Google Collaborative Writing: Playwrights in Vancouver, BC and Timmins, ON Connect on a Google Doc

A couple of years ago, Google Docs commemorated National Novel Writing Month by inviting authors Edan Lepucki, Tope Folarin, and Mike Curato to participate in a short story challenge. The three writers were tasked with writing a short story…on the same Doc…in three different locations…in real time.

The beauty of Google Docs of course is that the same Doc can be shared with multiple people, and with 3 different permissions, depending on the type of activity desired: View, Commenting, and Edit. In this scenario the 3 authors all had Edit rights, and because it is a live document, they could collaborate to write a story together in real time. As their story unfolds, the audience is able to see the developments every step of the way.

The authors were later asked about the process they went through, and all three commented on how they had never before written a story with others in real time. One author mentioned feeling an “incredible rush”, and another stated that they were all “feeding off one another”, and that it was more fun writing in a group than by yourself.

I wanted to recreate this activity, and my vision was to invite my sister Amy Lee Lavoie to collaborate with one of our Timmins, ON area high school students (Max) who loves to write, and has written plays for the schools she has attended on her own time. These plays were performed by students in grades 7 and 8. She is in grade 11. My sister is a playwright based in Vancouver, BC, and I thought it would be an important and memorable exercise for a young writer to engage in a real-time collaboration with an established and incredibly talented (I may be biased but it’s the truth!) playwright. These two would never have had the opportunity to collaborate had it not been for the power of Google Hangouts and Docs (and my hand in the introductions I suppose).

As is sometimes the case, I did run into some technical difficulties. For one, our administrator did not have Google Hangouts on Air (GHOA) enabled. I assumed that because our regular Google Hangouts (GHO) were enabled (we use this platform all the time in our board), that GHOA would be as well. This is not the case! Your Google Admin must enable GHOA through Google +, as we learned here.

Second, even though we were able to enable GHOA in time for the event, it was not working for our student. So, we resorted to a regular GHO and it was still amazing. The only thing is, in regular GHO there is no automatic recording feature. I tried to enlist the help of third-party screencasting software, but it wasn’t meant to be that day!

So, I resorted to the faux-pas of taking pictures and video with my iPhone in an attempt to capture some of the spirit of the activity (I know, I know). Definitely nowhere near the production value of the commercial above, but I WILL try again!

Amy wrote the beginning of the play as a starting point for the activity:

Screenshot 2016-06-10 21.17.08

The shared Doc was up, the GHO began, and a frenzy of collaborative writing ensued!

Although there may have been some nervousness in the beginning, our student Max quickly got into the flow of writing and soon the two writers were creating a hilarious dialogue together. The two characters in the play, Eric and Thea, were growing sassier with every keystroke. There were no real pauses between writer switches, lots of laughter, and intense concentration throughout the process.

At the end of the call, the two writers weighed in with their thoughts on the collaborative process – Amy in Vancouver, and Max in Timmins.

Amy: I often think of playwriting, or the act of writing, as a solitary thing, but theatre is really a community-based art form. It requires an incredible amount of energy and diverse bodies to bring it into the three-dimensional realm. This exercise brought me back to that feeling of collaboration. And that, to me, is about risk taking, curiosity and imagination. It was so much fun!

Max: It was fun, it was a little stressful at first trying to find my groove and get into it, but it went well though!

The real-time, collaborative process itself was particularly rewarding in that it forced the playwrights to go against their usual instincts in order to follow their co-writer’s lead and move the story along. There was a real sense of connectedness, and it’s a beautiful thing when the writers are 3,782 kilometers away from each other.

It is my hope that I will be able to facilitate more of these collaborative writing opportunities for students through the digital Human Library‘s extensive community of experts, and even via some local writers, to further cultivate a love of writing. I can only imagine the valuable input a teacher could gather from watching collaborative writing unfold – the student’s individual writing process would be apparent, as would the type of writer they typically are (whether they prefer to get their words and ideas onto the Doc and not worry about spelling errors, or if they are the type to fix their errors as they go).

And, it’s fun. 🙂

A huge thank you to Amy and Max for participating in this little experiment with me…let’s do this again soon.

Here are the beginnings of the collaborative play in Google Docs. It’s not finished, as we only had approximately 30 minutes of writing time, but it’s a cliffhanger!

 

 

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Dave Ruch: The Largest Online Gathering of K-5 Classrooms

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These boys wanted to sit closest to the action!

Dave Ruch is a dedicated and talented performer and teacher artist from Buffalo, NY. However, geography is a non-issue if you’d like to have Dave entertain and educate the students in your classroom. All that’s required is an Internet connection, laptop or other device that is hooked up to a projector/SmartBoard, and you’ll have yourself a live, interactive concert in your classroom or school.

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My class at the beginning of the concert. It wasn’t long before the majority were on their feet, along with their makeshift signs.

At the end of October, which is Connected Educator Month, he will be hosting a FREE live-streaming concert from his home studio in Buffalo and is encouraging as many participants from across the globe as possible! As a teacher who has had the pleasure of inviting Dave into my Grade 4/5 classroom last year, I can guarantee you that this is not an experience to be missed. His timed responses are so spot-on that it took a lot of convincing for my students to believe that he could not actually SEE them. They were engaged from start to finish.

The largest online gathering of K-5 students will be held on Friday, October 30th at 1:15 EST.

For more information about this event, and/or to book Dave Ruch for your classroom/school, please visit his website or the digital Human Library, where he is one of our MeBooks.

Producing Digital Content: A Story told in Emaze

During my Learning Technologies: Selection, Design, and Application course, we were asked to produce a digital story about the types of digital content we have worked on thus far, as a type of reflection of our journey with various online media technologies.

Since embedding an Emaze presentation doesn’t work on WordPress.com (I was only able to find a WordPress.org plugin); to share, I’ve simply inserted a hyperlink within a screenshot of my story. Please click on the image to be transported there. Just press play!

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Building Bridges with Virtual Researcher on Call

When I taught Grade 7 Science, I used Virtual Researcher on Call in my classroom to help with my Structures unit. Professor Francesco Tangorra from Algonquin College was the resident expert on call, and if you ever have the chance to work with him, you won’t be disappointed!

The following is an excerpt from an article by Cheryl Ricco (a principal at NCDSB) from Leaders and Learners magazine reporting teacher Melissa Lavoie’s Virtual Researcher On Call aka VROC classroom experience…

I Think I Can, I Think I Can, I Think I Can

“One way elementary educators in the NCDSB stay on track with preparing students for the 21st century is through the integration of the creative process with trad- itional STEM subjects. In fact, it is through the creative process that teachers of science, technology and math encourage their students to be critical thinkers.
Melissa Lavoie, teacher at St. Paul Elementary School and O’Gorman Intermediate Catholic School in Timmins, Ont, for example, uses the creative process in sci- ence and math. To assist in the instruction of a structures and stability unit in her Grade 7 science class, Lavoie uses a program called Virtual Researchers on Call (VROC) to expose students to potential careers in STEM fields.

According to their website, VROC is “a set of educational programs that connect knowledge partners (college and university professors and professionals) in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math with Canadian students in elementary and secondary schools for real-time, interactive learning opportunities.”

After teaching specific concepts about structures and stability, Lavoie introduced Prof. Francesco Tangorra from Algonquin College in Ottawa to her students via software provided by VROC. By “beaming” into Lavoie’s classroom, Tangorra introduced himself, the work he does at Algonquin College and how the concepts they were learning about would help them in the field of civil engineering.

He also outlined the unit activity which would have students competing against each other in a Popsicle stick and white glue bridge building challenge. The three criteria for the design project were economy, efficiency and elegance. Students not only had to use math and science knowledge to construct their bridge, they had to be creative in its design to produce a beautiful, yet functional, design.

“The connection that students are coming to realize is that… art is integrated within construction. It is an integral part of the very function of a bridge. The colours and materials used also enhance the aesthetics of the bridge, as bridges often make a statement in the space they are in,” says Lavoie.

Lavoie and Tangorra then gave the students a few days in small groups to construct their bridges with the understanding that Tangorra would assist in judging the projects and also provide feedback to the students with regards to why and how the bridges strained or collapsed. The students absolutely loved the interaction. They were engaged and attentive.

In essence, Lavoie’s use of the VROC program helped students who generally see art as a separate subject come to see it as an integral component to projects in STEM fields. As a result, all students could value the learning taking place.”

Here is a SlideShare presentation of Leaders and Learners magazine, Winter 2014-2015 edition (scroll to pages 24-26):

My first dHL artist connection

Meet Dave Ruch, my first official artist connection to the digital Human Library!  Dave is a historian, entertainer, educator, comedian, folklorist, and musician based out of Buffalo NY.  He will be putting on a FREE online, interactive concert for students K-5 on Friday, October 10th at 1:15 pm.  For more information about Dave and how to contact him for login information, please read Leigh (of dHL)’s blog here.

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Dave Ruch