The best part of the new developments in technology is how they can make okay plans I have done in the past much, much better. I am hoping this is the case with my AP English Lit students' final novel study: Things Fall Apart. I have always had them tackle this novel in seminar groups where they prepared discussion ideas ahead of time then discussed the reading in small groups with me as a resource not their teacher. It has gone fine and even very well -- but the discussions ended in the class. I am hoping Google Docs will expand my classroom outside of the 45 minutes that happen in the four walls of my room.
I started by changing around the discussion prep work (see this here), incoporating sharing and reflecting on the group's Google doc before coming to class. Students have to, for example, add a question they have about the reading to the Google doc for the first seminar. For the second seminar, they have to reflect on the discussion their group had and note on the Google Doc the most important themes and issues they see thus far in the novel. In class, the Google Doc will allow all of the students to be clued in to their books and the discussion rather than typing furiously away taking notes (see seminar guidelines here).
Overall, Web 2.0 tools have given me class time I never had before -- the students' own time at home alone yet still connected with each other in web-based discussions. Individual literature reflections have become full-blown discussions before class even happens (using the Turn It In discussion board). I hope Google Docs can become yet another venue for this independent yet collaborative thinking my students have been doing. It just so happens that I really don't need to be guiding every aspect of their discussions -- they do just fine, if not even better, playing with the ideas on their own.