Adventures with Google Docs

Google DriveI have been using Google for a long time. What has impressed me about the company is its ability to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for many Internet services, beyond a search engine. The tool that I have explored using the most recently is Google Docs / Google Drive. I have employed other cloud storage tools (and still do to different extents) but Google Drive has emerged for me as the easiest to use. I will discuss here two ways that I have successfully integrated the use of Google Docs in my classroom.

1. By students as part of their learning.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about using Google Docs with students as part of their planning process. In short, this was a resounding success. Please read this post first to give context to what I’m talking about. The students surprised me in two ways as they used the doc; They didn’t get caught up in the novelty factor and they actively utilised the added features of the process to improve their work.

I’ll admit that a couple of kids jumped at the opportunity to record words that weren’t strictly related to the task, but generally the maturity was sound. It was wonderful to see the students not only filling out the table as they would previously have in their workbooks, but also that they built on each other’s ideas. This proved to me that the use of the tech was worthwhile – it led to an enhanced resource for the students to use as part of their learning process.

I have now extended the use of Google Docs in this task by giving

2. By me as part of communicating with parents.

We were lucky enough earlier this term to have a school visit from George Couros, EdTech and innovative learning extraordinaire.  One of the many ideas that I took away from his visit was the use of Google Drive as a way of communicating with parents about a student’s progress. It is surprisingly simple;

  • I create a folder for a student in my Google Drive
  • I set the security to ‘private’ and invite the parents to share the folder via email (no gmail required)
  • I upload worksamples, audio and video from the children to the folder (which only the parents and I have access to)

After consultation with leadership and testing of the system with a ‘dummy’ student (I like to call him Little Johnny) I set up the folders and emailed the parents. Initial feedback has been overwhelmingly positive;

  • “This is great. Google drive is a great system!”
  • “Sounds good, thanks for this!”
  • “Wow, we are so lucky to have you teaching our child”*

I have so far uploaded photos of the students working, video of them presenting to the class and the Essay documents I mentioned above. My intention is that these shared folders become part digital portfolio, part window into the classroom and part opportunity to share learning beyond the local classroom environment – parents working overseas and extended family for example.

So far so good, then. I am always looking for interesting ways to meaningfully integrate technology into my classroom, so please feel free to share ways that you have used Google Drive or any other technologies!

*slight embellishment by the author here…