Google Drive Workflows to Use with Students

driveOne of the most common questions teachers have had lately is regarding the best way to have students share work with them and vice-versa via Google Drive. In my opinion this is the best feature of Google Apps for Education; the ease of sharing and collaborating with your fellow teachers and students.  It really simplifies your workflow and we aren’t confined to emailing attachments back and forth or accessing items via a network drive that’s only accessible at school.

When you’re wanting to use Google Docs/Drive with students, figuring out which workflow works best for you is one of the biggest challenges. How to access something I want students to turn in to me? How do I put a file out there for my students to have access to? I wanted to share a couple ways that teachers in my district have been doing that. I know they aren’t the only ways it can be done but teachers have had a lot of success with them.

“Out of the box” Sharing

Teacher creates the folder and manages the sharing – The sharing features that are already built in to Google Drive are very handy. I’ve had some teachers that have found it useful to create a folder and then share that entire folder with their students. This gives students access to the folder, they can then move it to their “My Drive” work space, and can then place any necessary documents in that folder that they need to have access to. If you’re going to go this route I would recommend creating a class folder and then creating a folder for each student inside of that.  This brings up an important digital citizenship conversation at this point that needs to happen. At this point your students will be able to access each others’ folders. If this were to become an issue you would need to go to the sharing settings for each individual folder and take each student off except for the student whose folder it is. Then your students will see the class folder, and inside that they will only see their folder. This option can take a while depending on how many students you have but it’s a one-time setup at the start of a school year or each semester.

Student creates the folder and shares with you – This is the option that I usually suggest for students in grades 3 through 12. I would have the student create a folder and they share the folder with you. I would strongly encourage to create a standard naming convention you’d like all your students to use when they create the folder (ex. Name followed by 2013-14, hour 2, American History etc.). The teacher could even take it a step further and ask students to create more folders inside that folder (ex. subject folders or a folder called ‘work to turn in”, etc.). This option puts the student as the owner of the folder and it can easily become a digital portfolio of their work for that school year.

Google Scripts

Google Scripts is a part of Google Apps that I can always find something new to learn about. If you don’t know what Google Scripts are, they are additions you install on a Google Spreadsheet to create various automated functions.  One of those scripts is called gClassFolders; which is one of the most popular scripts out there for teachers to use.

Like I said before, a script is something you install on a Google Spreadsheet. So what a teacher would do is set up a normal Google Spreadsheet with all of their students’ information on it. This would be their email address, Name, class, hour, etc. Whatever identifying information you’d like to have for each student.  Then you will need to run the gClassFolders script. If you go to this spot on their site you can make a copy of their Google Spreadsheet that’s already ready to go or you can watch their video tutorial that explains how to install the script yourself.

So once you set up the spreadsheet and run the script, it automatically creates folders for you and all of your students with the appropriate sharing permissions applied. It looks something like this:

folders-with per

gClassFolders example from gclassfolders.com

As you can see above it automatically makes a folder for the subject, and inside that folder there are assignment folders for each student to turn in their work (private only to you and them), a place to put documents that the whole class can edit and a place to put documents that the whole class can view. There’s also a teacher folder that’s just for you. All the sharing and folder creation is done from one place (Google Spreadsheet) that you manage.

While I know these are the only ways to have a successful workflow in Google Drive, these have been very beneficial to many teachers. The first couple are usually what teachers start with once they have a good grasp on using Google Docs and then move to something like gClassFolders that’s a bit more advanced.

If you have any other favorite ways to manage student work please share them in the comments section!


Moving Existing Files to Google Drive – A Review

I’ve taught about Google Drive/Docs many times in person and virtually. Many teachers have decided to completely move all of their files to the cloud to store them and edit them via Google Drive. The idea of having access to your stuff from any device connected to the web is really appealing; coupled with the collaboration features that Docs offers.

As the school year comes to a close, you might be thinking that you’re ready to move files (upload) to Google Drive. We had several of our teachers asking for a reminder about how to do this, so I thought I’d make a quick tutorial that will walk you through the process. Something to keep in mind when doing this is if you want to be able to view the file via Google Drive or edit the file via Google Drive. Some of the verbiage I used in the video is specific to our teachers, but I decided to share it here on my blog too as I thought it might be helpful to others.

Enjoy!


Google Docs for Administrators – 5 Ideas to Get Started

'Reams' photo (c) 2007, pawpaw67 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

As another school year begins to come to a close, I have recently had some of our administrators (mostly elementary) contact me with ideas for making administrative tasks more paperless and create a more efficient workflow not only for themselves but for their teachers.  Some of these have been regular “end of year” tasks and others are being put into motion in preparation for next year.  Given my known affinity for Google Apps for Education, and being we are a Google Apps for Education district, my first inclination is always to figure out how these tasks could be completed using GAFE in one way or another.  As I begin to help several of our administrators with these projects, I thought I’d start a post that I could come back and add to over time. They might be beneficial to you as a teacher or you might want to share them with administrators in your district. So here they are in no particular order:

1. End of year checkout form – we all remember this one right? The checkout form for the end of the year that has to be completed before teachers can leave for the summer. Why not use Google Forms to make the form electronic and send out the link to staff? The principal sends out the link to the form, teachers can fill it out as they complete their required tasks, and the information goes straight into a spreadsheet for administrators.

2. Student information collection – When I was in the classroom this was another end of the year task to be completed. We would need to fill out a student information card on each of our students to help provide any pertinent information (academic or otherwise) to next year’s classroom teacher(s).  Again, this has always been something traditionally done on paper, so why not give it a digital go? Our administrator created a Google Forms version, then copied it the appropriate number of times for each grade level so that the data would come back to separate spreadsheets already separated by grade level.  This information also helps the administrative team build next year’s class lists.

3. Staff communication – We all know one of the best, if not the best feature of Google Docs is collaboration. The ability to have multiple people working on the same document at the same time is a huge efficiency booster for many. Documents don’t have to be emailed back and forth or saved on a network drive where only one person can have the document open at a time. Administrative teams can now easily create their staff newsletters in Google Docs so they can be built collaboratively and then easily shared out with the staff directly from Google Docs. This not only helps increase administrator productivity, but teachers can have a digital copy of building communication delivered right to their inbox.

4. Committees – Again, Google Forms can come in very handy for this. I recently assisted one of our principals who wanted to create a form for teachers to fill out monthly with any specific concerns/needs for individual students that will go directly to the building student assistance committee. This provides the team with valuable information ahead of time prior to the referring teacher meeting with the team. Documents and Forms can also help any building or district level committees communicate and collaborate which builds a more efficient workflow for everyone.

5. Fun stuff – Since this week is Teacher Appreciation Week and schools, parents, and communities are showing their appreciation, it reminds us that some times we also need better ways to work to plan fun stuff too. This could be to collaborate on a document to plan for this week’s teacher goodies, or a spreadsheet to plan Field Day, or make a form to send out to gather ideas for an end of year staff celebration. This possibilities could be anything with this one.

What I think is also great about this is that there’s positive modeling going on for use of Google Apps for Education. Administrators modeling for teachers, which will hopefully lead to teachers modeling for students. Helping the production equal or outweigh the consumption. A snowball effect that will always be in motion.

Please feel free to add your ideas in the comments section! Thanks!