Last week, Google announced the addition of Discussions into their Google Docs suite. In addition to the other collaboration features (chat, comments, etc), Discussions now gives users the ability to have threaded conversations about their documents. Each Discussion thread gets time-stamped and includes profile pictures which helps to foster more authentic communication between editors in a document. The other nice feature is that users can set up email notifications with Discussions so that they can be alerted when someone has contributed to a discussion thread. Sadly, the Discussion feature will only appear in new documents that you create in Google Docs. I was hoping that the feature would be supported in existing document files but it will only be available in the new documents that you create. To see a short demonstration on the new Discussions feature in Google Docs, check out the tutorial below.
If you haven’t used Google Docs before, you need to. While I’ve been a long-time user of the free Office suite and I’ve written about Google Docs before, I still find Google Docs amazing, especially for educational purposes. With Google Docs, I can assign a collaborative assignment for my students and they can interact and contribute in real time with one another. I can monitor the Revision History to track who has contributed to the document and identify each student’s individual contributions. Now with the Discussions feature, I can see the conversations that students have as they’re working on their assignment and see what areas they’re struggling with. Besides offering more communication options for users, the Discussions feature gives educators more opportunities to assess student understanding and monitor their learning.