One of the most interesting articles I’ve come across since starting COETAIL is Nikhil Goyal’s piece on why learning should be messy. As a third grade teacher whose room is often in a state of disarray at the end of the day, this idea is reassuring. However, it also applies to the digital realm.

A few nights ago, after giving my class an assignment to collaborate together with google docs, I came home late to see this edmodo message in my inbox:

It was the first time to have the whole class collaborate on one document, and somebody accidently erased half the class’s work (more on how to fix this later). It was digitally messy. And that’s okay. As teachers try new things, experiment, and step outside their comfort zones, there are bound to be problems. Messiness. We should embrace it and keep moving forward.

When digital messiness happens, however, there are no helpful students or cleaning staff to tidy up, so that role may fall on you. So it’s time for today’s google drive tip. First, teach your students how to “undo.” There are three ways to do this. The easiest way is to press “⌘ Z.” You can also select Edit –> Undo. And finally, there is an “undo” button (curving arrow to the left, beside the “print” button).

That only works if the students realize they’ve made a mistake right away, however. Google documents has another function where you can clean up a document that has been made “messy.” Go to File –> See Revision History. You can see all changes that have been made and revert to older versions of the document. This is also a handy tool to see how students have been editing, revising, and digitally collaborating.

So as our students move forward with technology, don’t fear the messiness, embrace it.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to On Messiness (or, MR LEWIS SOMEBODY ERASED EVERYTHING!!!)

  1. Sanne says:

    ⌘ Z – love it.
    Many teachers are scared to try new things with technology for the exact reason you described above – they fear digital messiness. I agree that this is part of learning and teaching. Thanks for sharing your thoughts & experience.
    I didn’t know about the google doc function and much appreciate the tip. It’s a great tool to monitor student involvement!

  2. Jeff Lewis says:

    Yes, my students were the ones who told me to start using control Z, I always did edit –> undo before that. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Mick Huiet says:

    Yep, I’d have to agree. My 4th grade classroom is much like yours, Jeff. So is the process, sometimes these days. Since our 1:1 rollout, even more so. I was talking with colleagues at an iPad PD event we hosted this weekend about this same issue. My friend Matthew said simply that my next blog post should be, “Craft learning is never shiny.” You beat me to it!

  4. Jana Poukka says:

    I swear this was my class this week! We introduced Google Docs and Web2.0 in class this week. The students have started on their project Friday afternoon, and I’m just waiting for the email like yours this weekend!

    As we all know, nothing really goes according to the plan and things get “messy.” As adults we know how to be flexible and resourceful in order to solve the problem at hand. When students make mistakes, like erasing everything in a collaborative document, it’s great to not only take the opportunity to teach students how to fix them but to teach them how to be flexible and resourceful when a problem occurs.

    Your post helped me in my class this week while we were using Web2.0 and Google Docs. “Technology can be messy” was a catch phrase we used along with our all time favorite “⌘ Z is our best friend!” When students would come to me with an issue about logging on at home or problems with commenting on someone’s blog, I sent the student’s your message, “Don’t fear the messiness, embrace it.”

  5. Great tips Jeff, thanks. Google Docs are increasingly becoming the norm and last we week we did a fun History assessment all on Google Docs, by simply making a copy and then sharing the finished copy with me to comment on. This week’s home learning was also entirely on a shared G-Doc. No more will I hear “But I did save it on the network” after using the laptops as I realise that one hour of a student’s work has been lost in the virtual ether, or “I lost my home learning task sheet” – hurrah!
    PS. I love the screenshot tagline, despite the message from your student above – ‘Where learning happens.’ How true, and all because of the messiness!

  6. Liz Cho says:

    Bahhahaha…! That student sounds like me and my panic moments over technology gone wrong (or myself gone wrong with technology?)! Love it. The Revision History tip is a good one to know for google docs – thanks for sharing!

  7. Adam Clark says:

    This is such a relatable post! I had the same experience with a group of counselors last week during a conference we hosted. There was a collaborative notes sheet and someone “erased everything”! Of course, it was just a matter of going back through the revision history and stepping back but I thought your point about providing some prior instructions on how to undo would have helped this group of adults, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *