Pervasive Pedagogy: Collaborative Cloud-Based Composing Using Google Drive

Pervasive Pedagogy: Collaborative Cloud-Based Composing Using Google Drive

Maury Elizabeth Brown, Daniel L. Hocutt
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1650-7.ch007
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Cloud-based services designed for educational use, like Google Apps for Education (GAFE), afford deeply collaborative activities across multiple applications. Through primary research, the authors discovered that cloud-based technologies such as GAFE and Google Drive afford new opportunities for collaborative cross-platform composing and student engagement. These affordances require new pedagogies to transform these potentialities into practice, as well as a reexamination of contemporary theory of computers and composition. The authors' journey implementing Google Drive as a composing and communication environment required continually remediating content, relationships, practices, and their own identities as they interacted with students in the cloud. This chapter addresses how GAFE and Google Drive engage students in the composition classroom, redefine and transform pedagogical and curricular concepts, and improve students' experience and learning.
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Using personal cloud-based storage has become a way of life for many. Whether it’s Dropbox or Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or Apple iCloud, free and low-cost personal cloud storage is readily and inexpensively available, enabling users to access their files and content from any networked device (Duffy, 2014). With a networked device, internet connection, and an account, files can be saved and backed up online, shared, and downloaded on demand. This new way of accessing, managing, and sharing information is transforming the tech industry, the workplace, and our personal relationship to technology. Increasingly, cloud-computing plays a role in education, as students use applications located in the cloud, and store and share a variety of media with classmates and faculty. Institutions -- including colleges and universities -- that implement storage and sharing using cloud technology must consider the way that it transforms access, communication, interaction, and relationships between and among the institution and its constituents.

File storage and file sharing, however, only scratch the surface of the potential that cloud-based technologies offer. Cloud-based services designed for educational use, like Google Apps for Education (GAFE), afford deeply collaborative activities across multiple applications. Google Drive and Google Docs, two of the applications in GAFE and the focus of this chapter, work in tandem to provide shared folders (through Drive) for exclusive, password-protected file sharing among class members and free web- or app-based word processing (in Docs). Google Docs also offers the opportunity for synchronous or asynchronous collaborative use. Granular sharing levels enable strict or loose limits on the way partners or groups can collaborate in a document or among multiple documents. With appropriate sharing permissions, collaborating can take the form of typing in the same document at the same time, typing in the same document at different times, and suggesting and accepting changes at the same time and different times. Asynchronous commenting, threaded and labeled by user, enables users to post comments, respond to comments, and mark comment threads as resolved. Synchronous chats are also built into the document as a sidebar or separate window, enabling brainstorming sessions and communication related to, but outside of, the primary composition space. Multimedia can be embedded, and this functionality can be extended to voice and video collaboration by using other GAFE applications like Google Hangout. GAFE offers this level of collaborative affordances in Docs (word processing), Sheets (spreadsheets), Slides (presentations), Forms (web-based forms connected to Sheets), and Drawings (drawing) applications, all of which can be combined and shared through Drive. Other third-party apps, such as mindmapping, can be added to this standard suite to extend the functionality and collaboration possibilities of GAFE, and Google encourages developers to create new apps.

These collaborative cloud-based affordances offer composition studies the opportunity to rethink not only our pedagogy but also key “givens” in the field, such as drafts, process, peer review, and authorship. In this chapter, the authors present their combined efforts to revise and rethink teaching composition with/in the cloud using GAFE in two different first-year composition situations: rural campuses of a community college serving a mix of traditional students and working professionals, and the continuing education unit of a suburban private liberal arts college serving working professionals. The authors integrated GAFE for student composing, collaboration, and communication, requiring work to be completed using GAFE collaborative applications and shared with peers and their instructor using Google Drive folders. Students completed invention, drafting, revision, review, and submission activities in Google Drive; they produced no printed compositions. Although the authors used their institutions’ learning management systems (LMS) to post grades, students submitted assignments to the LMS as Google Doc URLs, and instructors annotated and assessed (without grading) assignments within the Google Doc. After observing student interaction during both face-to-face class sessions and within the online documents, the authors surveyed students about their experience using GAFE in the composition course.

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