Google Drive Sample Assignment: Analyzing Frontline Documentaries

Collaborative Documentary Response
This assignment is based upon student reactions to a selected PBS Frontline documentary. Therefore, the assignment can be adapted to fit any course for which there may be a documentary pertaining to the discipline. This assignment may also be used in a Writing or Media studies course. (The process outlined in this lesson could also be duplicated in a movie, newscast, or radio program reflection and response.)

1. Purpose/objective
Students will apply material from the course by responding to the ideas put forth in a selected Frontline documentary. ( Students will
● Critique and reflect upon the issues raised in the documentary
● Write collaboratively
● Edit and publish a collaboratively authored written response to the film
● (Faculty might also encourage students to conduct research on order to provide facts in support of their responses)

2. Resources
Students will need access to a television and PBS channel if the documentary is to air in real time. Frontline offers a collection of 97 archived documentaries for free older programs for viewing online. To watch archived documentaries and to collaborate in Google Documents, students will need computers with internet connections.

3. Process
Students will watch a selected documentary at the Frontline archived films page ( (The faculty can select the film that most appropriately fits the content area. If this assignment is argument for analysis for a Writing or Media course, then student groups may select the film.) Students will select a time to watch the documentary. They will watch it in their own rooms, but will watch it at approximately the same time. While viewing the film, students will outline the major arguments put forth in the documentary. This will be a collaboratively authored outline in Google docs. Once the video is completed and students have authored the outline, they will decide upon the major themes of the argument. Students will come to the next class session ready to share their outlines and themes. The instructor will then direct them to complete the second part of this collaborative writing assignment during the subsequent week. Students will coauthor a response/reflection to the themes espoused in the documentary.

4. Timeline
Pre-class Preparation- Assign groups and determine whether students will watch a pre-selected documentary or whether groups will select a documentary. Write up the assignment and create a rubric. Create blank shared documents for each group. This way, individual students do not have to deal with account creation and management. If students are not familiar with Google Drive, plan to use some class time to allow students to “practice” in a Google Document. A practice assignment is located at

In and out of class collaboration- Hand out assignment at least two weeks before the first draft is due. In class, student groups will determine a time (a two-hour window on a selected date) during which they will view the film and collaboratively outline the argument. At the end of this two hour window, students should have generated a list of the major themes in the documentary. During the next class session, students will discuss the documentary within their groups. They will make a plan for completing the written reflection collaboratively within Google Documents during the subsequent week.

Post-project Evaluation- Evaluate the documentary responses. Student groups may wish to share their responses with the rest of the class through discussion or a more formal product (presentation).

5. Suggestions for Evaluation
Faculty may want to weight the collaborative process differently, depending on course goals. Two sample rubrics are provided below. One evaluates the collaborative process (Appendix 3.2a) and one evaluates the final product (Appendix 3.2b). Additionally, faculty can modify the rubric located in Appendix 1.3a.

Sample Student Directions
Your group will select a documentary from the Frontline archived programs to watch, critique, evaluate, and respond to. You will use the Google Drive in your WM Apps account as the method for collaborating on this project. Use the following timeline to plan your project:

Class Session Date

Meet in your groups to browse through and select the documentary. Establish a two hour time period that you will all view the film and collaborate in a Google Document. During this class session, you will also practice collaborating in Google Drive.

Agree on a two-hour viewing window. During that time, log into your WM Apps account and open the shared document. While viewing the documentary, collaborate with your group members to construct a general outline of the argument established in the documentary. Be sure to list any questions you may have or any areas of the argument that you find questionable. Once the outline is generated, your group should generate a list of the major themes of the argument or issue as well as any areas of the argument that your group calls into question.

Class Session Date

Meet in your groups in order to discuss the documentary and to determine the schedule for collaboratively authoring the reflection piece. Be sure to address the following points in your reflection:
• Briefly outline the issue raised in your documentary.
• What does the filmmaker’s perspective seem to be regarding this issue?
• What evidence does the filmmaker offer in support of this argument?
• In your group’s opinion, which aspects of the argument are strong? Which are weak? Discuss.
• What is your group’s final critique/evaluation of this documentary?

Due Date

By this date, the final polished paper will be submitted to your instructor. (Be sure this is a Word Document).