Dr. Steven Michels and Google Docs

 DR. STEVEN MICHELSThis month, the IT Training & Support Team would like to recognize Dr. Steven Michels for his fun, effective twist on conveying and sharing Political Science materials with his students. Instead of concentrating on just Blackboard for his course delivery and interaction, Dr. Michels has harnessed several popular web-based tools to spice up his classes.

Why did you decide to use Google Apps within your classroom environment?
I started using Google (Blogger, Docs, and Spreadsheets) this semester. The discussion board should be the focus of any online course, and I was rather displeased with the functionality and appearance of the new Blackboard.

What are the limitations you discovered within the Microsoft Office suite that are adequately addressed with Google Apps?
Blackboard has too many screen and levels. Google Blogger is neater and more efficient. It also allows me to personalize it (eg, with polls and a news feed) in a way that Blackboard does not. What is more, I can get automatic updates on my iPhone from Google, whenever someone posts a comment or asks a question. It allows for constant monitoring.

How do you measure the success of these tools in your classroom? Would you consider the tools transformative, and if so why?
I like it, and the students like it. And it makes teaching easier. But the only real measure is student performance. I have noticed a marked increase in the quantity and quality of student participation. Building a course management system from the ground up certainly transformed my approach to what I was doing online. Everything is deliberate and for a purpose.

What concerns do you have regarding placing your classroom intellectual content within a cloud based environment?
I don’t have any issues with my material being out there. My only real concern is that the students’ comments, work, and grades are protected. The Blog is private; so too are the webpages and documents. It’s as secure as other management systems and material on the Web.

In your opinion, what would be the most compelling reason for your faculty colleagues to explore the adoption of this tool within their classroom environment?
It makes teaching and learning easier and more enjoyable.

About Dr. Michels

Steven Michels, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science, joined the Sacred Heart University faculty in the Fall of 2002. A specialist in
the field of political theory, Dr. Michels offers several theory courses, including Foundations of Political Thought, Theories of Political Economy, and Democracy. His articles and chapters include work in theory, higher education policy, and popular culture. He is currently researching the theory and practice of democracy and the economics of higher education. Dr. Michels received his Ph.D. from Loyola University, Chicago