Google Docs

I really love Google Docs. I’ve used it pretty extensively in my professional life (collaborating with colleagues & sharing information), in the classroom (to facilitate peer editing, receiving work from students, providing digital feedback), and even in my personal life (creating posters for my son’s schoo and sharing them with other parents, sharing a family PPT with cousins across the U.S.). Even when purchasing my new netbook, GoogleDocs was an integral part of that decision. I didn’t need as much of a powerhouse computer since most of my documents are now edited and stored online at docs.google.com.

It’s not always an easy sell…convincing others to leave the comfort of their Microsoft Office world and breaking new ground with Google Docs. However, once I’ve worked on a project with someone using Google Docs, the ease of collaboration and sharing usually wins them over. I often collaborate with colleagues on grant documents and proposals–the ease of not having to email around different versions and track everyone’s changes when using Google Docs is just an amazing leap forward.

In the classroom, students can submit work electronically by sharing their work with you. Teachers can share notes and handouts with students. Students can share information with other members of the class, including fellow group members. When students are working in groups, they can collaborate using Google Docs and all contributions are recorded (so no more lazy group members!) so the teacher can see who added what to a finished piece. And having access to your work from any computer with an Internet connection alleviates the “dog ate my homework” issues…or incompatible files, work living only on other computers, documents traveling from class to class, and the like. For students without Internet connections at home, who often use different computers at different locations (classrooms at school, computer lab, libraries, after school programs, etc.) having a central location that is accessible anywhere is invaluable.

Google Docs isn’t only comprised of  “documents”…there’s also a spreadsheet, presentation, and a form generator–so other forms of student collaboration can also be tracked and created cooperatively. (And if you really aren’t ready to give up your Microsoft license, Google Docs works seamlessly with Office.)

As an English teacher, I love how Google Docs enables the writing process. When editing and writing, different drafts are tracked and students see much more easily the benefits and purpose of revision. When I was a HS English teacher exclusively in a pen and paper world, I had the hardest time convincing students to revise their work. Sometimes, they’d rewrite their essays making the revisions I suggested…other times, they’d rewrite their entire essay with the same content, only in neater handwriting.  Under “revision history” the various versions of a single document are always accessible…so a student can receive both peer and teacher feedback and make changes suggested without losing track of who said what. Students can easily compare versions and even return to an earlier version…all without laborious handwriting (which really can be laborious when you’re talking about formal essays or research papers).

Though documents do live on the web, they’re not made public unless you expressly choose to do so. Under the “share” button (on each document), you decide who you share your work with and at what level of collaboration–can others only  view your work, or can they edit/collaborate with you? It’s always your choice. To share with the world or link to a blog/web page, you can make your document totally public as well. Depending on the document, you can also embed it on another web page or blog.

So I know I sound like a total Google advertisement, but I really feel that Google Docs has really changed my life and how I work. To get started, here are some links below:

Getting Started Guide to Google Docs

Google Docs in the Classroom Crib Sheet (PDF file)

Google Docs Tour

Google Docs for Educators (video & resources)

Google Docs in Plain English (video)

Using Google Docs for Notetaking

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