This is such a well articulated lesson. I hope many more teachers share this level of detail on what is working in their classroom:
I love the way in which you have laid this out. You had no illusions that what you were doing was more than a well educated guess as to how students would react. The example says it all, though. The discussion points that you would have liked them to get to, they approached of their own accord. The data you needed to make your instructional decisions was not an assessment, but was rather stating a preference or reflecting upong their own knowledge. I think this is phenomenal.
You are allowing students to take on a role of facilitator and differentiator. You are giving them the responsibility for creating the discusion and for furthering their inquiry. I think the most powerful aspect of this lesson wasn’t necessarily the technology of the Google Doc, but rather in the way that you allowed them to time-shift their participation to emphasize their preparation for the discussion. By allowing them to “claim” a spot, you were giving them an opportunity to preview what they were going to say and try it out even before the class started. Nice work!