Top 5 Uses of Google Docs for Educators

 1.    Creating and Sharing Lesson Plans.

Google Docs were practically built on the ability to share and collaborate on documents.  In recent years, educators have been working to catch up on all of this collaboration business.  (We’ve just about made it!)

Use Google Docs to create and share lesson plan documents with your colleagues, your supervisor, and your students.  We love this idea because:

  • This is a fast and easy way to store your entire lesson plan library in an online space, available to you from any device.  Plan in your classroom on your PC, at home on your tablet, or in Starbucks from your smart phone (work on that thumb dexterity!).
  • This is one big step in the right direction for co-teaching.  As any co-teacher will tell you, finding the time to collaboratively pool resources and plan lessons can be an impossible task.  We’ve seen the co-authoring features offered by GoogleDocs utilized by co-teachers who are working together to plan lessons, now free from the time constraints of the school day.  Mismatched prep periods, night owl syndrome, whatever the disconnect – we’ve found a powerful solution.
  • Feedback!  Share your lesson plans with your supervisor or building principal.  We’re certain he or she will appreciate your savvy and thank you for the organizational edge.  Further, you can a healthy dose of “live” feedback through document “comments” (a Google feature that can be likened to Microsoft Office’s “track changes”).  Start a digital, asynchronous, professional dialogue on the documents themselves!
  • Feeling particularly transparent today?  You can post links to your documents anywhere – share your plans with students, parents, and colleagues.  Google Docs gives you the ability to determine who can do what to your document – for instance, you might (1) give editing privileges to a co-teacher, (2) give “comments-only” privileges to your supervisor, and (3) give “read-only” privileges to parents and students.  Given that this is a real-time document, your viewers will always see your latest changes!

2.    Creating a Shared Calendar.

The battery of snow days and school closures may be to blame for the recent pop in Google Calendar’s popularity.  Create calendars for specific purposes and share them with people who care!  Our favorite uses:

  • Lesson plans!  (No, we’re not obsessed with lesson plans, and promise not to mention them again in this post, but this implementation was so fresh that we felt compelled to build it in!)  Create a Google Calendar for one (or more) of your classes.  Include your lesson details (i.e. unit, learning objectives, standards, instructional plan, etc.).  Upload any pertinent documents (handouts, syllabus, etc.).  And then share this document with anyone.  This is an incredible solution for submitting lesson plans (if you’re in a GAFE school, and you haven’t tried this yet, start now!), and a powerful way to keep your students (and their parents) in the know.  Gone are the days of school planners, lost agenda books, and signed homework pads!
  • In the same vein as sharing lessons, a shared calendar is a fast and easy way to share daily learning objectives, homework assignments, test dates, essay deadlines, and other noteworthy school events.  Keep students organized and parents in the know!

3.    Sharing Presentations.

Google Docs allows us to create presentations as well as documents and spreadsheets.  We’ve seen Google’s presentations start to eat up Microsoft’s share of the market, and with good reason.  A few great ways we’ve seen these in action:

  • The most fundamental benefit of a shared presentation is essentially the 21st century equivalent of having a copy of the teacher’s notes.  (Whoop-dee-doo.)  But the collaborative features kick this notion up a notch.  Now, students can (1) access the presentation from any device, (2) post comments on the slideshow, and (3) share those comments with their classmates.  Here, we see the workings of an asynchronous discussion centered around your content!
  • Last week, we had the pleasure of sitting in on a classroom where the teacher initiated the lesson by bringing up a Google presentation.  She scrolled to the sixtieth slide (it was the sixtieth day of school), which contained the “Do Now” and learning objective of the day.  This file was shared (although not editable!) with all students and parents.  The most recurring feed we’ve heard?  Enhanced discussions around the dinner table.
  • Create a collaborative syllabus or agenda!  A great way to encourage collaborative note taking, whether you’re working with a group of students in a classroom, with your colleagues in a department meeting, or with other professionals in a PD workshop!

4.    Scheduling Conferences.

With minimal tinkering (i.e. color coding, giving permission “edit,” sharing a link), Google Docs’ spreadsheets are a fast and easy way to obtain and organize information.  Consider the following uses we’ve seen in action this past year:

  • Scheduling conferences!  This month, we saw a supervisor schedule SGO “check in” times by sharing a spreadsheet with his colleagues and asking them to type their name into open timeslots.  Last month, we saw a teacher take the same approach in asking students to sign up for writing conferences.  In September, an elementary teacher shared her experiences doing this to organize her parent-conferences.  With growing intensity, collaborative spreadsheets have taken the traditional paper “sign up” form and given it new life!
  • Tracking inventory!  Textbooks?  Classroom libraries?  Shared materials?  Create a spreadsheet with a current inventory count (i.e. “25 copies of Catcher in the Rye) in an uneditable cell.  Then, create spaces for users to enter their names and how many they’ve taken out.  Suddenly, tracking down any set of shared materials will be just clicks away.

5.    Forms For Assessment 

Until recently, it never occurred to us that Google Forms could be used for more than sending out surveys.  As it turns out, survey-style data collection is only the beginning.  Google Forms are intuitively created (we build our first in just moments) and can be shared en masse to collect data quickly.

  • We recently saw a teacher email a Google form to her students, each of whom were anxiously awaiting its arrival in their inboxes.  Upon receipt, they were given five minutes to answer the math problems on the form and to submit it for scoring.  The teacher watched her students’ scores populate her spreadsheet with each submission.  Immediate scoring, immediate feedback, immediate results.
  • Use a form to streamline collection tasks that are still frequently reserved for pen and paper.  New converts include forms for ordering/requesting classroom supplies, forms for collecting student feedback pertinent to new courses, and forms for writing end-of-lesson reflections.
  • We’ve seen several districts build Google Forms to do streamline their teacher evaluation procedures in-house (rather than outsourcing to some of the heavy hitters out there, i.e. Teachscape).  Administrators bring their laptops in to conduct observations, input evidence in text boxes, check the appropriate boxes to indicate the level of proficiency, and click “submit” to send that data to a district spreadsheet.  (The best part?  It’s free!)

In short, Google Docs is being used more often and with greater flexibility than ever before.  It is becoming common place in curriculum development, in sharing departmental materials, in encouraging collaborative note taking, in writing course proposals and student handbooks and meeting agendas.

Join the conversation and tell us about the most creative and compelling ways you’ve seen, experienced, or used Google Docs!

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