Along with the successes in any project, one also experiences some frustrations – especially when something you have invested a great deal of time and effort in planning doesn’t work out the way you expected it to – if at all!
I had one such experience this week with Google Docs on the iPad. Our Grade 6s are writing stories for our Grade 3s. They are working in pairs or in groups of three, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to set them all up with a collaborative document in Google Docs. I wanted them to work independently on separate iPads, but on the same document. (Big ask? Wishful thinking?)
As mentioned before, I have created a wiki in Wikispaces, through which the teachers share work with the students, specifically for the iPad. In this wiki I created links to the Google documents I had created for each group (They did not create their own documents as they are all under the age of 13, they may not have their own Google accounts, so I have created a Grade 6 account which I manage). I made the documents available for editing by anyone who had the link. In testing with a class of students, the links opened perfectly and we all got excited – this was working!! Soon, however, it was evident that there were issues. Firstly Google Docs opens in the mobile version with no formatting menus or anything that resembles the real Google Docs, which was confusing. Then when we opted to edit the document, we had to sign in to the Google account. To my understanding this should not be necessary for a shared document. Nevertheless, I got all the students to sign in and then we tried the option ‘Use Desktop Version’. Aah, this looked more like it! Then Google Docs threw this error message at us:
What now? We went back to the mobile version to try and continue working and it is possible for two people to work on the same document, but the whole process was extremely slow, synchronisation took ages and in some cases failed. This could be related to Wi-Fi capability, but the signal was strong. After an hour of very little real work, we decide to leave Google Docs on the iPad for another day. They’ll be using the Book Creator app for their stories instead – not quite the same level of collaboration, but we’ll find a way of getting around that. I’m guessing that Google Docs on the iPad works perfectly for a single user, but is not yet geared up for classroom collaboration. The Moral of this story? Always have a Plan B!
By the way, if anyone reading this post has had success with collaborative use of Google Docs on the iPad, if you can see where I went wrong, or if you have another suggestions, I’d really appreciate your input.