Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Collaboration, Tools, and Add-Ons. Oh My. Using G-Docs to Improve Student Writing

When students have access to Google Docs it’s like having a personal tutor by their side as they write. Innovative educators who empower their students to use these tools can support students in strengthening their writing skills even without the support of a teacher. This is important for innovative educators who take seriously, our job to develop independent learners.  Here are some ways Google Docs supports that.

Collaborate with Experts and others
The heart of G-docs is its power as a collaboration tool.  Support your students in safely and responsibly developing a learning network they can turn to review and edit their work. This might be family members. It could be experts. Perhaps it’s a mentor. With Google Docs you can invite anyone in the world into your classroom to support your students.

  • Voice to Text
    Did you know students can have their voice converted to text? Simply go to “Tools” in the menu bar and select “Voice to Text.” This is an excellent tool for both English Language Learners and emerging writers. They can watch as what they say is translated into text. Speaking of translation, look at the next tool.
  • Translate Document
    Also in the toolbar is an option to translate the document. This is powerful for speakers of languages other than English. They may want to begin their writing in their native language and translate it. We all know this will result in some translation errors. When the translated text appears, the student can review and revise for accuracy. This might also be a good tool for a student who wants to translate their writing for a parent or family member who is a non-native speaker.
  • Research
    Select “Research” in the tool menu and all the options in the left column of the chart below are at your fingertips. If you click the down arrow under the search bar, you can select your citation format.  

The options in the research bar are pretty self-explanatory.  Scholar brings you to scholarly articles on the topic. Personal searches your own documents and files. But what you might not know is that in addition to the pop-up preview, you will also get and insert link button to add a hyperlink of the site to your document as well as a Cite button to add a footnote to your document for that website.  While students can use the research tool to add footnotes to their document, if you they want a detailed biography page they’ll need an add-on, which brings us to our next section.

To get Add-ons you must visit “Add-ons” in the menu bar and select “Get Add-ons.” There are numerous add-ons. Here are a couple add-ons that will help your students improve their writing.

  • Easy Bib
    Students can use the EasyBib add-on to create a detailed bibliography page. Students can select  Book, Journal Article, or Website. They find this by typing in title, ISBN, website, or other keywords in the Search box. Once the student finds the desired result, they can click the Select button to add it to their bibliography list is MLA, APA, or Chicago style. When ready, simply click Add Bibliography to Doc and EasyBib adds a Works Cited section to the their document. Students can return to the EasyBib tool as needed to add and remove sources, and to update the Works Cited section.
  • SAS Writing Reviser
    The SAS Writing Reviser targets potential problem areas in writing directly in the document (no need to export or import). It focuses on these five areas:
    • Economy: Finding ways to be more concise and direct.
    • Variety: Varying sentence structure to more fully engage readers.
    • Power: Writing more forcefully (e.g., check your verbs; we'll list them all for you).
    • Clarity. Enhancing coherence by carefully stating a thesis, ordering paragraphs, and arranging sentence parts.

Here is what it looks like when SAS Writing Reviser helps me eliminate passive voice by highlighting potential problems.

SAS Writing Reviser helps students think like a professional writer because the learn to ask questions experienced writers ask automatically. This enables them to express themselves with more accuracy and power. Writing reviser is just one in the  Writing Navigator series from SAS Curriculum Pathways. The series also contains a planning, drafting, and publishing tool. Check out site for all the details.

These are just a few of the many ways that collaboration, tools, and add-ons can help you students improve their writing.  What do you think? Are any of these tools something you might introduce to your students? Are you already using some of these tools or others? How did it go?

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