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!

 

 

Advertisements

Cold calls to collaborations, and other tales of connected learning

I’m a big fan of the cold call.

More often than not, in my experience, the people I have reached out to in the world of education have reciprocated to the point where some pretty great things have happened. Transformative, even.

There was that time I cold-tweeted Dr. Leigh Zeitz of the University of Northern Iowa with a link to a research project I conducted. I had adapted and applied his work to a project for my school board about creating collaborative research projects with Google Apps for Education. Screenshot 2016-06-03 21.28.18This led to a Google Hangout where I had the opportunity to talk to someone I may never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise, and he even helped me narrow my focus for a research question I had been working on for one of my courses. I brought this knowledge back to my group, we applied his suggestions and it definitely paid off.

Whenever I have a question about Google Sheets (which is all the time), I tweet to Alice Keeler and she always responds. I’m sure she will tire of me eventually. I tweet to her about other things too.

And back when I was applying to UBC’s MET program, one of my visions was to develop a type of online platform to connect educators to artists. I was working with Virtual Researcher on Call at the time as a classroom teacher, and I asked my contact there if she knew of any such platform in existence. That’s when I first heard about the digital Human Library and Leigh Cassell. I contacted Leigh in September 2014, and long story short, I am now VP for dHL’s Board of Directors and a Library Curator for the site.

This is how things happen, my friends.

So how does using technology to collaborate with others lead to transformative learning?

Harvard University’s Dr. Chris Dede wrote a three-part series for Ontario school and system leaders participating in the Technology and Learning Fund (TLF). His first think piece is entitled “Technologies that Aid Learning Partnerships on Real-World, Authentic Tasks”. In it, he states that “modern digital tools and media now enable the use of deeper learning strategies in schools (Dede, 2014) including:

  • Connected learning encourages students to confront challenges and pursue opportunities that exist outside of their classrooms and campuses (Ito et al. 2013); and
  • Collaborative learning enables a team to combine its knowledge and skills in making sense of a complex phenomenon

When educators themselves model connected and collaborative learning practices, they show their students the importance of working together to exchange information and ideas, solve problems and extend the existing task beyond what it is to potentially create something new. This may have never occurred had they kept the learning confined to their own classrooms.

There are numerous video-conferencing platforms educators can choose from (Google Hangouts is a personal favourite, as we are a GAFE school board), and webcams are pretty standard these days, as are projectors – but where do they even start connecting with people?

I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with a wonderfully passionate educator named Sean Robinson. We connected via Leigh Cassell. He asked me to speak with a group of educators at Centennial Secondary School in Coquitlam, BC about my experiences using various services to help connect students to experts in various fields. Here they are:

I spoke about how I had used these websites in classrooms in order to help modify and certainly transform students’ learning experiences in various subject areas. You can read more about it on Sean’s blog here.

If you look at Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s “SAMR” model, a sort of measuring tool for educators to integrate technology into their classrooms, the ultimate goal is to not only enhance but transform student experiences so that it results in higher levels of achievement. This is done through “redefinition”: the technology actually allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.

Here is an example of the SAMR model at work, using my experience with Mr. Cull’s Grade 5/6 classroom in Cobalt, ON and “Exploring by the Seat of your Pants”.  Prior to the Google Hangout with adventurers Tarran and Ollie, who would soon kayak the Amazon River, the students thought of questions they would like to ask the pair:

During the Hangout, students had the opportunity to have a conversation with Tarran and Ollie, and would also follow their journey via their website. The students therefore had a stake in their own learning.

There was a follow-up Hangout upon completion of their epic journey, and the same class participated and was able to ask questions to extend their learning.

Here is what the task would look like in each stage of SAMR:

Substitution: Using Google Search to research the Amazon River Run, and Google Docs to type up a report / presentation.

Augmentation: Incorporate interactive multimedia – audio, video, hyperlinks – in the presentation to give more depth and provide a more engaging presentation.

Modification: Create a digital travel brochure for the Amazon River that incorporates multimedia and student created video.

Redefinition: Participate in a Google Hangout with the explorers, provide authentic interviews, follow their journey via the website and then follow up afterwards. Incorporate all artifacts into final product.

Screenshot 2016-06-04 01.28.20
Image from Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s “SAMR and TPCK: A Hands-On Approach to Classroom Practice”

If you’ve made it this far, you are awesome.

If you would like to join a Connected Learning Partnership, please click here and get ready to expand your world!

 

References:

Dede, C. (2014). The role of technology in deeper learning. New York, NY: Jobs for the Future. http://www.studentsatthecenter.org/topics/role-digital-technologies-
deeper-learning

Puentedura, R. (2014, December 11). SAMR and TPCK: A Hands-On Approach to Classroom Practice. Retrieved June 3, 2016, from http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2014/12/11/SAMRandTPCK_HandsOnApproachClassroomPractice.pdf

Zeitz, L. (2014, September 6). Create collaborative research projects with Google Apps. Retrieved June 03, 2016, from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=16

 

Washington State University Tech-Ed Conference, Oct. 1-2, 2015: Using Google Street View and WalkInto as a Medium for Virtual Field Trips

Over the past 2 days, I have had the amazing opportunity to learn from leading researchers in the field of Educational Technology at the Washington State University Tech-Ed Conference. What a beautiful conference and campus, and the people were inviting, engaging and all-around great folks. The invited speakers and paper presenters provoked thought and discussion surrounding how technology, but more importantly, the careful thought and good teaching behind the technology, can be transformative. I presented a paper on behalf of my colleagues at the University of British Columbia’s Master of Educational Technology program (Novak Rogic and Alison Pattern). This was a group design project from ETEC 510 where we designed an online, technology-supported learning environment.

Here is my presentation about using Google Street View and WalkInto as a medium for teacher and student-created virtual field trips. This is a new concept in VFT’s that allows for both teachers and their students to create and produce incredible content – it is not limited to VFT’s by any means! Some ideas our group thought of were: flipped classrooms, marketing and promotions for colleges and universities, school walk-throughs for parents, etc.

What are some other applications you can think of?

12108272_10153210683623602_7642097253583039717_n 1970515_10153210704318602_6630703595062771964_n

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

IMG_3821
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.

IMG_3818
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!

Screenshot 2015-07-27 13.52.51

digital Human Library and professional artist Omari Newton

Omari Newton is in the digital Human Library!

Montreal-born artist Omari Newton is a professional actor, writer, Slam poet and MC whose work can be found on television, film, stage or radio.

Omari’s work in television and film includes playing Lucas Ingram in the Showcase series Continuum, Larry Summers in the Spike series Blue Mountain State and the newly completed Blue Mountain State: The Rise of Thadland movie, and also lends his voice talents to the character Black Panther on the TV mini-series Wolverine vs. Sabretooth and as Jefferson Smith in Max Steel (to name a few).

His stage work in Quebec has earned him a number of favorable reviews and awards. Some career highlights include a best supporting actor nomination (soiree des masques) for his work in the Centaur Theatre’s production of Joe Penhal’s “Blue Orange” (Christopher). The play also went on to win best English language production.

He is a proud Graduate of Concordia University’s Communication Studies program. As a writer, he’s completed his original Hip Hop theatre piece “Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy of” which recently completed successful runs in both Montreal & Vancouver in 2013. The play was nominated for a Montreal English Theatre Award for best original script.

Omari had visited my ProD session at O’Gorman High School in Timmins, Ontario from his home in Vancouver, BC. Using Google Hangouts and his magnetic personality, he engaged the teachers in ice breakers and had the entire room up and laughing. Screenshot 2015-07-10 12.49.34

Register, visit his MeBook at the digital Human Library and book him for your classroom!

Kayaking the Amazon River with Tarran and Olie! A Google Hangout on Air Adventure

A Grade 5/6 class at St. Patrick’s School in Cobalt, Ontario participated in a Live on Air Google Hangout with two explorers on Thursday, June 11th. Tarran and 2015-06-11 (1) (1)Olie were in Lima, Peru, and have since embarked on an epic journey that will have them kayaking the Amazon River! The students had the chance to talk to the two adventurers, and asked them questions such as “What are some of the risks involved with kayaking the Amazon River?” Tarran and Olie also showed the2015-06-11 (2) (1) students what their packs consisted of (essentially one other outfit), the food they will be consuming (think astronaut food!) and the route they will be taking. Find out more about their journey here, and follow Tarran and Olie as they continue on their adventure!

The teacher and his students explored the Amazon River before the live Hangout, so that they were prepared with questions 2015-06-10 (1)– it paid off, because the two adventurers loved the poster the students made with their questions on it – their faces lit up. Watch the recorded broadcast here.