Social Media, teaching, Technology

The Ethics of Building Collective Review Sheets on Google Docs

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I’m giving my first test in my American Government class next Thursday, and am currently encouraging my students to begin thinking about organizing their materials and preparing for that assessment.

However, as this group of students is sophomores, I’m striving to encourage them to develop more accountability in terms of determining which concepts and terms are the most significant ones from our unit of study. Certainly, I’ve encouraged them to do this as we’ve progressed through the readings; however, I think many students are familiar and comfortable with the “Review Sheet” format where they are given everything they have to know for the test, which I fear might encourage them to put off developing those skills of saliency determination in the course of a unit.

So, as an experiment, I’m trying to split the difference of giving the students access to a review sheet, but simultaneously asking them to be the ones who generate the content of what is on that review sheet. For this task, I’ve employed a publicly accessible Google Doc, which I think will be new for many of the students. I’m not requiring any sign in information (though I may do that in the future) and am not making contributing to or even using the review sheet a mandate. However, I do think that this collaborative writing venue makes good sense for the task of building a review sheet, and I like the fact that Google Docs allows recovery of any prior draft of the document in case something tragic happens.

In order to help the students get a sense of the ethics of using one of these online collaborative writing venues for compiling a review, I added a rather lengthy disclaimer about how the use the document, which I’ll share here.


Instructions for and Ethics about the Use of this Document: For this collectively developed review, I encourage you to add key terms, concepts, ideas, etc. that we’ve discussed throughout this unit and define them if you so choose.

I’ll provide the general categories we covered below, and then leave it up to you to work to identify which specific terms belong in each heading. Also, if you choose to define these terms, please explain both what the term is and, more importantly, why it is significant.

I intend this document to be helpful to each of you, but if you choose to add a term, please put your name in parentheses after the term and/or definition that you add. Also note that because this a productive, public, academic space, I expect that the guidelines and decorum that holds in my classroom will also hold here. This expectation means that you are to use this space for academic purposes and no others.

Finally, each of you who uses this document needs to be a critical consumer of the information that’s posted here. I hope this venue will be helpful for your review, but I can’t vouch for the accuracy or preciseness of the interpretations and analyses of significance that you or your peers post here. Therefore, if you’re uncertain about a term or concept, please consult the readings and discuss these terms face-to-face with your classmates or with me during our review day.

Have others done something similar in terms of having students build a collective review sheet? What tools or resources did you use? What emphases did you give to your students? Did the unmonitored access to the document yield any problems that I haven’t anticipated here?


One thought on “The Ethics of Building Collective Review Sheets on Google Docs

  1. Pingback: ProfHacker - The Chronicle of Higher Education

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