3 quick and easy Google Docs ideas for your classroom

Ed Tech

Ed Tech | Thursday, August 29, 2013

3 quick and easy Google Docs ideas for your classroom

3 quick and easy Google Docs ideas for your classroom
3 quick and easy Google Docs ideas for your classroom

Google Docs can be simply implemented into the classroom even if students don’t have school-issued Google accounts.

Google Docs is truly a killer way to ditch a textbook.

My school has adopted it (more formally/completely: Google Apps for Education). I’ve been excited since about February, when I found out. I have used Google Docs for years and can’t wait to use its powerful sharing capabilities with my students.

Except I can’t yet.

See, my school has upgraded its version of Harmony (attendance/grades/data/etc. managing software), and there are glitches galore. It has kept the tech staff in my district totally occupied and has put Google Docs implementation on the back burner. Two and a half weeks into the school year and still no Google Docs for students.

The teachers have it, though. Would I, lover of all things edtech, miss this “silver lining in the dark clouds” opportunity pass?

No way.

Before student Google Docs accounts are set up and deployed, I’ve found ways to transform what we do in my classroom already through my own school-provided Google account. These are easy ways to leverage this tool to the max (if you have enough computers/devices for every student or for sharing). They work even if your school doesn’t have Google Apps for Education and if students aren’t logged into a Google account.

Here are some ideas:

1. Simply share documents with students.

Sharing documents

Click to see full-sized image showing how to share a document.

If you’re familiar with Google Docs, you probably already know that you can provide a link to your documents for others to view, comment on and edit. Instead of distributing papers to students, in some cases I’m just sharing them electronically (until I can push them out to students via Doctopus when students get access … more on that eventually).

Finish your document. Click “share” and change the visibility to public or anyone with the link. Then copy the link on the share window and share it with your students.

Are you like me with no easy way to share an enormous link with students? (Did I mention we’re a My Big Campus school and students don’t quite yet have access to MBC?) Easy. Use Today’s Meet. Set up a chat room and copy/paste the link there. Students can click the link from your Today’s Meet room.

(Haven’t used Today’s Meet yet? It’s just about the easiest-to-use website I’ve seen in my life. Check it out.)

2. Create a shared presentation with students.

Shared presentation

Click to see the full-sized image showing an example of a slide in a shared presentation.

After a day or two or more of learning, students can apply their new knowledge or skills in a meaningful way that can be shared with the entire class.

Create a new presentation in Google Docs with as many blank slides as you have students in class. Share the link with them (see No. 1 above). Make sure they have permission to edit the document from the share window.

Each student is assigned a slide number and creates a slide utilizing what they’ve learned recently in your class. For me, students wrote sentences saying what they did during the summer in the preterite (past) tense. They added photos (use Pixabay for free public domain photos) and customized with their own colors, fonts, etc.

The next day in class, I showed their slides on the projector and asked follow-up questions. I’ve found that my students love seeing each other’s work, and the themes are more relevant to their lives.

(Suggestions for managing a document that many students are in at the same time: 1. Don’t use the “undo” button or you might undo someone else’s action. 2. Be careful not to apply changes (i.e. background color) to the entire presentation. Changing the text color to white made everyone shriek thinking they had lost all their work.)

3. Share, comment and collaborate on reading assignments.

Sharing a reading

Click to see the full-size image of an example of shared student readings in Google Docs.

Readings that can be transferred into a digital document can make lessons engaging in ways they couldn’t before.

Find a reading and transfer it (with attribution, of course) to a Google document (copy and paste, etc.). Share the document with students (again, see No. 1 above) and give them permission to edit.

When students enter the document, they can:

  • read the reading,
  • type comments that others can read without actually adding text to the reading itself,
  • look up and define tricky words with comments or by typing text into the reading,
  • type questions for the teacher or classmates,
  • use the chat feature at the bottom to engage in digital conversation, and
  • save, share or print the entire experience for access later.

Think of marking up your paperback copy of a book with your underlining and comments but in a way that everyone can see. It can really revolutionize the entire reading process. (If you’re looking for a neat iOS app that does this as well, I suggest Subtext.)

Hopefully, my students will have access to their school-issued Google accounts. This will open up many more doors for collaboration and creative creation of content.

But for now, these ideas are a nice taste of the possibilities to get us started. They’re also a good entry point for teachers wanting to get started using Google Docs.

Have any other quick and easy Google Docs ideas for the classroom? Leave them in a comment below!

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  • […] Editing digital documents. Students can complete a reading and add their observations and comments. […]

  • […] Editing digital documents. Students can complete a reading and add their observations and comments. […]

  • […] Editing digital documents. Students can complete a reading and add their observations and comments. […]

  • […] Editing digital documents. Students can complete a reading and add their observations and comments. […]

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  • Mira says:

    These are really great ideas. Last year I experimented a lot with googleform and found that it was quite successful. This year, I had hoped to play around a bit more with using just plain old google documents for at-home assignments.

    My question is this: Let’s say I give the students a chunk of text, much like you suggest above, and I want them to edit and comment, etc. BUT, I don’t want other students to see. In other words, if Student A edits the text, then when Student B signs on, the text will already be edited. Is there a way to send out the doc to the students in which they can edit the page, but their edits can only be viewed by me?
    (Without sending an individual link to each student?)

    Thank you!!!

    • Matt Miller says:

      Hi Mira! Thanks for your comment! I think I have a couple solutions for your question. There are a couple of ways to send documents out to students:

      1. The quick and easy way — Copy the link to share your document (available in the blue “Share” button) and paste it into a TodaysMeet chat room (free and easy to set up … search “TodaysMeet” on my site for a screencast on it). The students click the link, save a copy and share it with you.
      2. Shared folder way — Put documents you want students to use in a shared folder and share it with them. If you want to share to them without selecting individual students every time, you might consider creating a group for each of your classes so all you have to do is send it to the group.
      3. The fancy way — Use the Doctopus script (go to http://www.youpd.org/doctopus for info). This script takes a document (or several documents) and sends it out to student accounts. It also tracks when the document is modified, so you’ll know who has been doing their work and when they did it.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if you have other questions … I love to help!

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