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Authentic Learning & Google Drive

Rowe, M., Bozalek, V., & Frantz, J. (2013). Using Google Drive to facilitate a blended approach to authentic learning: Authentic learning and Google Drive. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(4), 594-606. doi:10.1111/bjet.12063


google drive logo

Google Drive logo

This article “describes the use of Google Drive to create a blended learning environment” in which  “students completed authentic tasks that aimed to develop critical thinking” (p. 596). Using authentic learning as a pedagogical framework, the authors provide qualitative results to identify ways that Google Drive complemented and enabled authentic learning outcomes. They conclude that specific affordances of information communication technology (ICT) should be selected to meet specific pedagogical outcomes rather than shaping pedagogical principles around ICT affordances.


The authors describe a pedagogical refinement in a 2nd-year Applied Physiotherapy module at the University of the Western Cape. The refinement consisted of converting a didactic, lecture-oriented pedagogy toward a socially-constructed learning environment in which students actively engaged in authentic learning. Google Drive was selected as the ICT used to facilitate communication and learning, both of which occurred during and outside the class.

The authors identify three meaningful outcomes of the pedagogical enhancement and use of Google Drive:

  1. It transformed “student perceptions around learning,” enabling the facilitators “to help change how students perceived their own role in the learning process” (p. 601).
  2. It changed “power relationships as part of learning,” enabling students to openly and safely “explore their own understanding without fear of being exposed and shamed” for not always knowing the right answer (p. 602).
  3. It helped develop students’ critical thinking skills, enabling students to “grasp that knowledge is distributed and that the teacher is not the sole source of information” (p. 604).

The authors conclude that, if educators hope to improve critical thinking in students, they should seek first to change their pedagogy, develop authentic activities, and integrate those activities “across physical and online spaces” (p. 605) using ICT that complements the theoretical perspectives informing the pedagogy.


Although the object of study in this article was an applied physiology class, the practice of selecting ICT affordances to complement theoretically-grounded pedagogical principles applies across disciplines. The article’s focus on improving the application of critical thinking skills to real-world practices also applies to learning environments outside the clinical medical discipline.

And although I consider the sample size small (n = 12) and the methodology admits self-selection bias (students volunteered to participate in focus groups), the authors openly admit these limitations (p. 604) and, in so doing, invite larger-scale studies.

This article offers applicable advice to composition and rhetoric teachers seeking to draw parallels between academic and workplace writing. The article’s application of authentic learning principles in a clinical medical setting offers an intriguing model for considering authentic learning in FYC contexts, where assignments and assessments might be altered to highlight skills that are portable from academe to workplace.

As a result, I recommend that colleagues seeking to revise pedagogy to incorporate blended communications and learning read this article and take to heart its findings.