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A Surprise from Google Drive

posted: 11.25.14 by Traci Gardner

Maybe it’s just me, but I suspect that every teacher wonders if students will build on what they learn in a class or even use the information in the future. Now thanks to Google Drive I have irrefutable evidence that they do.

First, let me provide some background. I have been trying to make the assignments in my Technical Writing classes relate closely to tasks students need to do anyway, either as interns, in their classes, or as they prepare to enter the work force. I talk explicitly about how the tasks relate to the workplace writing they are doing or will do.

This focus led me to create a Professional Bio Assignment and a workplace writing classification assignment, which is completed as a spreadsheet. I also added more choice in the job application writing assignments I used, allowing students to propose whatever combination of materials they needed for their careers.

In addition to reshaping the assignments I use, I switched last January to requiring students to use Google Drive for their projects. In truth, my decision was based partially on problems I was having responding to work in the various formats students were using. I talked with students about my experience using Google Drive for cross-country collaboration on writing projects, and ultimately found that the built-in comment system led to better peer review.

Little did I realize the other benefit of using Google Drive would arrive in my inbox this fall. Fall is the time for on-campus interviews at Virginia Tech. All the graduating seniors freshen up their job application materials and head off to job fairs and one-on-one interviews. About a week before the campus job fair for engineers, I started getting notification messages from Google Drive, with details from the comments I had left in their job application materials earlier in the year:

Betty Student added comments to Betty Student Resume

Traci Gardner: Why not move this information up in the document? Think about what you can do to make a better first impression. You want the employer to see your qualifications more than you want them to notice you had a job in a restaurant.

Betty Student: You’re right. I switched the sections around and added some details.

Betty Student Marked as resolved

Not only did these students go back to find my comments, they read them and revised based on the advice. Further, some of them (like the student above) added comments telling me what they had done. Most days, the last thing I want to see is another student email in my inbox to deal with, but I have to admit that I am loving these Google Drive notifications from the students I taught during the spring and summer terms.

Have you encountered evidence that students have gone on to use the advice and skills from a course you teach after the term was over? Do you have other strategies to check in with students you taught? Let me know! Leave me a comment below, or drop by my page on Facebook or Google+.

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Categories: Business Writing, Teaching with Technology, Traci Gardner
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