Blogging about tools I have used for almost two decades was a true challenge. It was not until I had done some research and completed this week’s activities that I could truly reflect upon the power of the basic suite tools. Here are a few of those thoughts.
Most of us familiar with technology have used the basic suite of software tools (word processor, spreadsheets, and presentations) so frequently that they have blended into the day to day routine of work and personal life. As an instructional coach and adjunct instructor, I find that I use Microsoft Word and PowerPoint (or Google Docs) on a daily basis to created assignments and instructional resources. Helping students learn to use these tools in a professional manner is a great strategy to teach them organization and productivity skills.
1. Everyone can create professional products
Regardless of ability level, with a small bit of knowledge of basic software tools, anyone can create professional-quality documents and resources (Roblyer, 2016). With such a strong push towards 21st-century skills arms authentic assignments, basic suite tools provide the foundation for such work to occur in a classroom. Students can quickly pull together flash cards in Microsoft PowerPoint or collaboratively create a document based question outline in a Google Doc with a group of students. The possibilities are endless.
2. As an improvement to existing in-class activities
Discussion is a critical component of the social studies classroom. History content is, by its nature, filled with controversial topics best explored through class discussion and debate. As Roberts (2013) notes, face to face discussion on challenging issue proves problematic for even the most adept teacher. Students may prefer to have time to reflect on comments made by peers or on the material itself. Others may not feel comfortable expressing their opinion in a large class of students.
The high level of collaboration potential on basic tools, such as Google Docs, provides solutions for teachers struggling to implement discussions in the social studies classroom. Roberts (2013) documents a case study where a face to face strategy called Chalk Talk was transformed into a digital one using Google Docs. Chalk Talk traditionally occurs on a whiteboard or chalkboard. The teacher writes a challenge question or controversial topic in the center of the board. Students take turns silently responding to the prompt. This strategy is effective but poses a few challenges in terms of logistics. Depending upon the amount of writing tools and board space, a limited amount of students can participate at one given time. Shy students are notoriously difficult to motivate in this type of activity. By using a Google Document as the Chalk Talk medium, students can simultaneously post and reflect upon comments at a pace that suits each individual. While new logistical issues arise with this solution (such as students deleting other’s comments), document organization or division into smaller groups may help improve the experience.
Roberts, S. L. (2013). The “chalk talk” 2.0: Using Google Docs to improve silent discussion in social studies. The Social Studies, 104(3), 130-136. doi: 10.1080/00377996.2012.703972
Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (7th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.