Thursday, January 6, 2011

Google Docs (and more)

In case you haven't heard yet, Google owns the internet.  As part of their continued domination, they have added many tools that people can use to be more productive, access information, and collaborate more effectively. 

Google Docs (short for documents) allows people to edit documents synchronously (or not).  Google also provides a few different types, with documents similar to word documents, excel documents, and powerpoint documents (noticing a trend?), as well as drawing forms and tables.  In addition to the docs that Google provides, the public is free to add templates that others can use, including calendars and budget forms.  

I have never used Google Docs with my students (as in letting them create and share).  One big roadblock is that they need gmail accounts, which I am steering way clear of to avoid problems.  A classmate and I were considering using Google docs for a telecollaborative project, but would prefer to use a service that doesn't require an email account. 

Still, there are many uses for Google Docs inside the school.  Earlier this year I had students complete a short survey for the guidance counselor.  She used the data to get to know students better.  Administration used Google Docs to gather info that was typically collected using paper and pencil. 

How do I plan to use Google Docs?  One possibility that sticks out to me is a survey at the beginning of the year.  I could gather info about student experience/comfort with technology, interests, and more.  I did something similar (with chart paper and markers) this year, but I would prefer the Google Docs because it allows all students to respond, and I can chart the data.  In this way, I can get to know the students and their needs.

Here is a link to access Google Docs

Here is a link to a sample survey that I will be using next year.  Feel free to fill it out so I can practice using the data.  I filled it out, and I like how it stores data in a database (similar to excel) so that I can look for trends.  For instance if I notice that none of my students have used Google Earth before, I know I need to really prepare them.

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