Friday, March 27, 2015

5 Google Apps for Collaborative Notes

Note-taking and summarizing are important learning activities that everyone needs to master. But your students don't need to do it individually to maximize learning. Our brains don't actually work that way. You might be surprised at the assessment results when students collaborate and share the note-taking tasks. 

The key is to have students review their notes and those made by peers in order to summarize the complete set. This is the synthesis task that builds the knowledge. It's not extra. It's critical.

1. Docs

For my classes, Docs is our go to for making class notes. Students rotate the responsibilities, including a total of four roles for each note-taking session. The roles are based on Alan November's digital learning farm and include scribe, researcher, curriculum reviewer, and global communicator.


My students access the notes document in a folder shared by link on the "About" tab of Google Classroom. The folder permission is set at anyone with the link can edit whatever is in the folder. Since my students need to be in the class to access the folder, it is still password protected.

Students like the ability to use the chat tool during a lesson as well as make comments on the document. The comments help reduce distraction when a student has a suggestion for the scribe or one of the other roles listed above. I particularly like it when students share links to resources via comment or chat.

Lastly, when working in groups, we use tables to give everyone a cell(s) to keep one another from fighting over typing space.

2. Blogger

Using a blog for note-taking makes it easy to share and use for instruction because of simple URLs and the comment tool at the bottom of each post. You can add your students as contributors, but I do not advise adding the whole class.


The limitation is that you can't have more than one student working on a document at any given time. But the advantage is that your notes are published for anyone on the Internet to access and make comments. This creates an authentic audience for student work, which means they are more likely to do their best.

3. Sites


With Sites, you can make pages for notes that users within your organization can edit. There are different template options, as shown in the image (right), including the potential for making custom templates that meet your needs.

I used to make slide presentations on a weekly basis. Now, my students make one every few weeks. This got me thinking that they should begin contributing website content, as well. There's no rule that says it must come from me. In fact, several teachers have wikis written by their students.

4. Slides

I love Slides for projects because one class can work on one presentation. Each group works on its own slides, and the print and presentation options allow the products to be displayed as placards or used in an oral presentation.


Slide presentations also work well for screen casting and uploading screen shots for a slide show on YouTube.

Like Docs, Slides has the comment tool so students can make suggestions about what they like or think should be changed without interrupting a classmate's thinking space.

5. Keep

Google Keep just received some important updates. You can now label the notes, which makes it easy to organize. Consider labeling your notes with multiple labels to make it easier to access particular topics and groupings that may be related in different ways.


Notes can also be shared with specific people or added to a Google Doc. Try having students write their notes individually and add them to a Google Doc. It would be great if you could add the notes to an existing Doc, but at the time of this blog post, it was not possible.

You can also share a label grouping of notes via URL.

Bonus Tips

Try taking notes on Google My Maps for a map activity or use Google Slides to make timelines or steps in a procedure. Collaborative lab reports sound interesting, too. Check out this video!

Thanks for reading.