Thing 15 (Week 15) Get Productive with Google Docs!


Introduction? Google Docs really needs NO introduction as each of you have already been using this incredible, not to mention FREE, Web 2.0 tool! Personally, I am addicted to Google and all of their great applications they offer us. Thus far, we've only used the spreadsheet function of Google Docs and in a traditional, limited way at that. In Thing 20, we're going to explore the other applications under the Google Docs umbrella and how we can capitalize on this tool for professional and instructional use.

Thing 20 (Week 9) - Online Office: Getting Started with Google Docs


One of the "hallmarks" of Web 2.0 technology is the idea of the Internet becoming not just "a place we go," but an application, allowing users to perform "software" tasks (such as word processing and image editing) online, inside a web browser. Probably the best example of this trend is the development of several online office suites, including ThinkFree, Zoho Office and Google Docs, which allow users to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations online, for free.

All of you have been using Google Docs since the day you began this course, by adding your info and marking off "Things" in the course spreadsheet. That should give you an idea of how useful a tool this can be. We have over 70 people all editing a single spreadsheet online. Yes, I planned it this way.

Google Docs in Plain English from our friends at CommonCraft

What's all the fuss?

While it doesn't include every advanced feature of traditional desktop office software, Google docs has many attractive features including some that traditional desktop software can't match. And they are always adding new features. Here are a few of the highlights.

  • It's free. Microsoft office costs a home user about $300, a student or teacher at least $100.
  • It's easy. If you are familiar with the basic toolbar functions in Word, Excel and Powerpoint, you should find Google Docs fairly intuitive to navigate..
  • Documents are stored online and accessible from any computer. There is only one copy of each document, and you can never lose it.
  • It's compatible with Microsoft Office (and other file formats), allowing importing/uploading of existing documents, spreadsheets and presentations, and downloading/exporting of files to edit in Microsoft Office.
  • It's collaborative. Share documents with other users (up to 200!) and edit them simultaneously! One useful classroom application would be for a teacher to give feedback on a student essay or paper within the Google doc, rather than on a printed version. Also great for peer-editing.
  • It offers built-in revision history. Google saves every version of a document with a time stamp and username (like a wiki), allowing users to
    • Compare any two versions of a document, seeing exactly what has changed.
    • Know precisely which content was contributed by each user. (e.g. teachers can evaluate and track student contributions over time).
    • Easily revert to an old version at any time.
  • Chat feature: Google spreadsheets allows users to discuss a file while working on it. Google presentations allows viewers to discuss the presentation while watching it online!
  • Instant forms: Create a survey, poll or other form and email it to selected respondents, or publish it to the web and send the link to desired participants. Results are instantly stored in a Google spreadsheet.
  • Many sharing and publishing options.
    • Documents can be public or private (unshared); Collaborators may be invited as editors or only as viewers.
    • Documents may be Published to the web for viewing as a web page. Simply share the URL on a website or in email.
    • Spreadsheets and presentations are embeddable in other web pages (such as wikis).
    • When you make changes to a Published document, the Published version updates automatically when the document is saved.
    • Use Google docs as a simple way to create web pages that share links (Example - Peek's Page)
    • Track changes to any published document via RSS feed.

And how can they be used in the classroom? There are many, many applications.

Note :
Although some of the ideas that will be presented may assume that students have easy access to computers, please remember that limited access does NOT have to be a roadblock to integrating this (or any) type of technology into teaching. Think outside of the of box and keep the glass half full! Consider HOW you could modify what other people are doing to FIT your situation instead of trying to make YOUR reality fit their idea.

Using Google Docs in the Classroom
YouTube Version
Downloaded Version (from YouTube)


Google Docs in the Classroom - The End of Flashdrives Erica Hartman
(Oh, and by the way...this IS a Google Docs presentation you're viewing online. Very similar to Power Point).


Teaching Collaborative Revision with Google Docs
Using Google Docs in the Classroom: Tips and TricksIt covers how to keep student work organized, revisions and revision history, and how to publish student work.

For those of you who don't teach math, do NOT skip this section! There is SO much more to using Google Spreadsheets for math and graphing functions than you may have realized. So for right now, forget numbers and think forms and functionality. Remember how you registered for this class? That was a Google Form that is automatically linked to a spreadsheet - the one you use to mark off each of your things. The incredible thing about these forms is that you can design them to suit a variety of purposes for professional and classroom use. What's more, they're embeddable in a blog or wiki!!

Check this sample survey and embeddable spreadsheet out.

But what are some other ways that Google Forms/Spreadsheets can be used? Check out some of these great ideas and examples.

  • Tom Barrett uses Google Forms extensively in his classroom. Here's a great blog post where he shares how he uses his forms and some of his samples. - 10 Google Forms

In preparing this Thing, I didn't find a whole lot of information out there regarding Google Presentations, but it's a tool that really doesn't need a lot of explanation. Why would you want to use Google Presentations?
  • Upload your Power Point files and embed them in a wiki so your students / colleagues have access to them at any time.
  • Use the presentation mode of Power Point and invite others to join your presentation as you give it live. They can follow along with your slides and if they have a Google account, they can also participate in a live chat.
  • Share presentations among your department / grade level? Why have everyone create an individual presentation? Share it and let a group design a presentation, then you can always download it to make those finishing touches.

Miscellaneous Google Docs Links

Discovery Exercise: Explore Google Docs

Google Docs:

¤ NOTE: The best time to complete the PART 1 exercise may be the next time you have a REAL need to use Microsoft Word to create a document (unless you are under inordinate stress/pressure). I am asking you to share the document, so it's probably best if it's not something sensitive.

¤ SHARING NOTE: You may want to begin a document and invite one or more participants as collaborators so that you can work on it together. A single collaborative document can "count" for each person's completion of this exercise, as long as everyone contributes to the document.

PART 1: (~15-30 minutes) Log into Google Docs using your Google (Gmail) username and password. Create a new "word" document. Practice using several formatting tools and features. As you explore, consider ways you might incorporate Google Docs into your classroom, professional or personal life.

When you have finished exploring, SHARE your document with your k12learning 2.0 coach and with me, and anyone else you might want to share with. (While viewing you document, click Share > Invite People and enter our email addresses where it says Invite:, then click Send).

‡ HELP Video: - Intro to Google Docs Interface
‡ HELP Resource: - Google Docs Basics (PDF quick reference from FCIT)

Things to try while exploring:

  • Format text - change font and font size, make text bold or italic, change font color, add bullets or numbers, change alignment.
  • Insert a picture from your computer or from a web URL (Insert menu) -- btw, Foreign Language teachers: the Insert menu also has a special characters feature!
  • Add a table and enter some text in the cells. (Table menu)
  • Add a link - Two ways: Simply copy and paste a URL into the document; Embed a link by highlighting some text and clicking link on the toolbar to paste the URL. Note the option to "open link in new window).
  • After you have Saved your file several times, check out the Revision history (File > See revision history).

¤ NOTE: Again, the best time to complete the PART 2 exercise may be the next time you have a REAL need to use Microsoft Excel or Powerpoint.

PART 2: (~15-20 minutes) Explore either the spreadsheet or presentation tools (or both if you are having fun -- I don't mind if you blog about how you lost another precious hour of your life exploring a remarkably useful tool. There's a drawing tool, too!). Begin a new file and see what you can "figure out." Again, think about how this tool might fit into your classroom, professional life, or for personal use.

PART 3 Stretch/OPTIONAL (~15-20 minutes) - Upload, Download, Forms and Publishing
  • Upload one or more existing documents from your computer to Google Docs. See how they "look" when uploaded. (Upload button or File > Upload)
  • Download your Google document, spreadsheet or presentation in a format of choice (File > Download as...)
  • Check out a sample form. Complete this brief form I created using Google spreadsheets. (Instead of sending an email invitation, I simply linked it here). To create your own form, begin a new Google spreadsheet, then select Form > Create a Form. I can think of a hundred ways to use this with students and for administrative tasks!

Write a blog post reflecting on your initial experience with Google Docs. Include at least three ideas for using Google Docs (and/or Spreadsheets, Forms, Drawings, Presentations) in classroom learning and/or professional learning/productivity. At least one idea should reflect a collaborative use. Please include "Thing 20" in your post title.


Since Google Docs is a suite of three applications, this task comes in several parts.


A. Google Docs - Word Processing

  • Either create a document from scratch in Google Docs or upload an existing document to Google Docs.
  • Once the document is uploaded, publish it.
  • Share the document with me using the document sharing feature in Google (see video below). Do NOT use my Barrow County email address. Instead share the document with me at caroline.obannon (at) gmail (dot)com.


Help Video :Publishing a Google Document
Help Video: Sharing a Google Document with other users

B. Google Docs - Excel

You've all been using this piece of Google Docs thus far, so let's take it a step beyond the spreadsheet and create a form that you could use in class or for professional purposes. Here is what you need to do:

  • Create a form in Google Docs (see Help video below)
  • Embed the form in your Sandbox Wiki page.


Help Video:
Google Forms and Wikispaces

C. Google Docs - Presentations

Create a 1-slide "About Me" presentation using Google Docs Presentations. Here is what needs to be included:
  • Your name - First name only is fine if you want to protect your identity.
  • A picture - Of you (not required) or using an image that you feel symbolizes you. Don't forget about "creative commons" when choosing a picture if you're going the "avatar" route.
  • What you teach
  • Grade(s) you teach
  • Your favorite Web 2.0 Tool and briefly why

Once completed, you'll need to publish the presentation and then embed it into your Sandbox page


Help Video : How to Create and Publish a Google Presentation


Blog Post: Thing 15

Write a reflective blog post (ONE SOLID PARAGRAPH) about your experience with Google Docs. Don't forget to label your blog post "Thing 15".
Here are a few questions to help you guide your reflection. You are not required to answer them.
  • Did you know about Google Docs before this class?
  • What was your first impression of Google Docs when you first learned about it?
  • Could you integrate the use of Google Docs into your instructional practices?
    • Why or why not? If so, how could you see it being used?
  • Do you think that you'll continue to use Google Docs after this course?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of it?