Tools for Tracking Collaborative Work in Google Docs

For my middle school learners, learning to work in groups is an essential skill that will continue into high school, college and adulthood. I typically use group labs as a method of formative assessment and as a means to help students collaboratively work together and share ideas. Formative work is usually supplanted by individual summative work later, but there always seems to be one or two students who struggle with the summative that I learned later did not "pitch in" earlier during the formative task. Lately, I've learned a few tools that help cooperative learning and how to hold students accountable early one. Here they are-

Doctopus Revisions By Student
I usually share out assessed assignments through "Doctopus" and it has a quick matrix on the spreadsheet for tracking individual edits, as seen below. A quick "refresh edits" under "Assignment management tools" shows who made edits and who did not.
Doctopus allows the teacher to see revisions by students. 

Restoring Revision History
Richard Poth recently taught me about a few neat tricks. I was aware of Google Docs revision history, but the feature he turned me onto was "restoring revision history". For example, if a student says that another student deleted another's work, you can go back to the moment it was deleted and restore an EARLIER VERSION of the Google doc and have students pick up where they left off.

Clicking "Restore Revision" will take the document back to an earlier version. 

If that's not cool enough, he also taught me about "Draftback" which is a Google Chrome Extension that you can install and "play" edits as they happened on the document. In short, it compresses and speeds up the revision of the document into a "movie". Here is a tutorial:

How to Handle Students that Don't Participate
I've always stressed that working in groups is a privilege and together, individuals can share ideas and divide up work in ways that saves time. However, with this arsenal of data that the above tools provide, it can easily make the argument who is and is not participating. With this you can:

  • Meet in groups to share data. Many students don't know how their actions affect others and may try to "argue" that they did contribute last night. With these tools, you'll know exactly who is and isn't doing the work. 
  • Model to the class. Show how these tools work so that students will hold themselves and others accountable. 
  • When all else fails. Despite multiple interventions and group therapy, some students will not show the necessary collaborative skills. In such cases, I ask that the specific individual not be given credit for group work and be asked to do the work independently. If they show good responsibility through their individual work, they can re-join the group at a later date. 


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