Remember using word processing programs on your desktop and forgetting to save? Or having students share documents back and forth, forgetting which version is most current? Gone are those worries with Google Docs! Getting started with Google Docs is easy and it makes it possible for students and teachers to edit, give feedback, and share documents quickly and easily.
Creating New Docs
Creating new files is so simple with all Google tools. On the Docs homepage, click Create. If you’re in Drive, just go to the NEW button, click Docs, and click Blank or from a Template.
I love using letter, lesson plan, and resume templates for myself and colleagues, but kids can also enjoy the project and essay templates that make writing and creating easy!
Converting from Microsoft Word to Google Docs
You can definitely import your old Microsoft Word documents into Google Docs. Use the Chrome extension to help seamlessly convert from Word to Docs.
Creating Content in Google Docs
The functionality of Google Docs is really similar to Microsoft Words. Most of the menu items under the menus are similar. Things you will want to teach your students are the fonts choices and size (found on the main toolbar), line spacing (under format or a shortcut on the toolbar), spelling and grammar (under tools), and insert (images, drawings, tables, charts, and more).
You can get into more advanced settings with older students, but these are the basics that I would introduce to your youngest Google Docs users. To begin, share a blank individual copy in Google Classroom by choosing Make a Copy for Each Student. You can then pre-determine all the settings and fonts you want your students to use.
Sharing Google Docs
To share a Doc you or your students create, simply click the “Share” button in the upper right-hand corner of the Doc. The link will be available to copy, and you can change the setting to allow for “Viewer”, “Commenter”, or “Editor”.
The Viewer option is perfect if you just want students, parents, or colleagues to see notes or information. Commenter is the setting to use if you want students or other teachers to give feedback. Finally, Editor is the way students can collaborate with each other from their own devices.
You can also share Docs on Google Classroom with your students with View Only, Make a Copy for Each Student, or Allow Each Student to Edit options.
Version History on Google Docs
When you start to allow your students the ability to collaborate and edit on Docs, there are bound to be things that get erased on students that may struggle to work together. Of course, pre-teach and help students get used to their responsibilities and expectations as editors, but when that doesn’t work, there is help with version history.
If you go to File and Version History under the main menu, you’ll see every change made by each individual user. You can revert to a previously saved version. Because Google Docs auto-saves, you’ll be able to see every individual change. That way if a student erases something (unintentionally or on purpose), you can get it back. If too much has been changed and you don’t want to revert to an old version, just copy and paste the info from the old version you want to add back into the current version. Easy!
Accessibility Tools for Google Docs
Voice typing is one way for users that have vision or issues with motor skills to communicate more effectively in writing. Just go to Tools – Voice Typing. Make sure the device is allowed to access the microphone, and then start talking! Your students may need help with conventions, but this is a good start to get ideas on paper.
Other accessibility options are under Tools-Accessibility Options to turn on braille support, collaborator entrance announcements, and screen magnifiers (requires third-party software).
Google Docs are one of my favorite ways to have students collaborate and share online. In addition to creating and writing together, Docs is also a platform to have students use individual writing tools. The comment option allows for feedback, and you can even suggest edits for your students with editing tools. Try these simple tips to get started with Google Docs in your classroom!