Mar 19 2008
Using the “Discuss” tool in Google spreadsheets
We have been using spreadsheets from Google quite considerably this year. The main strength over Excel is the ability to share the data that is generated and benefit from a pooling of efforts and results. One of the most recent uses in my Year 5/Grade 4 class was during a History lesson, in which we were exploring why the River Nile is so important to Egypt. I posed the question quite openly and asked the children to explore some climate data about different world cities in order to refer it against some of the major sities in Egypt. I have embedded the spreadsheet below.
Each child was given a few different cities to explore and using our class laptop resource they independently investigated average rainfall, temperature etc. They added the results into the correct sheet and as we all worked we were able to see the other results popping up.
At the end of the session I posed the main enquiry once again, “Why was/is the River Nile so important to Egypt?” I asked the children to use the “Discuss” tab (top right, next to “Share” and “Publish”) and to write their answers in the instant messaging tool. Once they had added their response I asked them to join me in front of the SMARTBoard to finish the session.
The “Discuss” tool allowed me to quickly collate all of the children’s thoughts into one place and display them on the IWB to discuss. It proved to be a good focused activity to finish the independent session and it generated some interesting points to discuss in the plenary. Here is the unedited transcript of what they responded with.
year5tb: because it dosen’t rain much.
me: the river nile
year5tb: so they can drink beacuse they can drink and stay healthy. So they can drink from in it. ? Hi J.C!
Because they don’t realy have much precipitation to live on.
They hardly have any precipitatoin and the River Nile is the only water they have
year5tb: because theres no fresh water to help there land stay moist. Becues it is the most hotist and driay and that is the only warter. Because it’s the only river in eygit. That the only river. We think that the river Nile is important because the weather is so dry and hot. It is the only wet river they have.
Why is the river niel inportent becuase the river is dray and it is not so wet. So they can keep fresh.
me: Because they hardly have eny rain fall
year5tb: Because its hot and dose’nt rain much.
So egypt can have water from the river and then take it back to there village.
As you can see in the text there is plenty to discuss with the children and we referred back to the spreadsheet as we talked and justified some of the ideas. It brought all of their thoughts into one place and became a clear focal point for closing the lesson. I think that the idea of a simple message board service / tool would be really useful for a laptop session whether in GDocs or not – perhaps something to explore, it would have to be something light, with no login so children can just get in and add their response.
(If I were to ask the children do something similar in the future I will ask them to add an initial to the post so that it becomes more useful for assessment purposes.)