Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Google Doc is In

Today's class illustrated both the promises and the pitfalls of Google Docs. It's a spectacular collaboration and peer review tool. Barbara Monroe uses 'em as wikis, even though they're not entirely meant to be wikis (after using another wiki tool, Wikispaces.com, I would agree that Google Docs is actually pretty handy for wikis… as long as they're only a single page). Google Docs can get frustrating (and apparently, as a system, overwhelmed) when a lot of people are working on a document at the same time, but this doesn't really surprise me; any collaborative writing space is going to be messy with 12 people working in it at once). Having used GD before in 101, I can attest to the initial chaos of getting a bunch of people signed into Google and hooked up with a document the first time. An unavoidable technological nuisance. I wish that it had more fancy-shmancy document design features, but oh well. Ultimately, I'm a big fan of this tool.

The most interesting thing I heard in today's discussion was about the uniformity issue with collaborative composition, a difficulty that I've faced every time I've assigned collaborative writing. I have told my students many times that they need to craft uniform voices and styles, but they're not very good at doing it. Maybe they're lazy or not giving themselves time for that crucial last step. But maybe it's harder to do than we're giving it credit for, and thus we need to spend time teaching it. I know that today, after we had finished writing, I looked back over our document and imagined revising it for a consistent voice and design, and was daunted by the prospect of doing that alone. I think that part of the drafting process for collaborative work should be uniformity revision.