In English and language arts (ELA), word processing and presentations from the basic suite have been used for years, in very traditional formats: the word processor taking the place of the hand-written essay, and the presentation taking the place of the poster board. Roblyer (2016), however addresses the need for ELA to begin to address “new literacies”, not just canonical literature taught as it has always been (p. 261). The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) noted six ways English teachers will need to be able to address the new digital needs of students, and the first one was, “Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology” (p. 262).
One of the ways this can happen is by teachers using the basic suite differently, stepping way from only using them in the traditional ways. My two colleagues in American Literature and I have been stepping out of our comfort zone this year with the basic suite and have been quite pleased with the results.
Discussions are wonderful for helping students think about text on a deeper level, allowing them to learn and think differently as they hear their peers’ ideas. However, once they are complete, they disappear. In order to keep these wonderful ideas from disappearing, for our Puritan literature unit, we created a Google Doc, shared the link with all of the students, making sure the settings allowed for editing; then each class answered their assigned question in the document. As we discussed, the students updated the answers live as were verbally discussing them. Afterward, the students had our class discussions as a source they could use on our Puritan project. We were pleased with how well it functioned with our classes.
Our next unit focuses on The Crucible, and we are going to use Google Slides to create an ongoing character list, with each student making a slide for his/her assigned character. Ultimately the presentation will function as flashcards for the students as they prepare for the summative assessment at the end of reading the play, with its many characters. We will know how this worked out in the next couple of weeks.