Monday, February 18, 2013

Google Apps for Education

By Al Elliot

I am a technology enthusiast.  This is a nice way of admitting my addiction to technology.  I am one of those people that wake up and check my phone before get out of bed.  I’m am convinced that the most successful people are those that learn to channel their addictions into a positive, productive activity in some way.  This quest of mine, to channel my addiction, has led me to a few useful discoveries when using Google Apps for Education (Namely Drive) with my students.

Originally, I started using Google Docs a few years back because of it’s automatic save feature.  I was running into problems with my students forgetting their jump drives or not properly ejecting them prior to pulling it out of the computer.  It was a nightmare.  Every time we would go to the lab, we were delayed by several technical difficulties.  By using Google Docs, I didn’t have that problem.  Since that time, Google has made some serious strides in improving their products and how they work together with other Google Products.  In this blog entry, I’ll cover three four of my favorite uses of Google Drive with my students.


My school system is a Google Apps for Education School which means each student has been assigned a Google Account.  When the students are working on a paper or typing an assignment on the computer, they share what they are working on with me.  This is different than sending it to me.  By sharing it, they are granting me access to edit the document.  We can both be logged on to the same document at the same time.  I can also comment on their work..  I highlight errors they may have made in their writings and they can read my comments, reply to my comments, and make the needed corrections.  I also am teaching them how to take pictures of a homework assignment and load it to the homework folder. (They actually just email me a picture of their homework and make the subject line read “homework” and sends it to the shared homework folder automatically.)  I can highlight a portion of the picture of their homework and provide feedback on their work prior to them getting to school the next morning.  And, because the folder is “shared” with the entire class, they all  can comment and help each other’s understanding of the homework too.  Needless to say how convenient this is for any students that may be absent.

2.  Web Publishing

Google Docs is a web based tool.  This means that everything you create in Google Docs is already on the web, you just need to publish it and manage the permissions of the created digital artifact.  Lets say you create a presentation for your class on a topic and you have published the slideshow to your class blog or to a website, or have just emailed it to a few people.  After publishing it, you discover a glaring mistake.  All you have to do is log on to Google Docs and make the corrections needed.  All of the links to the presentation you’ve sent out will automatically be updated.  Having the ability to continue to edit after publishing a document is a wonderful feature for young people learning to publish their work to the web.  I’ve found it quite useful as a teacher that is famous for discovering mistakes after a student has brought it to my attention.  Now that it’s not etched in stone, it can be corrected easily without having to resend or repost anything.  And, if you don’t want it out for public consumption any more, all you need to do go into the Google Docs settings, and un-publish it, and all of the links that have been sent out associated with the document will automatically no longer work.

3.  Search

By selecting “Tools” in the taskbar in Google Docs and then choosing “Research” students, can actually research a topic or find pictures without ever leaving the open document.  Google Docs can actually automatically insert footnotes if you use resources found in this manner.  How important is it for students to cite where they are finding their information?  Extremely important.  It’s as easy and dragging and dropping an image found from the right search draw, dropping it in your document, and Google Docs will automatically put the correct footnote number next to the image and the corresponding information at the bottom of the page.  No more wondering, “which folder did I put that picture in and what was the jpg’s name?”  It’s important to mention that many of the features in Google Drive work best when using their Chrome Browser.

4.  Sharing Pictures

Okay, I know I said three, but I couldn’t leave this feature out and I’m not about to delete the original number 3 so, consider this one a bonus.  I often take pictures of my students doing work in class with my phone.  I have created a “Class Pic” folder that I have shared with all of my students.   When my students log onto their Google Accounts, they have access to the pictures of themselves working in class that I have batch loaded from my phone.  They often insert pictures into documents and presentations they are creating about what they have learned in class  and share their presentations with others.  This is a powerful storytelling tool.  No longer is it cumbersome and time consuming to get pictures from a camera in documents.   Simply select all the pictures you’ve taken, choose the folder you want them to go to, and press send.  It’s that simple.  And because Google owns Youtube, you can also make a YouTube Video Slide show with the pictures that are already loaded to your drive!

If you're a Google Apps for Education School or if you're interested in learning and sharing more about how to use Google Products with students, please consider joining a group I've formed on Tioki.  Tioki is a social site just for educators. 

About the author: Al Elliot is an elementary educator currently working in the Hoover City School's System.  He is currently enrolled at the University of Alabama at Birmingham pursuing my doctorate in early childhood development. You can find him on Twitter @ellication and on Google+


  1. Google Drive is on of my favorite tools to use. It has presentation and documents that can be used on all computers. I can not tell you how annoying it is to try to give a presentation in class and it will not open because it does not have Microsoft word or presentation on it. Google drive will work so long as their is internet connection. Now I never have to explain to my teachers why my presentation does not work.

  2. Nice. I love it too. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment

  3. Nice breakdown! Great post for teachers new to Google Apps and what it is capable of!