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Developing Your Students to Be 21st Century Learners: Using Google Docs for Collaboration

"Technology alone will not improve education, but it can be a powerful part of the solution."

- Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google

Whether we like it or not, none of us can run away from the powers of technology. It is all around us and plays a major part in many young people's lives.

It's important for us as educators to realise we are teaching 21st century students. Jobs that were around 25 years ago no longer exist today, therefore we cannot expect to use the same methods teachers used fifty to hundred years ago to prepare students for the changes in today's working world.

P21 (Partnership for 21st Century Learning) developed the idea of the 4Cs: the four mains skills students of the new generation need for the future. They are:

1. Communication

2. Collaboration

3. Critical thinking

4. Creativity

With over 800 million jobs that could be replaced by machines by 2030, these are the skills we should be developing in the classroom.

"We cannot teach our kids to compete with machines- they are smarter... we have to teach something unique, so that machines can never catch up with us." -Jack Ma

I admit. I used to like to play it safe and was more of a 'chalk and talk' teacher, however, I realise playing it safe is not going to benefit my students in the long run. Yes, this method may help them to pass exams, but will it help them develop the 'unique' skills needed to compete with robots? No.

That's why whenever I can I try to incorporate these 4Cs into my teaching. Through my blog, I will be sharing some of the lessons that I try to hopefully give you some ideas to use in your own classroom.

This time I will be sharing how I use Google Docs during my A-level lessons to help develop my students' communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills.

I am currently studying Streetcar Named Desire with my Y12 students. To help them with revision I created a worksheet that breaks down each Assessment Objective on the Edexcel paper. This ensures their revision is focused on the exam requirements.

Here it is:

Now, how am I developing the key skills for a 21st century learner?

Communication and Collaboration

Instead of students completing this individually or for homework, I get them to work collaboratively. I add the revision sheet to a Google Doc and share this with them through Google Classroom. I split the students into small groups and give them an AO to work on. They must work together to complete their section as I watch their progress on my computer. If I feel that their responses could be developed, or it's not quite right, I leave them a comment which they can see immediately and make the necessary changes.

I act as a facilitator for the lesson and that's it. The majority of the thinking and work is done by them. They have to communicate and collaborate effectively with each other to complete the task.

Here is the lesson in action:

Critical Thinking

To help develop their critical thinking, I break down each AO in the form of questions. A01 requires students to give a personal response, so I ask the students to devise their own set of questions to ask themselves about that particular scene. When it comes closer to the exam, they will then be able to answer these key questions as revision and develop their own personal response.

Here is an example of their work:

I find this activity is really effective in my lesson. It puts more ownership on my students to do the work, allows them to think for themselves and promotes collaboration.

I have attached a link to download the AO revision sheet below.

Let me know how it goes with your students. Be great to get some feedback.

Until next time...


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