I love Google Docs. It has a lot of uses and it’s free. About 2 months ago, I got my school hooked up with Google Docs Education and it has been a great addition. Students have access to a full office suite that automatically saves everything online, email, calendars, and the power to make their own webpages. As an administrator, you control student accounts for a variety of things. I don’t allow access to email and limit users to sharing only within our school’s domain (I changed the settings for the one presentation below). You can even suspend user accounts if necessary.
Here is how I use it for my classes:
1. Online Notes – Most notes that we take in class I type on google docs. It auto saves it for me and I have it set to publish any updates on the web for me (I only have to check one box or it to do this). I put the link on my website and the students can review the in class notes at any time with it. Even if you do notes on an overhead, you can still upload word documents to google docs and publish them for people to see.
Here is a sample of my online notes.
2. Have students collaborate on a project. This is great for group work if two people are working on a project, they can be in different places or on different computers and type on the same document, presentation, or spreadsheet. I recently had my geography students do a presentation on Southeast Asian countries. They used their books to research their countries and then decided who would have what slides in the presentation. Here’s what it looks like (you can get the code and paste it into your blog or put it on your webpage like this):
3. Create forms or surveys – In the spreadsheet program is a simple tool to make forms and surveys. You could even use it to make your own online quizzes. It’s similar to survey monkey or other survey sites, but it stores all the information in your own spreadsheet. Fill out my survey here.
4. Have students share items with you and make comments/corrections. Students can make you a collaborator quickly and easily and you can add comments or make changes to their document. This way they won’t have to print everything out, just to show you something.
Things to look out for
– I caught a couple students using inappropriate language and sharing it back and forth with each other. It didn’t happen at school, but it was on their school account. This hasn’t been a major problem, but it’s not bad to check in on their accounts from time to time.
– This may be a bit advanced for lower elementary students and is even a bit frustrating with middle schoolers at first. Once they get a little practice (3-4 days) they are usually pros. I wanted to pull my hair out at first (just getting them to enter their usernames and passwords, etc.) but before long the students were showing me new features I didn’t even know were there.