Leadership and cooperation in Google Docs based group work: a video ethnographic examination of group work in a Danish upper secondary school

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This paper examines how Google Docs is used and affects group work in the classroom. Methodologically, the study applies video ethnography and focus group interviews with pupils in two first year classes at a Danish upper secondary school. Google Docs is a widely used digital tool at Danish upper secondary schools and has been associated with “considerable potential […] to serve as a platform for collaborative work” (Chu & Kennedy, 2011). However, contrary to these assumptions this case revealed that actual written collaboration on Google Docs was minimal. Instead, in all the examined groups, a leader was identified that dominated the groups' work and writing. Theoretically, the paper take inspiration from Networked Learning and its critical approach towards usage of digital technologies in education. This includes acknowledging that, increasingly, learning combines digital and non-digital forms, and that, generally, technology play an active role in learning (Hodgson & McConnell, 2019; Fawns, 2018). Also, perspectives on affordances (Gibson, 1979; boyd, 2014), socio-material interactions (Sørensen, 2009), and leadership (Goffman, 1981) provide insights into the group work analysis. Video ethnographic method enables a detailed analysis of the group members’ oral as well as written interactions in Google Docs, thus paying “attention to the whole ecology“ of the group work settings (Bhatt, de Roock & Adams, 2015). The aim is to analyse the socio-material interactions in the groups, specifically the interactions between the pupils and Google Docs. This includes 1) how the pupils use Google Docs in relation to their group work, including how they combine oral and written communication, 2) how different leadership roles emerge, and 3) how the hybrid learning spaces (Ellis & Goodyear, 2016) afforded by the material surroundings in the group work settings seem to promote or inhibit collaboration within the groups. In specific, the case discusses how Google Docs configures space in a way that seems to afford cooperation (i.e. divided work among the group members with each person responsible for solving a different portion of the problem) rather than collaboration (i.e. coordinated, synchronous work activity on a shared problem). The final part of the paper will touch upon some didactical implications of the findings in the study.
Translated title of the contributionLederskab og samarbejde i Google Docs-baseret samarbejde: - en videoetnografisk undersøgelse af gruppearbejde i en dansk gymnasieklasse
Original languageEnglish
Publication date19 May 2020
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2020
EventTwelfth International Conference on Networked Learning (NLC2020)
- SDU Kolding/Online, Kolding, Denmark
Duration: 18 May 202020 May 2020


ConferenceTwelfth International Conference on Networked Learning (NLC2020)
LocationSDU Kolding/Online
Internet address

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