This is part two of a six part series on ways to use Google+ in the classroom after getting through the logistics of using it. Our discussions surrounding the use of Google+ in the classroom have centered on the following six possibilities within a Private, “request an Invite” Community.
- Connecting to Ideas and Information
- Writing to Learn Strategies – Part 2 Focus
- Creating and Sharing
- Discussion Strategies
- Efficiency Strategies
- Connecting to People
In looking at each of these, we continue to frame our discussions around key questions:
- Does it make things easier or more efficient?
- Does it alter/enhance something previously done?
- Does it allow for something new?
- Does it solve a problem?
- Does it foster creating and making?
Writing to Learn Strategies
John Bean feels his “single most valuable teaching strategy for promoting critical thinking is to require regular exploratory writing” (Bean, Kindle Locations 3124-3125). He goes on to list a number of common exploratory “thinking pieces” that fit perfectly with the use of a Google+ community:
- In-Class Writing
- Out of Class Thinking Pieces, Journals, and Discussions (Note: in part four, I’ll compare discussion strategies with Google+ vs. Google Groups)
- Creativity Exercises
- Invention Tasks
- Low-stakes Shape Exercises
And there are many other ways educators can leverage Google+ with writing to learn activities. In the end, it is about making thinking visible as Ritchard and Perkins explain:
Thinking happens mostly in our heads, invisible to others and even to ourselves. Effective thinkers make their thinking visible, meaning they externalize their thoughts through speaking, writing, drawing, or some other method. They can then direct and improve those thoughts. Visible Thinking also emphasizes documenting thinking for later reflection.
By doing these thinking pieces in Google+, a community begins to frame.
Sample Writing to Learn with Google+
- At the last part of the class, students read a debatable topic on a new concept the class is exploring
- On a scale of 1-5, have the students determine their position on the topic
- As a class, debate the topic: those at 1-2 on one side, those at 4-5 on the other side, and those at a 3 serving as questioners (they drive the discussion by a continuous flow of questions at both sides since they are in the middle).
- After a 10 minute or so debate, each student write a thinking piece on Google+ for the remaining 5-10 minutes of class. This thinking piece should be their final thoughts about the topic including questions, discoveries, conclusions, and points of confusion.
- At the start of the next class or prior to the next class, students +1 posts at least one thinking piece from a peer that is deemed valuable and comment on one other (commenting needs to be taught so it isn’t just “good thoughts” – this is how +1 can help as that essentially serves as that piece).
Why Not Just Have them Blogging
John Bean argues that “writing means joining a conversation of persons who are, in important ways, fundamentally disagreeing with each other, or, to make the matter less agonistic, jointly seeking answers to shared questions that puzzle them.”
In many ways, John Bean is the number one advocate for blogging throughout his book Engaging Ideas. In fact, I’d argue that the items he is advocating for have a greater possibility of success if each student had one blog with them across classes and years in school.And when that is the case, Google+ would serve more as an efficiency mechanism than a writing platform: students can share to the class community links to blog posts, teachers could begin a class by randomly asking students to submit links to posts, etc.
However, there are three items of importance here:
- Not every classroom has embraced student blogging – at my school, we are rightfully focused on the contribute to (portfolio) rather than the contribue on (blogging) at this point
- Google+ can serve as an entry point towards student blogging
- Even if all students had a blog, there is still room for writing-to-learn strategies via a closed community like Google+ (not to mention, doing some of this on paper )
Bean, John C. (2011-07-20). Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom (Jossey Bass Higher and Adult Education) (Kindle Locations 3124-3125). Wiley Publishing. Kindle Edition.