Google Docs, Student Writing & Feedback

Our Education Edition of Google Apps allows access to the suite of apps not only for the staff at school but also the students. All students in my class have their own account allowing them to use Gmail, Chat, Docs, Video, Sites and Calendar within our domain.

Students exclusively use Docs for their formal written language. While the initial planning or brainstorming phase may or may not be completed digitally, the complete draft-share-feedback-improve-publish-share process is completed within the Google Apps environment.

We have a school-wide approach to giving feedback on written work, where highlighters are used to indicate where or how a student has met the success criteria (gold) or areas that can be improved (pink). We use the phrases Gold for Goal and Pink for Think to reinforce this process.

Due to the process being completed digitally and the availability of colours in the Docs highlighting palette, I have extended upon the use of gold and pink highlights to include blue and red for the students to use in their self-assessment reflection cycle. These are shown below in the image I generated for use as a poster around the classroom.


The whole process is made manageable and possible by the sharing function built in to Docs. The simplified process looks like this with examples below:

  1. Student writes 1st draft of writing and checks independently against the success criteria. Improvements made.
  2. Student shares writing with teacher (or another student).
  3. Teacher/student highlights text as required in pink or gold and provides additional written prompts to improve writing.
  4. Posted to eportfolio.
  5. Student improves writing as per teacher/student feedback.
  6. Student completes own assessment with blue and red highlights.
  7. Posted to eportfolio.

Writing with teacher highlights:

Writing with student highlights:

The process works extremely well in terms of a reflective learning cycle. I will stress however that this process does not replace face to face feedback and conferencing. It is perhaps best viewed as a checkpoint in the learning to formalise some of the ongoing learning conversations. The process also clearly indicates how a student responds to feedback and guidance on how to improve their learning.

I think this is a really good example of how Web 2.0 tools, when grounded in sound pedagogy, really do help facilitate improved learning. I would recommend you give it a go even if you only trial it with a small group of children!

7 thoughts on “Google Docs, Student Writing & Feedback”

  1. Informative read Nick. Your post demonstrates the ease for which Google Docs supports both student learning and formative practice. This certainly aids the feedback/feed forward process with the use of Web 2.0 tools. Look forward to seeing this grow in other classes.

  2. Thanks Nick, it is great to read that primary/elementary students are using the full Google Apps package in such a useful way.
    I am very excited because I just received an email that we have been upgraded from standard to Google Apps education edition within our own domain and I was thinking about providing student accounts as well.
    I was wondering at what age do the students at your school start using their own google apps account? And do you monitor the accounts in any way?

  3. @Sylvia
    Hey Sylvia, nice to hear from you! At this stage my students are really the only ones who are using the apps regularly and have their own accounts. We always trial something like this in our digital classrooms first before rolling it out in to the whole school. A couple of teachers are on the verge of getting their students up and running and are giving it a go with a class account allowing some students to have a go on a shared account. Long term I certainly see all students having their own accounts right from when they first start school just as they do with our internal school network accounts. In fact, I see the Google account becoming more important than our server accounts, especially if the eternally rumoured GDrive ever becomes to reality…

  4. Thanks for the suggestions Nick.
    Now that Google offers free Google Message Security – powered by Postini – with the capability for administrators to limit messages and customization for different user sets (like younger students, older students, and teachers) I will try to convince administration to start with a shared class account for the oldest studensts later in the new school year.
    But first I have to get the teachers on the Google Apps rails 😉

  5. Nick, an excellent example of how Google Apps can be used in a classroom, and as you say, with sound pedagogy behind it. I am keen to know what issues/problems you have encountered in using the Google suite, as I am trying to understand both why more schools do not use it and what could be done to address these issues.


  6. Nick,

    Thanks for a helpful introduction to G-apps for Education. You mention brainstorming: Have you considered CMAP?( ) I use it a lot for my personal use and also previously with my students. I understand that it has a very powerful collaborative function but have never got round to using it collaboratively.

    The beauty of CMAP is that it can be used very simply with younger pupils and yet I my ‘A’-level students have equally been impressed with it and used it very successfully in their projects. It also has a neat export function for embedding a final graphic into a wordprocessed report etc.

    Best Wishes,
    Ray T

  7. hi
    this is the grest fun of internet though static programs like word also do the same though yoiu have to mail and you can post comments in color and keep track changes

    this eems better let me try and blog back

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