Our Use of Google Docs: Technologically Integrative or Innovative?

This summer I had the privilege to work with the staff from the Krause Center for Innovation in Los Altos Hills, CA. During the month of July, we implemented two professional development experiences for K-12 teachers that both included considering the use of technology in instruction. A theme from the first two-week session that struck me was the notion of being technologically innovative rather than technologically integrative with our practice.

Being technologically integrative, as I understand it, is using technology without changing your pedagogical practices. Technologically integrative typically then eases the work you have previously done, but it has not altered how you are teaching. Being technologically innovative, then, would include a paradigmatic shift in your pedagogy. In some ways it seems to be transformative in nature in that being technologically innovative would require an alteration if how you are thinking about and using technology rather than simply increasing your knowledge about technology.

The challenge for the K-12 teachers was not only to be technologically integrative but to challenge themselves to be technologically innovative. For me, it meant that I, too, needed to think about my pedagogical, or rather andragogical as Knowles & Associates (1984) would argue, practices in my teaching in higher education.

Earlier this week, we chose to use Google docs in the last part of our lesson. Our undergraduates were to work collaboratively to create a portion of a lesson plan on a google doc, which was shared with all members of the course. While some students were familiar with this technology, most were not and they were amazed at watching the editing of the doc live. One student remarked, "You know, I heard of Google docs, but I really didn't understand their purpose until now; now I get it."

So, was this use of technology integrative or innovative?

How did it change our pedagogy? Collaboration is a hallmark of our context, so without Google docs, we would have still had the students work together, but they would have recorded their responses on a piece of paper, a poster, or an overhead b.G. (before Google). Then students would have shared their thoughts with the large group. Using Google docs, enabled us to edit and share simultaneously and, if desired, all cross-group collaboration through the editing of other groups' work. While the latter did not occur, the possibility to engage in cross-collaborative acts was possible. In the end, I am thinking that this inclusion was more integrative than innovative in that we still did what we would have done, we just used a different tool to accomplish our task. My challenge then is not only to continue to be integrative, as I feel that is a first positive step, but to push my thinking and the thinking of my colleagues to be more innovative.