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Live, online revision with yr 13, using Google Docs

Last year, I had my year 13 class create a revision wiki in the run up to their exams. It worked quite well, but it needed a bit of pump priming with some ICT room time that I just don’t have this year, and I wasn’t completely convinced that my current yr 13s would take to it in quite the same way.

So when, on Monday, we were talking through some options for revision sessions for them, I raised the idea of an evening online revision session. I was initially thinking some kind of revision version of a twitter chat, but it quickly became clear that wouldn’t work. So, after chewing a few ideas around with them, we settled on the ideas of using Google Docs. We’re a Google Apps school, so everyone has access, it’s a tool they’re all used to using now, and it has the advantage of the chat as well as the main document.

So, on Monday at 8pm I copied and pasted the first section of the syllabus into a Google Doc and sat back as 7 of my class started adding their notes and ideas, along with occasional argument in the chat. I joined in adding content for the first few minutes, when it became clear that my time would be better spent adding the links and tidying up behind the rush of content that was being added. After an hour we had most of the first three topics added. They went off to watch Game of Thrones or Broadchurch and I spend another half an hour or so finishing off the tidying up.

On Wednesday lunchtime we met to talk through the sections they had highlighted as areas they wanted to review or didn’t understand and after school I printed out two copies of our now 13 page long revision notes, and we used them to plan responses to some possible essay questions.

All in all, I’ve been really impressed. The real-time nature gives the activity more drive than had been the case last year, and it allowed me to quickly spot a couple of areas that I needed to go back and clarify with the rest of the class. The quality of the final resource, along with the fact that it’s been mostly authored by them means that the investment of my time is more than repaid  Even those students who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) join in have access to the revision document that’s been created.

The only downside has been a couple of students whose computers / browsers just haven’t coped with several people editing the document at the same time, but I can’t think of a better tool for the job right now, so we’re going to stick with it for another week and see if a chance of browser (in one case) and borrowing another laptop from a family member (in another) might help that.

Dave Stacey

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