How a writing tool became the new default way to pass notes in class
When the kids in Skyler’s school want to tell a friend something in class, they don’t scrawl a note down on a tiny piece of paper and toss it across the room. They use Google Docs.
“We don’t really pass physical notes anymore,” said Skyler, 15, who, like all the other students in this story, is identified by a pseudonym.
As more and more laptops find their way into middle and high schools, educators are using Google Docs to do collaborative exercises and help students follow along with the lesson plan. The students, however, are using it to organize running conversations behind teachers’ backs.
Teens told me they use Google Docs to chat just about any time they need to put their phone away but know their friends will be on computers. Sometimes they’ll use the service’s live-chat function, which doesn’t open by default, and which many teachers don’t even know exists. Or they’ll take advantage of the fact that Google allows users to highlight certain phrases or words, then comment on them via a pop-up box on the right side: They’ll clone a teacher’s shared Google document, then chat in the comments, so it appears to the casual viewer that they’re just making notes on the lesson plan. If a teacher approaches to take a closer look, they can click the Resolve button, and the entire thread will disappear.