The Common Pursuit – Collaborative LitCrit in Google Docs


W.B.Yeats: The Tower Stanza 1

A few weeks ago I was asked to do a Lit ICT session at the CLC. The other day I was watching the #GTAUK Twitterstream and in a backchannel chat said i'd been doing some stuff and maybe some English departments might be interested. My own background is I began my career as a fresh graduate out of York University and up until 9 years ago was still teaching a fair proportion of Englit. I have 'escaped' some of the formulaic approaches of recent years, but am aware that the ability to engage with a text, and to constructively debate it is a skill that has survived the dissected, chunked, 'fast-lit' drive in curriculum. (Okay you know where I stand). 

So, off I went and had a think. The students arrived to be put into teams and given a poem (this is GCSE poetry from other cultures stuff) as a Google Document that one shares with the rest on the team. They are in teams of four. They are asked to agree a different text colour for any annotation they do, so each person's contribution is identifiable fast. Google Docs has revision history but the visual colouring is a faster way of seeing work in progress. They are then asked to insert footnotes in their individual text colours.

As the footnotes get added synchronously by the team members the collective critical response builds. 

By also using the comment facility, others can also add their views, ideas, questions, responses.  Example here:

The logistics of this can be played with, the key is by combining footnotes, comments and colour a whole range of responses, and responses to responses can be developed. Its also perfectly possible for the teacher – or anyone else shared into the poem text to add comments – so there can be prompting, correcting, questioning and assessing going on in a live session. 

And of course it does not have to be live. The beauty of the Google Apps running through any Learning Platform means its shared 24/7 – so it could be done as homework, or over a longer period, and not just with a single class… in a single location.

The basic idea for this was 'borrowed' from an excellent BECTA piece on Wiki Wars which saw the vastly improved engagement of boys in particular by collaborative lit work of this nature. 

Interested, has that got you thinking? Share your thoughts folks! 
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