Beyond search, by far their most popular product, Google has quite a few useful tools in their ecosystem that can be quite useful in the education space. One of these is Google Docs, a fairly capable cloud-based word processor. Not sure what exactly that means? Not to worry, as we’ll be diving into some of the most useful basic and advanced uses for Google Docs.
Collaborate with Anyone, Anywhere
Being cloud based means that you can work on a Google Doc from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. It doesn’t stop there though, since you can invite others to work on a document with you at the same time. You’ll even see their words being typed on screen in real time.
Want to bring something to the attention of a specific collaborator? You can easily do it by adding a comment to the section you’d like the person to look at, and then typing the @ symbol. This will bring up a list of all emails in your gmail account from which you can select, or you can type out the full email address. You can also assign tasks by selecting the checkbox. This will automatically send an email to the person alerting them of the comment, which they can respond to and mark as resolved.
Control Access Rights
In Google Docs, you have fine control over how you share your documents and who is allowed to do what. So let’s say you’re working on a document with a fellow educator. You may want your colleague to have the ability to make changes, but certainly not any students you may share it with. The feature has many uses, for example, sharing an always-up-to-date calendar with parents and students.
Convert Word Documents to Google Docs
So Google Docs has many useful features, but they don’t mean much if all your content is in Microsoft Word format. Luckily, this is easily remedied. Simply drag your Word document into a Google Drive folder and open it with Google Docs, or go to File > Open from within an open Google Doc.
You should be aware though, that the conversion is not always perfect. This is especially true when your Word document included a lot of very specific formatting.
Pictures and Drawing Tools
Google Docs is not only about word processing as you can also add images, tables and various shape tools to create diagrams. These tools are very similar to those used in Microsoft Word so, if you’re familiar with them, you should be right at home with these.
Some might consider the cloud-based nature of Google Docs as a double-edged sword. What happens when a collaborator deletes everything in your Google Doc that autosaves? That is where the Revision History feature comes in handy. Think of it as your personal time machine for the document you’ve been working on. You can see a detailed account of the changes that have been made, when they were made and by whom. From here you can also restore a document to a previous version.
This feature can also be used as an easy way to show a student any changes you may have made to their document. Working through various revisions, the student can see how their work has changed over time under your guidance. You don’t even have to make the actual change since you have the option of adding comments and even working in edit suggestion mode.
Translation into most major languages at the click of a button is an incredibly useful feature. While far from perfect, the translation available in Google Docs is quite good and, at the very least, provides a good starting point for translating a document. An interesting activity for students learning a language using this feature would be to translate a document and then have the students correct the errors on it.
To translate your document, go to Tools > Translate document and select a language.
There are certain things that Google Docs can’t do or can’t do very easily. That does not mean there is no other solution, as there exists an active community of developers who frequently develop add-ons that do various things. Do you quickly need to search for and insert images? You could manually do it, or you could use the Openclipart add-on. Not happy with the drawing options available? Try the draw.io add-on.