Update: We've been doing more and more with Google Docs and students are getting much more comfortable with the sharing function. It's quite amazing to see the progress in just a few short weeks....from "I need help" with everything to "Come and look at what I found out about, come here!"
My big ah-ha was that they just needed practice, practice and practice. Not any different than another tool you might be teaching to 11 and 12 year olds. I think they like the new ways of working on worksheets.
I'm going to try sharing a document with them that is all on Google Docs...it will be a test review. We'll co-author it during class using a shell where I've provided the page numbers and notes references...they'll go and find them, we'll summarize them as a class in a Google Doc that we'll all share....and then how well that works for them to essentially create their own study guide as a whole class.
It's a fairly standard homework assignment to ask students to do some background reading and bring facts into the next day's discussion. I decided to keep the learning but incorporate some high tech means for capturing those facts and archiving them.
The best part of doing an electronic worksheet like this is that everything is readily available for the entire class to read, see and access whenever they need it. We've had a blast reading through the facts and it has been good for students to hear the oooooo's and ahhhhh's as one of their "better" facts amazes classmates. Some of my most quiet students have been recognized for their effort and that never happens when we do this learning in the traditional way.
I created a Google Docs spread sheet that was very straightforward....name, fact and source. Each student was to upload their favorite Sun facts into the document that I created and "shared" with them via a URL.
Kids were pysched and as we entered the computer lab to get started, I could feel their excitment. Now I will say that a few students grumbled about why they could just do it the old fashion way because it was much easier, but for the most part everyone was anxious to learn how. They are just beginning on Google Docs and, while I've used Google Docs with adults, I'd never done anything wide scale with students.
In the lab, they logged into the accounts and everything went smoothly. The panic and trouble started when they went home and tried to do their homework. Server error, they couldn't cut and paste into the cells, and a million other things went wrong. The HELPDESK didn't know why and went to work solving the problem...but meanwhile my students were panicked that they couldn't finish their homework.
One of the best things I did was to have daily brainstorming times in class. I'd have students that had been successful in getting their facts loaded into the spreadsheet talk about it and answer their peers questions. In some cases I knew what they were saying was a good solution and in other cases, students had ideas and solutions I would have never come up with. We were co-learners in debugging the problems so many people were having.
They came in early, stayed late and skipped lunch to work with me...and it worked perfectly at school. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
Finally the HELPDESK suggested that I double check students were logging into their accounts and then opening the spreadsheet. So we took a bit of classtime time and generated a class email to the people who were still stuck....they entered their emails and we wrote a reminder note to open email account first and then open the file and I gave them another "clean" URL link to use. Same one I originally put in the assignment but just in case. It solved the problem for all but one student (and he was staying in a hotel because his home has suffered extensive water damage) who was later able to complete the assignment in less than 5 minutes once he got to my classroom computers.
While we had 2 days of panic and frustration, we all decided it was a great learning experience. Next time we'll be better at knowing steps to take in order not to run into the same roadblocks....but I'm sure there will be new ones. Hopefully, though, students are beginning to realize that we can find a way around them and we can be a team in solving them together. Plus we got to know amazing facts about the Sun.
Photo provided under CC Attribution License https://www.flickr.com/photos/37103425@N00/371515143/