Why Google Docs?
I am a technology enthusiast. This is a nice way of admitting my addiction to technology. I am one of those people that wake up and check my phone before getting out of bed. I am convinced that the most successful people are those that learn to channel their addictions into a positive, productive activity in some way. This quest of mine, to channel my addiction, has led me to a few useful discoveries when using Google Apps for Education (Namely Drive) with my students.
Originally, I started using Google Docs a few years back because of its automatic save feature. I was running into problems with my students forgetting their jump drives or not properly ejecting them prior to pulling it out of the computer. It was a nightmare. Every time we would go to the lab, we were delayed by several technical difficulties. By using Google Docs, I didn’t have that problem. Since that time, Google has made some serious strides in improving their products and how they work together with other Google Products. In this blog entry, I’ll cover three of my favorite uses of Google Drive with my students.
My school system is a Google Apps for Education School which means each student has been assigned a Google Account. When the students are working on a paper or typing an assignment on the computer, they share what they are working on with me. This is different than sending it to me. By sharing it, they are granting me access to edit the document. We can both be logged on to the same document at the same time. I can also comment on their work.. I highlight errors they may have made in their writings and they can read my comments, reply to my comments, and make the needed corrections. I also am teaching them how to take pictures of a homework assignment and load it to the homework folder. (They actually just email me a picture of their homework and make the subject line read “homework” and attachments.me sends it to the shared homework folder automatically.) I can highlight a portion of the picture of their homework and provide feedback on their work prior to them getting to school the next morning. And, because the folder is “shared” with the entire class, they all can comment and help each other’s understanding of the homework too. Needless to say, this is extremely convenient for any absent students.
2. Web Publishing
Google Docs is a web based tool. This means that everything you create in Google Docs is already on the web, you just need to publish it and manage the permissions of the created digital artifact. Let’s say you create a presentation for your class on a topic and you have published the slideshow to your class blog or to a website, or have just emailed it to a few people. After publishing it, you discover a glaring mistake. All you have to do is log on to Google Docs and make the corrections needed. All of the links to the presentation you’ve sent out will automatically be updated. Having the ability to continue to edit after publishing a document is a wonderful feature for young people learning to publish their work to the web. I’ve found it quite useful as a teacher that is famous for discovering mistakes after a student has brought it to my attention. Because it’s not etched in stone, it can be corrected easily without having to resend or repost anything. And, if you don’t want it out for public consumption anymore, all you need to do is go into the Google Docs settings, and un-publish it. This way, all of the links that have been associated with the document will no longer work and the public will no longer have access to it.
By selecting “Tools” in the taskbar in Google Docs and then choosing “Research,” students can actually research a topic or find pictures without ever leaving the open document. Google Docs can even automatically insert footnotes if you use resources found in this manner. How important is it for students to cite where they are finding their information? Extremely important. It’s as easy as dragging an image found in the right search column and dropping it in your document. From there, Google Docs will automatically put the correct footnote number next to the image and the corresponding information at the bottom of the page. No more wondering, Which folder did I put that picture in? or What was the jpg’s name? It’s important to mention that many of the features in Google Drive work best when using their Chrome Browser.
4. Sharing Pictures
Okay, I know I said three, but I couldn’t leave this feature out (plus, I’m not about to delete any of the other three items), so consider this one a bonus! I often take pictures of my students doing work in class with my phone. I have created a “Class Pic” folder by batch loading pictures from my phone, which I have shared with all of my students. When my students log onto their Google Accounts, they have access to these pictures of themselves working in class. They often insert these pictures into documents and presentations they are creating about what they have learned in class, which they then share with others. This is a powerful storytelling tool. No longer is it cumbersome and time consuming to get pictures from a camera into documents. Simply select all the pictures you’ve taken, choose the folder you want them to go to, and press send. It’s that simple. And because Google owns Youtube, you can also make a YouTube Video Slide show with the pictures that are already loaded to your drive!
If you’re a Google Apps for Education School or if you’re interested in learning and sharing more about how to use Google Products with students, please consider joining a group I’ve formed on Tioki.
Originally posted on Al Elliot’s Blog
Al Elliott is a fifth grade educator at Green Valley Elementary School in Hoover, Alabama. He is also currently pursuing a PhD in early childhood development at UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham). Al is a technology enthusiast who is always searching for new and effective methods of incorporating technology in the classroom to help his students reach their educational goals.