Hello Google Docs, Goodbye One-Shot Session

One of the biggest problems with the one-shot information literacy session is that it tends to treat research as a separate skill from writing. It’s not. The research process is really the writing process. And you can’t separate the two because they are so iterative in nature. Google Docs is a great solution for integrating research back into the writing process to create a more authentic learning task. And it allows librarians the ability to participate in the entire process. As a result, information literacy instruction becomes more distributed throughout the course of the semester and the one-shot session becomes a relic of the past.

How would this work? First of all, I should define the writing process.The writing process looks something like this:

The planning stage is typically where most of the ‘research process’ takes place, but as any librarian knows (and anyone who has written a significant number of papers), it’s not usually that simple. There is often a back and forth process between planning, translating and reviewing before the final product is completed. Librarians need to be a part of that entire process.

With Google Docs, the writing process is shared within the classroom community (e.g. literacy community). Librarians can assist in the planning stage with brainstorming activities, instructional materials (e.g. screencasts, tutorials) and guidance. Librarians, teachers and students can review and comment on individual writing assignments. Students are given adequate support throughout the process, which should result in higher quality research and writing.

Google Docs can essentially eliminate the one-shot session. It’s an alternative to current practices in embedded librarianship where librarians are often invited into the course as a guest expert. Instead, librarians truly become co-teachers.

Another benefit to Google Docs is that it can facilitate high-touch teaching. It becomes very easy to identify students who are struggling and offer them personal support through teacher-student or librarian-student conferences. This can work equally well for the online or physical classroom.

Would Google Docs increase librarian workload? Yes — at least at first. After instructional materials have been developed and the instructional plan tested and revised, it may actually create a more efficient mode of library instruction, which would allow for expansion of the program. Most importantly, the Google Docs method provides a very reliable form of ongoing assessment of the learning outcomes of students.


4 thoughts on “Hello Google Docs, Goodbye One-Shot Session

    • Hi Anita,

      Google Docs itself would not replace a face-to-face session, rather it would extend teaching beyond classroom time. I envision it in the context of a research paper, where students would use Google Docs for the planning, writing and revision process. That would allow librarians to monitor students’ work and provide feedback (e.g., commentary) and scaffolding (e.g., links to resources or tutorials) as necessary. I guess you could say that it would resemble a bit of both flipped learning (the scaffolding part) and embedded librarianship (the commentary part). This was just an idea I threw out there, and I do not know of anyone who has tried it. It would require a great deal of collaboration between the classroom instructor and the librarian (not something we see too often), so that may be one reason why.


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