A few years back, I began experimenting with using Google Docs as a kind of digital “whiteboard” in my low intermediate reading and writing course. The rationale behind this was twofold: a typed example is more readable (in comparison to my handwritten scrawl on an actual whiteboard), and an electronic example can be archived and shared with students. This snapshot shows some of the kinds of examples students could refer back to, on topics ranging from grammar and writing to academic development issues:
One feature that I found particularly useful in Google Docs was the ability to highlight aspects of the examples in various colors to draw attention to particular words. I tried to follow a pattern over the course of the semester (for example, using green and red to distinguish effective grammar choices from less effective ones) so that students would find the color-coding easy to follow during a classroom discussion. An example of this can be seen below:
As this example shows, often the goal was to give students a range of options (from “standard” to “nonstandard”) to get their ideas across. It’s difficult to say if this method supported grammar explanations better than writing on a physical whiteboard, though it did make examples easier to read than my own handwriting, and students really seemed to appreciate the fact that the examples were archived so that they could refer back to them later.
If you have access to Google Docs (or similar electronic cloud services), try it out, and let us know what you think!