Thursday, June 9, 2011

GoogleDocs helps in teaching journalistic writing

This month's Carnival of Journalism is about "life hacks," specifically addressing the "tips, tools, apps, websites, skills and techniques that allow you to work smarter and more effectively."

One of the best tools/sites I've found for work as a teacher of journalism is GoogleDocs. For collaborative work of teacher and student on journalism writing assignments, it's a great device.

On the extremely unlikely chance that anyone reading this isn't familiar with GoogleDocs, it's very simply a cloud word processing application that lets the creator of a document share it with anyone else so that both can edit. This makes it an outstanding writing tool for journalism classes.

In-line comments, "footnote" side comments and color-coding of text/highlighting are all aids in giving feedback, and said feedback can be more immediate because there is no need to wait until the next class period to return items done on paper. Files are time-stamped when shared, so it's painfully obvious when a deadline is missed. For in-class work that's not completed by the end of the class and needs to be finished later, students can just save into their Google accounts and access it later from anywhere else they have Internet access: no concerns about saving to servers that students can't access from home or dorm, corrupted files on flash drives, incompatible word processing files, and the like.

For a draft-and-revision process, one electronic document is created, and updated as many times as called for with editing/comments from the teacher and revisions by the author (plus revisions are tracked neatly). This is far superior to attachments flying back and forth with a new version for every exchange, and the accompanying lack of clarity about which is the most up-to-date version.

All of this adds up to a process that is the closest thing I've found in an academic setting to the system used in actual newsrooms, where a writer files a story electronically into a database where editors can access it, edit it, comment on it, return it for revision, and check the revisions all within a tightly time-specific environment. I'd recommend it to anyone teaching journalism at any level.

1 comment:

Carrie Brown said...

Oooh. I've often thought this was the holy grail of grading/editing assignments, but I hadn't figured out a way to make it work yet, though I haven't played around with it for this purpose very much.

So do you have them share each individual story/file with you when it's finished, or do you establish a shared folder of some sort with each student, or how do you organize that process so it works best with lots of files coming in?

And so you primarily use comments and then changing text color - has Google Docs implemented a track changes like system for editing text yet? At a quick glance I didn't see it.

Thanks for the post!

Carrie Brown