For the past two weeks, one of my 6th grade classes has been collaborating with another 6th grade class at CIS339 in the Bronx using Google Docs. Both classes are participating in the National Writing Project's Letter to the Future President contest. But if no one from our 2 classes wins, it won't matter. We have already won this week. We have made connections with a group of students we would never have met. My students have been working on their letters, not only in school, but also outside of school and it is not homework. They couldn't wait to get home and work on their letters. They couldn't wait to get feedback from their partners in the Bronx. When they were editing their letters and their partner was online at the same time, they were so excited! They couldn't believe the magic of google docs. One student opened his letter and saw that his partner was reading his letter at the very same time he was proofreading and he actually said, "Mrs. Hartman, this is magic!"
My magic moment came at 9:13pm on Thursday night. I knew some of my students were behind on their letters due to absences, so I wanted to check how far along they were. When I opened my Google Docs account, I saw no fewer than 14 of my students were online working on their letters! I was able to give them suggestions and feedback in real time. The next morning, they came running into my homeroom, saying, "YOU were looking at our letters!"
Yes, I was. But not only are they writing for me, but they have 2 other sets of eyes on their work and the knowledge that their work will be viewed by whomever is judging the Letters to the Future President contest. It creates a new kind of accountability.
The class we are working with in the Bronx has a very special teacher. Mr. Spevack. Mr. Spevack is a fellow Google Certified Teacher and was just featured in an interesting article in the Village Voice about his students and technology in the classroom.
I will be posting some video documenting our journey and some more stories about our collaboration project in the future.