Drinking the Google Drive Kool-Aid: My Top Reasons for Switching from Office to Google

I started using Google Docs several years ago when it was just Google Docs.  Over the past two years, I really started to understand it and use it for my own work, with students and as a student myself taking courses in University.  Google Docs has now become Google Drive and there is an entire suite of tools that are available for use.

My top reasons to use Google Drive:
-access on any device
-access files from anywhere there is internet service
-collaboration made easy
-easily give feedback
-accountability through the revision history feature
-authentic digital citizenship conversations
-unlimited storage

Access on any device
Our school division is a Google Apps for Education district.  All of our students have Google accounts setup and this includes access to Google Drive.  Google Drive is available on Windows, Mac and Chromebook platforms and it is also available as an app for Apple and Android devices.  This makes it easy to access any files you have in your Google Drive from almost any device.  Students working with iPads can upload their work to the Google Drive App and then access that work from their laptops.  Google Drive is a cloud based service so anything I save to my Google Drive on my work computer for example, is available on any device that I can use to login to my Google Drive account, for example my iPhone.  No longer do I need to send files back and forth through email or save to a flash drive so I can work on them at home.

If You Have Internet You Have Access to Google Drive
This came in handy for me this summer, when I wanted to go camping with my family but was enrolled in an online course that required me to collaborate with a group on an assignment.  I was able to go camping and because I had internet access, I could collaborate and work with my classmates through the Google Doc from the comfort of our trailer by the lake.  For my students, this comes in handy when they want to continue working on their class work from home.  This has happened when students do not finish in class or are sick.  As long as they have a device with internet access they can bring up any school work saved to their Google Drive at home.

Collaboration Made Simple
Working collaboratively has never been easier.  Any files created in Google Drive can be shared.  Not only can they be shared by easily clicking and typing a person’s email address, there are also various levels of sharing: you can share to specific people only, to anyone with the link, or publicly.  You can also give people various permissions to edit the files.  You can allow people to strictly view or comment or even edit the document.  You can make others the owner and then they can control the sharing levels.   Students working on a group project can collaborate using a Google Doc.  If both students are logged in they can see each others edits live.  There is a chat feature that contributors can use to communicate as they work.  Or if students are working at different times they can be highlighting and making comments on the work.  Then the next time their other group members go into the document, they can see the changes and comments made.  All changes made by the group members sharing the document will be up to date and the latest revision will be found in their Drive.  No need to send the newest version back and forth!

For the group project, I had this summer there were 5 members of our group.  Group members consisted of people  from Edmonton, Calgary, B.C. and Saskatchewan.  Using a Google Doc to plan and collaborate was invaluable.  We communicated and collected resources in a Google Doc.  Sometimes we would be working on it live with each other, but other times we would go in at different times.  We all had different work schedules and lives so usually we were in at separate times.  It was so easy to see what others had added by looking at the revision history.  This allows people to see the edits and they are colour coded.  Using the highlight and comment feature we could leave feedback and questions for other members to see when they were able to go in and look at a time that worked for them.  For that project we also took advantage of Google Hangouts to “meet” once a week from our various locations at the same time to touch base.

Feedback Made Easy

Having my students use Google Drive to create their work makes it easy for me to give them feedback.  I no longer have to pack their journals or workbooks home everyday or stay late at school to go through and give them feedback.  Now I can go online, log in to my Google Drive and access my students’ work.  I can go in and leave feedback by making suggestions or inserting comments.  I find that because I have access to their work on any device, from almost anywhere I go, I am giving them feedback more frequently than I would have in the past.

Revision History
Through the revision history, I can see who made what contributes to the document.  This is particularly useful for group work.  I can see if all students in the group have contributed to the work and to what extent.  I show this feature to students so they know they are accountable to their group.  It also lets them know that I can also see what they are typing in the document.  This prevents some of the off topic things that students will type, especially when they are first learning to collaborate in a Google Doc.

Authentic Digital Citizenship Conversations
As I use this digital tool with students, we naturally bring up conversations around digital citizenship as we use them.  When students start typing things in the chat that have nothing to do with their work, we talk about it.  That brings up issues of digital distractions and how we can manage them.  When students want to add an image to their document, we then need to talk about copyright and how to properly find and cite an image.  When students type things that are not appropriate in a Google Doc, we then need to talk about thinking before you click, send or post.  All these conversations need to happen with our students.  Many of them are using this technology outside of school but are not sure how to use it effectively for learning or working.  Sure they can use it to communicate and for entertainment, but I am not sure they all are able to use it to its full potential.  There are positive, rich and powerful ways students can leverage technology for their learning.  They need our guidance to see beyond just the cool gadgets.

Unlimited Storage
Recently Google announced that Google Apps for Education accounts will have unlimited storage!  I have to admit my account was starting to get full when I only had 30GB.  I had recently started using video documentation more and storing these videos quickly started eating up my space.  I am also excited that my students will also be able to upload and store their work with unlimited space.  The rich multimedia presentations that my students are creating will require more space too!


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