Ideas for Using Google Docs

Google Docs is great to use when you are working with someone else on a text document, spreadsheet, or presentation. No need to pass the copy around for edits, or e-mail the document back and forth. You can even work with other people on the same document at the same time. Here are a few ideas on how we use Google Docs:

Teacher collaboration examples by Mary Fran
Recently, my third grade colleagues and I downloaded the principal's Action Plan Word-template into Google Docs. We worked on a draft at a meeting. I worked on the Language Arts section while another teacher worked on the Math section. Still, it was a draft, and needed more work. But then I went out of town. After another meeting back in San Jose, I opened the shared document in my Google Docs account, added my edits, and my colleagues back home instantly had my revisions. When it was time to send it back to the principal, it was Downloaded as a Word document and sent it back to her so she could easily add it into the Word doc she had.

Other ideas for using Google Docs with your staff or for  yourself:

  • Staff meeting agendas and follow up notes
  • Grade level or subject area team planning
  • Share a template for classroom observations
  • Weekly Announcements
  • Shared listing of upcoming school events
  • Revise long documents where each teacher edits one particular section
  • Back up important documents
  • Save a tree and turn in an assignment using Google Docs instead of printing.  Easy for the teacher to make comments - just go to Insert / Comment.
  • Planning for the staff party!!!

Student collaboration examples by Colette
Students in the Journalism classes write articles for the school paper.  Students write their drafts using Google Docs and then share them with the teachers and the student editors to review their work and make suggestions.  Its easy to make corrections at the same time or insert comments in the writing.  This process goes back and forth for a few drafts.  Once the article is finalized, the student writes FINAL on the top and send a link to the specific page editor to let them know its available for publication.  That editor opens up the document and places the story in the paper.  We all work on the same document - we don't email back and forth - and there is no confusion which draft to publish.  Its an efficient and smooth process.
Middle school students were searching for articles about online safety in small groups.  Instead of just creating a list of all of their sources, I decided they should collect all their articles into one document.  Once a group member found an article they wanted to share, they opened up a Google shared document and entered their name, URL of the website, copied the entire article into the document, saved and shared the document with group members.  When the next student was ready they repeated the process.  The students then turned in their sources when the group completed their research.  The best part is that now all of the students have access to all of the articles found and I have the full text of their sources.
Other ways you could use Google Docs with your students (Remember, students 13+ can use their own Google account but for younger students, you might consider creating a class Google account to share documents):
  • Write a collaborative story.  One student writes the beginning and then another add the second paragraph.  The third adds to it and so on and on.
  • Group planning for projects or lab report documentation become simple and transparent.  Each member can contribute their information and the teacher can view the revision history anytime.
  • Google Docs is great for collaborative brainstorming - every idea is included.
  • Instead of saving Word files onto a jump drive or emailing back and forth, the student can work on a document on Google docs and access it from school and home.  They will always have access to it and as a teacher you won't hear "I forgot it at home" or "I have a different program at home".  Plus, if you ask your students to share their documents with your email - you can peak at their progress anytime (would only do this for major projects - not every Google Doc).
  • Have your classroom create a class newsletter.  Invite various students to work on the document at the same time.
  • If all students have access to the same document, you could use it for class announcements or assignments.  This is much easier than making and maintaining a class webpage.
  • Collaborative note taking
  • Insert photos onto a Google Doc to share with classmates

Excited about using Google Docs? Here are some screen shots to help you get started:

You can start a new document by going to New and then choosing a Document, Spreadsheet, Presentation, Form, Folder, or Template.

Sometimes you'll want to open up a document from a message received in g-mail. Just click Open as a Google document at the bottom of the message, and it's there! Here's an example of what to look for:
Other times, you have a document on your computer stored in a different format but want to work on it in Docs. You can Upload it here:

This will bring you to a screen where you'll need to select the file:

Once you have your document, you may like to share it while you are working on it or after you have finished. Either way, you'll need to choose "Share," and then "Share with Others." It'll take you to a screen where you'll then enter the e-mail addresses of either "collaborators" or "viewers" and "Invite Collaborators" to the document.

Your document is Saved automatically while you are working on it and your collaborators and viewers get the additions and revisions in real time. Of course, you may sometimes like to Download a file. You can choose a number of different formats.