Countdown to NETA: Organizing Google Docs Tricks

My school has been using Google Apps Education for the past 4 years. Over this time Google Docs has seen a lot of changes.  This has been a little frustrating at times, but ultimately has lead to major increases in productivity.  In this post, I’ll explore a couple of tips that have helped me and my students increase productivity and make integration of Google Docs into daily activities seamless.


Shared folders, collections (or whatever Google calls them now)

A little less than two years ago Google updated docs to let you to share entire folders (now called collections) the same way that you could share documents.  To do this, just create a new collection, then share it with whomever you like.  Now, whenever you add something to that folder it is automatically shared with the entire class.  You can give the folder editor or viewer priveleges and any document you place in the folder will inherit those privileges.  With the most recent update of Google Docs, you can start a document from within the collection and you won’t even have to place it in the folder.

Tip 1

Have all your students share a collection with you.  Now they can put documents in the collection shared with you instead of having to type in your email address (lots of possibility for error) every time they share something.  Make sure they use a strict naming convention, however.  I have my students use “Firstname_LastName / TeacherName”.  If students don’t identify themselves and you in the collection name, then you’ll have a whole bunch of collections named “Science” or “Language Arts” and won’t know which folder belongs to which student.

Tip 2

Create two collections for each class you have – one that they can edit and one for just viewing.  Collaboration is what sets Google Docs apart from software based programs, but typing in the email address of everyone in your class everytime you want to share something is a waste of time.  A shared collection with editor privileges is great for documents you want the whole class to collaborate on (spreadsheet are great for this).  It is also very handy to have a collection with just viewer privileges for the class.  I use the views folder to share worksheet or presentation templates I’ve created for the students.  They just make a copy of the document and are good to go.  If you share something with editor privileges, some students will forget to make a copy and start editing on the shared document, which messes it up for everyone.  This isn’t possible if you share with them in the viewer folder.


Tip 3

Collections can go inside of collections – it’s very helpful.  Everytime I have a new assignment that will be submitted on Google Docs, I create a collection in which I place the students’ assignments.  That collection goes into the class collection.  This makes it easy to track and refer back to assignments throughout the year.


Use the Stars and More Options

Stars can be extremely helpful for things that you use regularly.  I star documents that I use regularly like class notes or my lesson plans.  It makes it much easier to find and I don’t have to dig through collections or do searches just to get to the document.  For other documents that I may have misfiled or not filed, I use the “More Options” dial to narrow my documents to “Not in Collections” or “Owned by Me.”





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