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Teaching Interactively With Google Docs

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Computer Education Innovations I

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1177.1 - 15.1177.17



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Paper Authors


Edward Gehringer North Carolina State University

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Ed Gehringer,, is Associate Professor of Computer Science and Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University. His main research area is collaborative learning technology. He received his Ph.D. degree from Purdue University, and taught at Carnegie Mellon University, and Monash University in Australia.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Teaching Interactively with Google Docs


Active learning has repeatedly been shown to be important to retention of what is taught in class. An important challenge is devising enough active-learning exercises to reinforce each important concept and prevent students from “tuning out” after the first fifteen minutes of class. Since many students nowadays carry laptops, we should look for ways to use them in active learning— rather than let them be a distraction during class. Using Google forms, students can give feedback on their laptops during class. Google docs can be used in a myriad of ways, such as for collecting answers to questions, submitting computer code, filling out tables and tableaus, or reporting on Web research done during class. It is quite easy to use Google docs in almost any class, providing the kind of interactivity that is missing from a traditional lecture.

1. Introduction

It has been about 10 years since universities began to require students to own laptops. It is safe to say that the anticipated educational benefits have not accrued. Indeed, some recent studies [1, 2] have reported that students who bring laptops to class actually learn less than those who do not. However, banning laptops is problematical [4] because it forecloses such positive uses of laptops as taking notes and working problems in class. This has led many educators to realize, belatedly, that “lecturing is dead” [5]. To retain students’ attention, classes must become more interactive. Laptops can fill this bill. In recent years, software applications such as DyKnow [6], Ubiquitous Presenter [7], MessageGrid [8], and Group Scribbles [9] have been developed to bring true interactivity to the laptop classroom. They provide tremendous help in conveying complex concepts. But they have not caught on with the vast majority of engineering faculty. They require an infrastructure that places demands on the professor to learn how to use these applications, and on the IT staff to install and support them. In years to come, they will penetrate further, as they should. But for most faculty, they are not an instant solution. An attractive alternative is Google docs. One can typically learn how to create Google docs in less than an hour. No infrastructure is needed, except for a wireless network. Google supplies the servers and the storage. Google docs are versatile enough to be used in almost any engineering class. The remainder of this paper will show how to get started, and provide a sampling of the many uses that Google docs can play in the wireless classroom.

2. Creating and Using Google Docs

It is very easy to create a Google doc. First of all, one needs a Google account. Your gmail account will work, if you have one. If you do not, you need to be invited to open one by a current gmail user.

Proceedings of the 2010 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition 1 Copyright  2010, American Society for Engineering Education

Gehringer, E. (2010, June), Teaching Interactively With Google Docs Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16352

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