Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Wonder of Google Docs

I am very new to Google Docs.  In fact, my recent preference for keeping my files has been dropbox.  I love dropbox.  However, I am excited to start using Google Docs to ease the transition to chromebooks.  Our school is doing a chromebook pilot this year.  The seventh and eighth graders will have a personal chromebook that they take to all their classes and home with them.  Like any techy teacher, I am really looking forward to this resource.  Last year the upper schoolers all shared a computer lab.  I imagine this is pretty typical, but it did make it hard to get computer based projects and papers completed due to scheduling.

There are multiple perks to GoogleDocs (which is now formally called Google Drive).  One obvious perk is that it automatically saves.  This is amazing.  You can even revert back to previous saves, in case you made changes that you no longer want.  Of course, there is also a traditional undo button.
Here is what a new document looks like:

I also like that you can easily search for your documents.  Rename your document by clicking the "untitled document" button.  The idea is that you give it a name that you clearly associate with the document, even if it has five words in it.  Then you can search those words and find the document in a snap.  Now, I'm not sure if I can totally eliminate the use of folders.  I love folders and organization, so even though I currently haven't organized my Google Drive, I think it's coming soon.  

A very powerful aspect of Google Drive is collaboration!  Multiple students (or teachers) can be working on the same document simultaneously.  In fact, if multiple people are working on the same document, you can see where the other person is typing.  I can see this working best on a group project that is based in Slides (Google Drive's form of Powerpoint).  Each student can be working on their own slides, but they don't have to wait for one person to finish before they start.  This means they will be more productive during class (and at home- as long as they have an internet connection).  

Since all of our seventh and eighth graders will have chromebooks, we are also going to be using the Chromebook Management Console.  This isn't exactly Google Drive, but a tool for chromebooks that will help students organize their documents...and so much more.  Although I haven't started using this yet and don't know the full extent of all the pieces, it has great potential for classroom use.  It can do things like push-out apps and websites to all student computers.  This will make it easy for everyone to be on the same web page without needing to type in long web addresses.  I am planning on using web based grammar drills at the beginning of class and this will allow the class to seamlessly get started.  There is also the ability for the teacher to see what is on every students' computer and what tabs they have open.  Cha-ching!  Can you say classroom management.  This is definitely one area that I was concerned about, and although I haven't tried it yet, I think this will save us a lot of trouble.  At my school, I think that the students knowing that we will be watching the links they are on will be enough for them to stay on-task.  However, if they do decide to go to an unapproved website during class time, the teacher can CLOSE the tab.  That's right...I've got the power. I am so excited to have this tool, even though I hope to never need to use it.  Also, as I mentioned earlier, this console will provide a folder for each of the students' teachers.  That means that I can put google doc worksheets in their English folder.  No more excessive printing.  No more, "I can't find my worksheet, can I have another one."  Now, I know not all of my worksheets will be on google docs, there are some reproducibles that  I didn't create that I still need to copy.  But, I am very excited about the prospect of being (more) paper-free.  I can also grade the papers right from the management console and still not need to print.  I have yet to figure out how I will motivate myself to grade when I don't have a stack of papers three inches high.  I think I will need to have a system of grading that I stick very closely to in order to not get too behind.  For example, grade all seventh grade Wordly Wise on Wednesday nights, etc.  I have always wanted to have a system like this that I follow, and now it should be easier because I can access the assignments from anywhere I have an internet connection.  Can you tell I'm excited.  I am sure there are other features of the management console that I don't know about yet, but this is what I gained from the overview.  

Here are some links for further reading:

Google Drive Tutorial from Lauren @The Sweetest Thing.  She goes into much more depth than I have.  If you want a step-by-step for Google Drive, this post is for you.

30 Ways to Use Chromebooks in the Classroom from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.  This post goes into reasons that Chromebooks are the way to go if you are looking at 1 to 1 solutions.

Chromebook Management Console a brief look.

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