How social media can help you to write reports

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Contents

What?

In this section we will reflect upon:

  • How social web is changing the way reports are being written.
  • How to use Google Drive for collaborative writing.
  • How to work on the information/research fluency of your students.

Why?

If you read the ISTE standards for students, you'll notice right away that collaboration, information/research fluency and creativity rank high on the digital skills scoreboard. Social web will help you to achieve these goals.

How?

Google Drive is a good example of how social web is changing the writing of reports. If you wanted to work together on a document a decade ago, you had to send each other e-mail attachments which caused the document to multiply uncontrollably and within a few weeks you would have lost track of what was the latest version of your report. Because Google Drive is cloud based, this is all a thing from the past. Now you have one ‘live’ copy that everyone can work on. In Google Drive you can use Google Docs to create documents, spreadsheets, forms and presentions or upload existing documents that you created somewhere else. You need a Google account to use Google Drive.

It's very easy to invite people to work with you on a document, and if you are the owner you decide the access levels. You can work together in real time (straight away in the document or via the chat function) or you can work with comments to allow feedback from the teacher or peers. Have a look at the tutorial from GCFLearnFree.org for a quick overview of how to share and collaborate in Google Drive

Sharing & Collaborating

If you're not at all familiar with Google Drive, you should check out the resources section below for the very clear and informative tutorials of Alex Anson on Google Drive. Watching these will turn you from a novice into a specialist within 1.5 hours.

As our main subject is report writing, let's look at one of the lesser known features of Google Drive: the integrated research tool. You can access this tool by clicking on the Tools tab and choosing Research. This opens a pane on the right hand side which allows you or your students to look for (copyright free) images, quotes and chunks of information both from the Google search engine as from Google Scholar. One of the big advantages of working with the research tool is that it automatically generates a footnote with a reference to the source when you insert a piece of information. So if a student decides to use a certain quote, the source of that quote on the web becomes visible in a footnote. This creates awareness to counter plagiarism by stressing the importance of honoring your sources. Take a look at this short introduction by the guys from Google Gooru.

Google Docs Research tool

Google Drive also comes with a built-in dictionary (currently 12 languages), spell check and word count. The revision tool allows students to see what changes have been made and, if necessary, revert to a previous version.

To help your students with information/research fluency you could also introduce them to 4 interactive tutorials from the Vaughan Memorial Library at Acadia University. The first one is called 'Credible sources count' and teaches students how to assess the validity of online information. You can find links to the 'Research it Right', ‘Searching with Success' and 'You Quote it, You Note it' tutorials in the resources section.

The opportunities to use this in a (digital) classroom are pretty vast. If you agree that collaboration, research and the assessment of info are key competences, then the benefits of social web for report writing will become apparent. By using collaborative writing and the research tools you can introduce your students to several skills that play an important role in researching and writing a report. For instance, it’s a good idea to let them double check quotes or let them have a look at the different results on Google and Google Scholar. You can also create awareness on why to choose copyright free images and so on. Of course, you'll still have to motivate your students to create original work. A succession of quotes, definitions and chunks of info straight from the web won't do, even if they come with the correct sources. And don't forget to show them that there are sources outside of Google like Wolfram Alpha, Oolone, Instagrok or a library.

If you want to have a look at a concrete example, check out this article from the Taccle2 website

Try?

It’s very convenient that you can do your research in Google Drive itself, but it might be a good idea to use other social web applications while preparing your report. Contributors could post questions that will form the basis of a report structure on Padlet. Think of Padlet as an online sheet of paper where people can put content anywhere on the page, together with anyone, from any device.

An online survey could encourage all contributors to 'have their say' and put forward their own interpretations e.g. "What do you think are the most significant findings?" These tools will encourage students to disaggregate the subject of the report and help them discuss/debate the topic(s) BEFORE writing the final report.

If you want your students to become better researchers, let them create their own Google Custom Search Engine. A CSE gives you the opportunity to narrow down the number of web pages where the search results come from. If students can make a Google CSE with valid sources they are well on their way to becoming great researchers. Richard Byrne from Free Technology for Teachers shows you the ropes in this tutorial. A CSE can also be created by the teacher to help students with little or no experience in online searching. Another option is using websites like iPL2 or Sweet Search where librarians and research experts have already done a lot of the selection work for you.

Resources

On the AnsonAlex website you can find all Google Drive tutorials together on one page or you can watch them on YouTube:

Another way of becoming a Google Drive specialist is by going to the source: the Google Drive Help pages

Interactive tutorials from the Vaughan Memorial Library on research skills:

For more inspiration on how to use Google Drive in your classroom, have a look at the Google Docs section on the 'Cool Tools for 21st Century Learners' blog by Susan Oxnevad.

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