Google Docs & the Re-Making of the World

Class icon: shape willed with words related to course theme: connect, learn, tech, create, give it a go.

The second gathering of the Sunday Salon took place on Sunday at 4:00 p.m., instead of directly following worship. There were far fewer attendees this time; I chalked that up to an unusual-for-the Pacific-Northwest sunny-ish afternoon. (Here, even partial sunshine during the rainy season is enough to inspire people to get outside. This is especially bothersome when one is attempting a house remodel and the contractors call in well so they can go fishing….) But since Sunday, I’ve received apologies and queries as to how to “catch up.” It’s interesting to see the seriousness people are bringing to this endeavor. And, I would add, the gratitude. Perhaps it is mere politeness, but there is always a chorus of thanks from participants, whether at the end of Salon meeting or a drop-in help session.

The second Salon focused on how to comment on a Google doc. After the chatter-filled first session– adults & teachers can make the most challenging audiences– I came in with slides on which they could focus their attention and specific operating procedures: hold questions until the end of my talking about the slide.

Here’s the class outline:

Rendering of the connectional nodes of the internet 2015

Internet, 2015. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
© 2020 by LyonLabs, LLC and Barrett Lyon.

  1. Why is our slogan, “You can’t break the internet”? Show OPTE project images, right and below, of the mapping of the web from 2003-2015; asked participants to locate themselves on the “map.”
  2. Video: how to make comments of a GDoc. One person was trying to take notes–I had to be sure to tell her that she couldn’t, that she should just watch.
  3. Demonstration of process by me and one of my Communications Committee colleagues on a text, about why the future of organized religion is digital, copied and pasted into the doc. I chose the text for its content, to plant seeds for discussions that have to take place when Covid constrictions are eased and building-centric services can resume.
  4. Practice. Is there anything more gratifying for a writing person than the sound of people thinking as they type?
  5. Discuss what’s next. “Surprise us,” was the consensus. “I don’t know enough to know what I don’t know,” said one woman.  They wanted to spend time on our website and on their own practicing in the weeks leading up to our next Salon.

The Warp and Woof

Looking back, it seems as though the commentary between the main points is probably more important than the step-by-step instruction. My theme related to the meta of learning: facing the new-to [many]-of-them digital world, that meta has to incorporate the new culture of learning the internet affords. Are my people doing that?

Mathematical-artistic rendering of how the multiplicity of networks of the internet connect. This image is bright yellow. It appears in the Modern Museum of Art.

Internet, 2010. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
© 2020 by LyonLabs, LLC and Barrett Lyon.

I am hearing/seeing comments and behaviors– sometimes just viewpoints, or mindsets, as Lankshear and Knobel and others (e.g., Leu) have described– that suggest the participants are disoriented, not always by the steps or tasks of the technologies, but by the expectations, methods, and processes they bring to this experience.

Some of my advice to them:

  • Set aside time to learn. Remember that it will take much longer than you anticipate, and that as you proceed, other questions will arise. So, be sure to write down or otherwise be aware of exactly what you hope to  know or be able to do as a result of your session– Avoid the rabbit hole that the internet can be! [You are in charge of your own learning. You set the goals, make the time, and decide on the pace. You measure your progress.]
  • Honor your frustration level. Quit for the day before you throw your computer out the window. [Learn how you best learn. Honor it through your scheduling and goal-setting.]
  • There are a number of reasons that learning “technology” feels so complicated and hard. Ideas about learning are imprinted from an early age, such as:
    • Learning happens in a logical, predictable sequence.
    • Once we have learned something, we can progress to the next thing.
    • An expert knows what is important to learn.
    • It’s easy to measure learning.
    • An expert determines how well we did in learning. (And, learning often involves memorizing facts.)
  • In a digital era, ideas about learning that we take for granted don’t always match internet-involved learning.
    • Learning is on-demand, learning goals are personally determined and assessed, there is no one expert, you can find experts in many places and the expert you need in a given moment is not always the expert you need in the next.
    • You do not need to have answers to all your questions about a tool in order to use it effectively. (I continue to be surprised at things like how important it seems to understand why their label on a Google Doc is “Anonymous Armadillo,” while other labels show a real name. Finally, genuinely puzzled, I asked, “Why does that matter?” Silence. “How would understanding that affect your ability to comment on the document?” Silence.
    • You learn by diving in. Our other class motto? “Just give it a go!”

I would argue that, in this community, what they have always known to be true about learning and schooling is at odds with what they are encountering here, and that as we proceed, some of their beliefs might be shaken even more.

Stay tuned….



Lankshear, C., & Knoble, M. (2008). New literacies and the challenge of mindsets. In New literacies: Everyday practices & classroom learning (2nd ed., pp. 29–62). McGraw Hill.
Leu, D. J., Kinzer, C. K., Coiro, J., & Cammack, D. W. (2004). Toward a theory of new literacies emerging from the Internet and other information and communication technologies. In R. B. Ruddell & N. Unrau, Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th ed., pp. 1570–1613). International Reading Association. Available:


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