The first time I asked students to submit papers to me as a shared Google Doc instead of an attachment, I sensed their reticence. The reticence was not because these IB diploma candidates in the capstone epistemology course I was teaching for them did not know how to do that. These digital natives felt that sharing the document was akin to friending me on Facebook. It was as if the action were too intimate.
One young woman said, “I think I would prefer to email you an attachment.”
When I asked her why, she said, “I want it to be done. If we share it, I feel like it’s not over.”
Exactly. That was what I was hoping for. Writing for a student should not be a finite process. The sharing of documents in the cloud offers us the opportunity to insert multiple feedback loops into the work of our students.
This post was inspired by this blog post by Steve Wheeler in which he uses the metaphor of the Hanoi Puzzle, solved by destruction and re-creation, to describe student work on a wiki. Steve encourages students to work collaboratively on their writing through wikis and elegantly describes this social process. I would suggest that the commenting and text alteration features of a Google Doc serve the purpose of shared writing better than most wikis.
Now that I have read Steve’s post, I will include students in the feedback loop for their peers. Maybe it is no longer intimate if more than one person is watching.