Google Docs for Social Learning: An Online Workshop

Engage students, facilitate collaboration, and give better feedback

Long form teaching resources by Gerard Dawson


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Which of these statements sounds like you?

  1. “I ignore new edtech because I can’t keep up. I share documents with students and that’s about it.”
  2. “I chase down the latest apps and trends, and I’m always trying some new thing with my students.”
  3. “I have one simple system that helps me conduct lessons, facilitate projects and assess student work.”

I’ll tell you exactly why most teachers say #1 and #2 and how to start saying #3 …

A few years ago I was drowning under student papers.  Essays, articles of the week, exit slips.  It all took up so much space on my desk and in my mind.

There was no time figure out a better way, because I had to keep up with it all.

So, the next year, I did the complete opposite.  Everything had an app students could use to do their work.

We used one tool for reading articles, another for annotating, Edmodo for sharing assignments.  Plus, at least three different tools for formative assessment.

Then one night I checked my email.  There were four or five emails from students who had questions.  The problem was: every question was about how to use one of the technology tools!  They said things like:

“I can’t access the account. Can I have an extension?”

“This isn’t working on my home computer.  What should I do?”


“Why do we have to use this? Can’t I just use paper?”

This was just as bad as the pile of papers I was buried under.

Contrast that with my current teaching, where students hold discussions, collaborate on projects, and talk with me and each other about their work.  I’m not stressed, and the students are focused on learning.

What was the difference? How did I de-stress and get out of the way of student learning?


Using Google Docs for social learning.




Learning how to use Google Docs for social learning is the single most impactful thing you can do to improve learning in a 21st century classroom.

If you are avoiding using technology in your class because you don’t know how to get started, or you are stuck chasing the latest apps and technology trends, using Google Docs for social learning is your golden ticket.

But how do you do this? What does it look like?

Introducing the Google Docs for Social Learning Online Workshop

My name is Gerard Dawson, and I’m an English teacher in New Jersey.

In 4 years, I’ve gone from drowning in paper to obsessing over edtech to simply helping students learn.

I’ve shared these ideas with colleagues, college students and other teachers. My writing and my students’ work has been featured on The New York Times Learning Network, Edutopia, Brilliant or Insane and Talks with Teachers, among others.

The surprising part?

When I first started teaching, I thought technology was just “bells and whistles” that got in the way of real reading and writing.

Now my students dive into meaningful projects using technology…all because of one thing…

Yup. Google Docs for social learning.

I’ve learned a solution-based approach to create authentic learning opportunities for students.

Moral of the story: This workshop is grounded in simple strategies and best practices that work.  It’s broken down into logical, step-by-step parts that allow you to get started and move through three areas of using Google Docs for Social Learning.

What does the workshop cover?

Getting started

After making mistakes and wasting time, I’ve learned a few steps required to get started with using Google Docs for Social Learning.  We’ll make sure you have the basic knowledge required to move on to more advanced topics:

  1. Building a Google form to collect student information and feedback
  2. Sharing the whole class on a document and when to use can view, can edit, can comment.

How to engage students in authentic reading and writing opportunities

Once I stopped seeing a Google Doc like MS Word and began to look at it as a dynamic web page, some incredible literacy opportunities opened up.

  1. How to teach students to create a “living text” for class readings
  2. How to teach students to create beautiful digital essays using images, links and design elements

How to get students collaborating

The communication functions (chat, comments) and the simultaneous editing capabilities allow students to discuss and collaborate meaningfully.

  1. Conducting a shared reading on a collective Google Doc and using the chat feature/comments to facilitate a discussion.
  2. Using a shared Google Doc to conduct a class research experience: collecting, organizing and synthesizing information together.

Better feedback and assessment on student work

You can stop writing in the margins of student papers that get tossed in the garbage and turn student work into a conversation opportunity.

  1. Using the comments feature for an exit ticket on a shared Google Document.
  2. Leaving “live” feedback for students by making comments as they type
  3. Asking students to leave you comments on their essays before you view them so you have something to focus your feedback on.
  4. Providing rich feedback on student writing with Kaizena
  5. Sending mail-merged feedback emails with Doctopus

Workshop Details: Here Is What You Will Get

  • The 90-minute live Google Docs for Social Learning workshop
  • A video recording of the 90-minute workshop
  • Detailed instructions for how to implement every lesson, system or strategy
  • Links to Google Docs and Forms you can copy and use in your own class
  • Access to view Docs created by me (mentor texts, FAQ pages, etc.)
  • Screenshots of Docs showing real student work
  • Email Q/A with me about your implementation of these strategies

When, Where, How?

When: Fall 2015 (exact date TBD)

Where: This is an online event. You’ll receive a link to the workshop via email after purchasing your ticket.

Can’t attend? Buy your ticket today and you’ll receive the entire workshop on video the day after it occurs.

How Much Does it Cost?

The Complete Google Docs for Social Learning Workshop

  • 90-minute live online workshop
  • A video recording of the workshop delivered to you the next day
  • Thorough instructions to follow as you implement each part of the workshop
  • Docs and Forms you can use immediately
  • Screenshots you can use to model your own assignments
  • Access to the me for Q/A anytime after the workshop

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