Sunčana's wiki on using GoogleDocs in a learning context
Contemporary educational approaches which underline the importance of collaborative knowledge construction require applications that facilitate the collective production of knowledge, in real time and from different locations.
Use of GoogleDocs in a learning context
In a learning context, GoogleDocs can be used by a group of students who collaborate on a project which involves creating one or more of the most common knowledge artifacts: word documents, spreadsheets or presentations. In the GoogleDocs online environment a group of students can share the editing rights to several documents, which they either uploaded from their local computers or create from scratch. All the group members can work on the same document from different locations. A history of revisions helps not only to track the changes that have been made, but also provides information about their authors and allows any of the earlier versions of the document to be reverted back to. When a document is completed it can be saved to a student’s local computer in a variety of different file types, published as a web page, or posted to a blog.
• Ability of anytime/anywhere 24/7 access to the most recent version of the document.
• Ability for tutors to identify contributions of individual students.
• Ability to keep all versions of a document.
• Ability to use the GoogleDocs chat feature to discuss a document, slide, spreadsheet while editing (in real time).
My personal experience with GoogleDocs in a learning context
Two years ago, at University of Zagreb Medical School (within the framework of the European Union Tempus Project “Standardization in teaching of Medicine”  ) we developed a student-centered virtual learning environment (Interactive Educational Medical Center – InterMeCo  )to provide national educational services for designing and delivering undergraduate online elective courses by using the open source learning management system Moodle. The courses support problem-, project-, and decision-based learning and require students to work in small collaborative teams using problem solving and decision-making activities in order to foster teamwork and produce better results than individuals would do on their own.
In one of the courses entitled “My first scientific paper” we extensively use Google Docs:
- for the collaborative input of data into Google Spreadsheets (see Screenshot)
- for collaborative writing
- for collaborative creating Google Presentations of research results
- for sharing documents
Earlier we communicated and cooperatively edited documents by exchanging them as attachments to e-mails or forums. Because of many participating students (20-25 collaborating on one scientific paper), we almost always experienced problems regarding the last version of the documents (it was frustrating being not certain to work on the most complete version of the document :-)
Screenshot of a Google Spreadsheet made by collaboration of 25 students from 4 Croatian Medical Schools.
GoogleDocs vs. Wikis
Because Google Docs are almost identical to use as MS Office applications, students do not need to learn how to use it. In contrary, most students have no experience in using wikis. Because wikis are not so user friendly applications (as GoogleDocs) it takes time to learn how to use it properly.