Mariana Galindo-Vega, a communication intern for The Wheel, wrote the following piece about her experience using Google Docs to coordinate student schedules.
You will find Mariana Galindo-Vega, a third-year Sociology and Spanish double major, reading and writing around campus on a daily basis. Her friends, cooking, and dancing (sometimes all three) entertain her when she is not studying. She is friendly and loves to talk so, if you see her, say hello!
The quarter has just started, yet every single one of the salsa club choreographers and performers are already flooded with homework, changing work schedules, and practices for a series of performances. The team was preparing for our university’s biggest dance competition — the Picnic Day “Davis Dance Revolution.” Everyone’s busy schedule made it difficult to coordinate additional practices or make the arrangements we needed. Under these circumstances, we tried our best to use technology to plan, communicate, send reminders, and announce practice times or last-minute changes for a group of 16+ performers.
“When are we having practice again?” asks one of the newest members of the salsa dance team. “We will let you guys know through the group chat.”
Managing our overpacked schedules, we recognized that When2Meet, Google Drive, Facebook group pages, and Facebook group chats had become our best and necessary options to coordinate our work and practice together. The need of online collaboration tools is clear: student schedules are often packed and constantly changing, making it difficult for us to meet face-to-face with our peers to work on school or extracurricular activities. Because of this, our team chose optimum technology tools in order to plan, communicate, share and collaborate on documents. Increasingly, students and faculty alike turn to these practical tools.
Working with my student colleagues, we devised and adapted a number of Google Doc strategies that can be applied by faculty as they collaborate with others.
1) Use the suggestion tools
Google Documents offers asynchronous collaboration and added value. By using the suggestion tool, guest collaborators can make suggested changes. These then become official changes in the document once they are approved by the owner. Adrian Victoria, a UC Davis third-year aerospace engineer, has used Google Docs as a way to collaborate with co-authors, or to invite friends to review his paper. This method allows his peers to offer comments on an essay, regardless of their location. Victoria then checks his paper and makes recommended or discovered necessary changes.
2) Collaborate at the same time
While many students use Google Docs for asynchronous collaboration, some recognize synchronous cooperation as a more efficient option than waiting until a paper has been reviewed. Victoria also explained that, by being online at the same time as his peers, he can continue working or making modifications and get immediate feedback. Said Victoria, “I can see the suggestions being done in real time, and I can ask questions at that same moment.” As long as both participants have internet access, they can be on opposite sides of Davis working on the same paper at the same time just as if they were right next to each other. For them, this process is more about working on the project at the moment rather than review of content.
3) Communicate with your team outside of a chat if it’s necessary
“Chats don’t always communicate what we really mean,” said Makayla Stump, a third-year Design major who has also used group chats (via Google Chat or texting) and Google Docs inside and outside of the classroom. Group chats, as helpful as they can be, do not allow team members to describe some expressions or concerns as effectively as they could verbally. To prevent miscommunications, Stump says that voice calls can be used, thus helping team members clarify any issues or determine who will delegate tasks.
4) Color coding
Stump has also found color coding within a document to be helpful. By assigning a color to each person working on the document, group members can review a visual representation of our input in the document. “It can get complicated…unless there are strict guidelines as to who writes what. Color coding can help [us] figure out if we are all roughly doing the same amount of work.”
Sometimes we just need one strategy and sometimes a combination of strategies. Ultimately, having a number of approaches can help us as students organize ourselves effectively during teamwork opportunities. As for our team, we continued using our group texting chat and Facebook group as our main way to communicate with all the performers. Meanwhile, the choreographers made sure to have ready to share a document with performance schedule and information. Color coding and the asynchronous updates allowed us to continue working towards a better-informed performance team. These strategies have also helped board members; meeting calls and Google Drive become efficient ways to work during breaks, during weeks we were all extremely busy to meet up, or when some members were sick or traveling. After trying a number of options, eventually we find the methods that work the best for us.