Suggestions Needed for Seating Arrangement in GDocs Group Project

My 7th grade class is doing an group project involving Google Docs.  They are creating a presentation in Google Docs where they insert movies they made and a graph they created in Google Spreadsheets.  We are down to the “putting it all together” stage, where they will need to simultaneously add pages to and edit the presentation on their individual computers.  There are groups of four students each.  The last day we worked on it they sat at tables with two students on each side.  However, with the computers open, the four members were completely “disconnected” from each other.  The two students on each side were able to work together and see what the other was doing, but they were not interacting well “across the table” for mainly spatial reasons.

I am at a very open school and we can go anywhere on campus, outside, in the grass, on the patio, on picnic tables…  But, I would love suggestions of HOW I should have them sit to best facilitate working together as a group of four with open computers.  I have several ideas listed below, but would love to know if anyone has done this before and if so, what worked best for you?

Ideas:

Four kids in a row on a picnic table – laptops all in a row.  Everyone can see everyone else’s computer, but the end kids seem far away.

Four kids in a circle, with open laptops almost touching.  I don’t have large enough round tables to facilitate this however, so could they have the laptops on the ground and be “hunched” over them?  It’s not very ergonomic, BUT the kids could actually SEE their group members over the computer screens.

Three kids working on computers in a row and one “reader” who makes sure their group includes all aspects of this detailed project.  I would have the reader be my most proficient computer user so (s)he could help the others instead of just doing most of it on (her)his own.

That’s all I’ve got!  Please help!  : )

3 thoughts on “Suggestions Needed for Seating Arrangement in GDocs Group Project

  1. Sounds like you are addressing the wrong problem.

    The problem is how to get students to co-operate on project effectively with all contributing actively. Having 4 computers running with 4 students in the group is probably *not* the best solution.

    A technique used in some programming classes is “pair programming”. Two people, one screen, talking to each other before using the keyboard.

    Group meetings may be best with one designated typist, and everyone else communicating without computers.

  2. If you’re determined that each kid gets a laptop (I’d probably have two kids each share one computer and sit each computer at angles to each other to make room for everyone) and you’re willing to let them sit on the floor to hunch over, have four students sit back to back so their laptops are in a circle around them. Then they can see the computers on either side of them and talk to each other at the same time.

  3. I have tried sharing computers before, but then some kids don’t get to work with the Google software. I am trying to teach them the technology as much as the math. Plus, I love that they can all work simultaneously on a Google Presentation. They really have to work together and listen to each other to prevent deleting each others work! I feel that the person that does the editing is the one that learns the most.

    That being said, I think that the working in a circle with their backs to each other is a very neat idea and one that I had not thought of at all!

    Thanks for the comments!

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