Google Docs

Ashly Bender

Tech-geeks can sometimes get a little over-excited about using “cool new technologies.” When it comes to new media writing technologies, I also sometimes have this response: “Look how cool it is! Let’s use it in class!” Most of us who have had to use a wiki or Google docs or some other online writing collaboration tool find that the classroom can be much better at pointing out the kinks in a program than highlighting the usefulness of it. Recently though, I used Google Docs with a classmate to write a six-page essay critiquing an academic article. We wrote the whole paper in an hour, and we were amazed at how quick and productive the whole process was. It was a kind of writing high—something that a lot of people, even English majors, don’t always experience when they’re writing. As we talked about the Google Docs experience, though, it became clear that some of the success of our one-hour writing sprint had to do with the technology, but some of it just had to do with the way we had prepared.

The technology itself allowed us to write with each other at the same time in the same document. It helped that we were also sitting next to each other at the coffee shop, but really we spent more time typing than talking. She pasted in an introduction from a handout we had made previously, and I expanded it out while she wrote the next two paragraphs. Then as she wrote the conclusion, I was able to add in the rest of the body paragraphs. In between, we revised each other’s paragraphs so that the paragraphs would flow together. It just seemed to be a writing groove that Google Docs enabled precisely because we were working on a single document at the same time—writing with and over each other.

The catch, though, is that we didn’t start writing completely unprepared. Before we wrote this paper, we had presented the same content to our class. We also created a handout for that presentation. It took us approximately 4 hours (all together) to prepare all the material. Our Google Docs paper was essentially the flushed out version of the handout we created. So even though it seemed to only take us an hour to write this paper, really it was the final product of 5 to 6 hours work.

Still, Google Docs is awesome. You should use it. In class if you can.

2 thoughts on “Google Docs

  1. Hi Ashly,
    Just wanted to say that I found your post interesting–I should actually add that you’ve shared something very important. I had been feeling the same way about this amazing technology but I’d been hesitating to write/share about it because I am afraid that I might sound silly if I did. Just to include a few reasons for why I can’t talk about Google Doc without sounding crazy, I have used it (along with Skype or Google Phone–both free) for collaboratively writing a book chapter with a colleague in Hawaii, to support an organization with planning an international conference in Kathmandu, to help my brother who works in Tokyo edit/proofread his dissertation, to help student groups develop a class project, and to share the resources that I had developed while working as a research assistant at the Graduate School with the colleague who replaced me as well as others in the office…. and much more. Oh, and these days, I sync my Gooble Docs with Good Reader and Documents to Go on my iPad–and this is a whole new wonder. When I used this wonderful thing, I compare it with me trying to write something collaboratively on a piece of paper, sitting at a table with someone. Among the many conveniences of collaboratively writing something with Google Doc, here are some: no need to find a common time and place to meet (I said “time” as well as place because it is so much easier to find time, say an evening hour, and from the convenience of your home–not to mention finding a feasible common time between Kentucky and Hawaii or Tokyo), the possibility of writing on a shared virtual “sheet of paper” where you can delete/edit easily, the history function that records versions so you don’t have to worry about changing your collaborator’s work when working asynchronously, all the tools of a word processor when compared to a piece of paper, the convenience of a shared but separate screens compared to a laptop for instance…. etc, etc, etc. If there’s a technology that makes me feel silly when praising it, it has to be Google Doc.
    Anyway, I loved reading your post because it gave me the confidence to say it: I love it!

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