Teacher Tech blog with Alice Keeler

Paperless Is Not a Pedagogy

Alice Keeler

Provide Your Directions in a Google Doc

Provide Your Directions in a Google Doc

question marks

I have found that over the tenure of my teaching career I am not always as clear as I think I am. Inevitably at least a few students will misunderstand my directions or I accidentally leave out a detail.

It can be embarrassing and difficult for students to ask a question. In a face to face class the student can use facial cue’s and body language to show they are not being obnoxious in asking for additional clarification. However, when it comes to digital material in an online course or even when a student is at home away from the teacher, asking via email for clarifying details can seem trivial. The student may feel stupid, especially if the response is “it is written in the 3rd paragraph” or “I mentioned it in class.” I know I am trying to be helpful when I respond with things like this, but it can also squash a students willingness to ask questions in the future.

Teachers usually want to be helpful but it can be hard to maintain the same level of enthusiasm for helping a student when you have received the same email from multiple students. Typing out the same response can be frustrating, even though the questions are valid.

Use a Google Doc

Instead of relying on verbal directions or directions typed into a website or LMS, try posting your directions to a Google Document set as “anyone can comment.” This would allow students to insert comments to ask questions. As the teacher you can then modify the directions to be more clear. Since the directions are on a Google Doc ALL of the students in the class would have access to the updated directions.

anyone with the link can comment


Reply to the Comment

You are also able to reply to the students question and the answer would be visible for other students to see the answer. Inserting a comment asking for clarification is much easier than having to figure out what words to compose to ask the teacher in an email.

Student commenting on syllabus

5 thoughts on “Provide Your Directions in a Google Doc

  1. I love this idea. It occurs to me that students asking for clarification in the document helps the teacher to improve the instructions for next year, or included the commenting as a kind of FAQ!

  2. Hi Alice. Great idea. I usually only allow students to ‘view’ my instructions but this simple change to permissions will allow more interactions. Maybe we could even discuss and, gulp, modify the assessment criteria!

  3. I just wrote about this in an email to our staff today….but it was about clarifying directions in a doc while kids are performing the activity. When several kids are all making the same procedural mistake, maybe I,m the one who needs to make an adjustment. I can fix an error or clear up confusion right in the moment, and for the rest of the day, students have the new and improved version.

  4. Love it! My middle schoolers are getting better and better about navigating Google Docs. Not so much getting better at remembering directions, no matter how clear. Good call. : )

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