We work in an old building. The students create, plan, design, and execute performances in what is arguably the oldest school on the north side of Chicago. We share a stage with the school’s gym as well as cafeteria, so clearly there are some issues.
Well, many issues. As we have upgraded the quality of our performances, one particular issue kept rising to the top of our “to fix” list. Whether we were putting on a full play/musical, a quarterly showcase, or even hosting a touring performance, the backstage crew had no way of communicating with our light and sound crew across the cafegymatorium. Walkie talkies could work, but the ingoing/outgoing tone wouldn’t be able to be masked for the audience. Headsets are expensive and have the same problem, as the students would have to vocally speak to each other (the light/sound booth is in an open loft space above the gym floor). So we were left with the question of how to make sure the crew can communicate with the least amount of disruption to the audience as possible.
Enter the chromebooks!
A few years ago, I applied for a DonorsChoose to get 10 Chromebooks to use in my classes for research, documentation, and assessment. If you’re not familiar with Chromebooks, they’re amazing. Simple, inexpensive and can do 98% of anything you might need a regular laptop to do and they connect to each student’s google account.
Anyway, I had an idea to use the Chromebooks to allow the students to chat with each other during the show to make sure cues could be called, and problems solved beforehand. I had hoped to use Google’s chat platform, Hangouts, but sadly, our school district blocks that service.
I then decided to go with Google Docs. Here’s the great part, a doc can be shared to multiple people where they can collaborate and edit it. So I made a template of a document with columns for each of the areas that I wanted to stay in communication and voila!
Each time anyone updates something, it automatically appears on the document in real time. So, each section of the document can type cues, issues (generally praise) for the whole group to see. I can even keep track of all of the communication on my phone. I have to say, it works like a charm and has for a number of shows. Google to the rescue.