Are you needing students to make a journal, as well as see and possibly comment on each other’s blog? Finding a tool with easy visibility and simple user interface inside of some kind of protected space can be difficult to find, in addition to doing all of it for free. (While Blogger is an excellent free Google tool -- obviously I'm a fan! -- I know it is blocked by some districts due to monitoring and privacy concerns, or considered to be too complicated for their younger students.)
- Create a Google Doc that serves as a journaling “template.” Be sure to make a space/field at top for them to type their name and a way to date each of their entries. Make it a sharable URL as "view only." Copy the URL.
- Do the “force copy trick” with the URL so that, when the URL is clicked, it forces the user to copy to their own Drive.
- Provide this “force copy URL” inside of your learning management system (LMS). As students click the link and save the copy to their Drive, make sure they change the words “Copy of” inside the title of the Doc to “First and Last Name” (for example, “Copy of Journal Log” becomes “ADAM WATSON Journal Log”).
- Have each student open the sharing link on their new Doc. Make sure the permission is “[District Domain] Users Only, view and comment.” The student should copy this URL.
- Create a simple Google Form for students to submit responses; again, link the URL in a LMS. Ask for their names, but make sure the Form automatically collects their email addresses. The students should paste their journal’s sharable URL as an answer to one of the Form’s questions. (Note: organizationally you may want to create a different Form for each class; the reasons why will become obvious in the next steps.)
- Within the responses tab of your Form, make sure you create a Sheet to go with the Form’s responses. You now have ONE spreadsheet that has links to ALL of the journals of the students. Now, make the Sheet “view only” and provide that link inside a LMS for your students to access.
- By clicking on the Sheet’s URL, you now have an easy way for students to access each other’s Journals and read them (without the students, or you, creating hundreds of sharing permissions). Additionally, if they Comment, they will be identified (no anonymous comments allowed) and some privacy is maintained as students have it restricted to visibility only within your domain's users. By having “view and comment” instead of edit rights will also prevent students from intentionally or unintentionally writing over each other or even nuking each other's journal with deletions. Of course, multiple Sheets also make it easier for you to look at the various journals class by class. Bonus #1: collecting the journal URLs in this way avoids receiving all of those inbox-cluttering sharing email notifications. Bonus #2: the Form and Sheet automatically organizes the journal links without you spending time creating multiple Google Folders and organizing all of the student journal Docs inside them.
- One last step/tip: if students are to respond to each other's journals, make sure students understand not only what a valuable “uptake” Comment is (beyond “that is great!”), but also make the expectations clear. Should they Comment on someone else’s journal twice a week? Two different journals, or two Comments on the same journal ok? Should they eventually Comment on all student journals at least once? Do they need to reply to the Comments made by other students? Will they be assessed qualitatively (do you have a rubric?), quantitatively, or both?