How to Use Google Drive in Class
Dr. Tonya Howe, Associate Professor of English
May 15, 2013
What is Google Drive? Google drive is a place to store all your files (documents, images, videos, powerpoints, and more) online, and it’s linked to your Marymount account. You can also share your files with classmates and other collaborators, making it ideal for workshopping and peer review. You can also use it for collaborative brainstorming and even collaborative writing, which students tend to find fascinating--you can see everyone editing the same document at once, which makes for a bit of fun!
Google Drive exists in a web-only format, or you can also download an app and have it synced to your desktop, laptop, or mobile device so you can always access the same document, everywhere, without lugging about mysterious flash drives. It’s a little like DropBox, but it allows you to edit synchronously, in real time. If students commit to using their Drive, they can eliminate version control problems, too, as they work in one document only but Drive saves a revision history for them--so, we can always go back to a previous draft. When you use comments, they can be exported into Microsoft Word, as well, giving you some nice interoperability.
There are multiple ways to get to your Drive. If you are just using the web version (not the desktop application that allows you to sync your documents), go to http://drive.google.com and login with your MU email (mine is email@example.com) and your MU password. Note: You have to use your whole MU email, not just your MUid, because we’re not going through the portal. You can also do this for your email--go to http://mail.google.com and login with your whole email address instead of just your MUid.
Drag and drop files into folders to organize. If you can do this systemically, it’s the best option. You can also just search, which I find most useful. This will allow you to search your files, as well as those shared with you, specifically, by others. Note: Students have a hard time finding things on Google Drive, so they will need some hands-on time with you in the classroom to feel comfortable with it.
Sharing settings in google drive are pretty straightforward; do note, however, that “publicly available on the web” does not really mean accessible! If you want a document to be truly available to the world for editing, you’ll need to publish it as a web page and then put a link to that web page somewhere online. Then, it can be searched for in google, google drive, or other search engines. Otherwise, be sure you are making links to documents available, or have set whole folders to be editable by the user-level you’ve chosen. See the “Share” button options for more details. Generally, documents inside folders have the same sharing settings as the folder; but you can change access to individual sub-documents, as well.
Note: Students will have difficulty finding documents shared with them, and making a document “public to the world” will not enable you to search for it in a regular google search. As one google user Gil says, “Google docs are not indexed unless they are (a) published to the web and (b) there is a link to them on a public website.” The best way to ensure students can access and find their documents is to encourage best practices from the ground up. Foldering, class folders, clear naming strategies, and a hands-on session are useful.
Start a google doc with basic policies (attendance, late work, food in class, cell phones, etc), invite the students in your class as editors or viewers, and work together to develop policies. You can have students edit directly in the document, or just add comments to the side.
Start a google doc with a question or a topic, and have invited students brainstorm directly on the document. This material can then be used to show how to develop a good essay or project topic, as well as a reference point later for student work.
I like to have students take the initiative here, highlighting it as an option. If they’re interested, you can set up a rotation--one student takes class notes each day. This creates both a sense of community and a record of class content as parsed by students.
This is something I’ve not really experimented with, so I’d like to try it out on you! Here’s a sample assignment.
Consider putting the text of your lecture on google docs, and then embedding places for student feedback. This is useful especially for individual student projects, but limiting access to ensure that student work is private and that students are responsible for their work will be the sticking point. I recommend making the document available to view, sharing the link on your webpage, and then asking students to make a copy to edit and turn in. Here’s a sample.
Another good use for shared folders is for students to create turn-in folders for a teacher. Then to turn in an assignment, the student simply adds the document to the turn-in folder and it will be available to the teacher. Here is how turn-in folders are made and managed:
Now as the teacher, all of the students’ shared folders will show up in your list of shared folders under “Shared with me” in Google Drive. If you have a lot of students, this can be quite a mess. So the best thing to do now is to organize the students’ folders. This is a one-time process you will need to do at the start of the year.
Anytime a student needs to turn in an assignment, they simply add it to their turn-in folder for your class period and the document will now be available for you to access.
Google Docs allows you to add comments to the a shared document, presentation, and such. This is a useful way to share ideas with other collaborators, or to give feedback to a student on a document you are grading. Comments that you leave on a student’s document, can be commented on by the student as well, and back and forth. This provides a way to have a conversation about the progress of a term paper, to get clarification from a student about a question, or simply to provide feedback.
When going paperless, one result is that you typically will only have one copy of a document or presentation, instead of several paper copies that may show the changes over time (such as rough drafts). It can be very beneficial to see how a student has revised a document (seeing if they have taken your suggestions), and to see which students in a group did which portions of the assignment.
Google Docs allows you to see the full revision history for a document and revert back to any earlier version if needed.