
  • work together on a group project
 Why it helps students

 Students can work together on a specific product. Forums and chat rooms are sort of "artificial constructs" of education ("We post to the Moodle forum because it's part of our grade"). When students work together on a collaborative document, they are trying to produce something (a real product).

Classroom Tips

Structure the document: If all students are logging in at once (such as summarizing a team discussion during class), it is important that the instructor structure the document ahead of time so that everyone knows exactly where they are supposed to type. This structure lends itself well to jigsaw methods where each group is assigned one part of a document to create. Possible structures include:
  • Give each team/student their own bullet. Instructor pastes in student names ahead of time.
  • Give each team/student their own section. Use numbers for each section so that it's easy to count off and assign them.
Encourage comments: Make a few comments as an instructor as models and then teach students how to do it themselves.
    (highlight a section of text, go up to the Insert Menu and choose Comment.

Tech Tips

Create a new document:
  1. Go to
  2. Sign in with your gmail username and password
  3. Hit the red Create button and choose Document.
  4. Click on the name in the upper left (Untitled Document) and give your document a new name. It saves itself automatically!
Share and set permissions:
  1. Click on the blue "Share" button in the upper left.
  2. Click on the word "Change..."
  3. Click "Anyone with the Link"
  4. Find where it says "Access: Anyone (no sign-in required)" and change it to "can edit"
  5. Click Save.
  6. Click on the URL and copy it to the clipboard (easiest to use Command-C on a Mac or Ctrl-C on a PC)

Link to the document in Moodle:
  1. Turn editing on
  2. Find the section where you want to insert the link.
  3. From the "Add a Resource" drop-down, choose "Link to a file or website."
  4. Give the link a name that will appear on your Moodle page and then paste the URL from your clipboard into the "Location" box (easiest to use Command-V on a Mac or Ctrl-V on a PC.
tinyurl:  If you don't have a Moodle site but want an easy-to-share URL, use Paste in the URL and give it a short name. Click "Make Tiny URL."

 Approximate time commitment

Setup: 5-15 min / In class: 3-5 min overhead to open computers and navigate to the document the first time. Students get better with practice. /  Instructor out of class: None / Student out of class: None required, but could be used for out of class collaborative group projects.

 Works with

Mac / PC / Linux / Mobile phones (clumsy, but it can work)
 Supporting links

A video demo showing how to create one of these is here:

A quick clip showing this in action:

A completed Google Structured Doc:

 Parting thoughts and general reflection
This can work well because the environment is very familiar (a word processor program), so the learning curve for the instructor and the students is minimal. It's an extremely flexible collaborative tool.