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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction
Peer Editing Using Google Documents
Pamela AuCoin

Editing papers can be messy work, especially when you have at least three people working the same essay. Not to mention, papers can get lost, and email attachments can be awkward business.

Google Documents is an efficient solution. Imagine an interactive, online word document which can be edited by many people, at the same time. Unlike wikis, none of the work is lost.  You also do not need to worry about saving your work on a drive, or on your desktop, since it remains online. Google even saves it automatically for you.

All you need is a Google account. From the Google sign-in page, click on “documents” from the “more” drop-down menu on the left. Sign in, open your own document, and start typing. The next step is to share your document by inviting collaborators who can edit the document. You will need to have the email addresses of people you want to invite as collaborators. Collaborators, or editors, can add suggestions, or even change student work -- but the teacher always knows who made what changes, and the document owner is free to revert back to earlier versions.

Once students have created accounts, you should have students add you, as well as the students who will help them edit their work, as collaborators. This task can be completed during, or after class. From the “insert” drop-down menu, the editor can click on the comments button, to add comments in another color, making the commenter easily identifiable. It is not unusual for two people to be working on the same document in real time. Remember -- neither user will lose the work. Now, the teacher and peer editors can respond to each other's work, and constantly revise their papers. See an example of an actual exchange below:

"Although the United States was a powerhouse of the world, theymissing word -Pamela AuCoin 10/10/09 11:20 AM  very afraid, much like the Soviets, of a possible nuclear war during this time period, so the United States made sure to make it very well known that a war could happen, and that it was the Soviet's fault. In the United States, there were many measures taken to try and prepare America such as building bomb shelters and having students randomly hide under desks even though that would not help if a nuke inf. -Lisa T 10/10/09 11:30 AM  exploded. These precautions were meant mostly to help the American people mentally. There was a movie released entitled "Duck and Cover" -You need to insert a footnote here Terance 10/10/09 11:18 AM  with a cover sporting the words "YOU must learn to find shelter", and showing a turtle, which was tense -Pamela AuCoin 10/10/09 11:19 AM  to portray an American in harms way of dynamite. The turtle then hides in his shell and is safe from the explosion, which was alluding to a nuclear attack." 1

This really streamlines the editing process -- and, students deepen their understanding of the revising and writing process. Nobody needs to worry about missing papers, poor handwriting, etc. Plus, writing becomes less teacher-centered. The instructor is still reading the work, but with the students. Such assignments also allow good editors to shine. This method works equally well with research papers.

I recommend you create folders for each class, to easily access and store student work. I have folders for different classes, and for different assignments. Students can manage their own electronic portfolios by saving their work in their own Google Documents folders.

1 Mark, insert your citation here.

Do you have a comment or suggestion? E-mail Pamela


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