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Using Google Docs for Teaching

by Brad Smith

I used to use MS Office for so many things but I have found lately that using Google Docs is so much easier for me. For one thing, you can access Google Docs easily from any computer as long as you have Internet access. No more saving your precious classroom slides or spreadsheets files on a USB and forgetting to take it to class. I am an incredibly forgetful person so this alone has saved me many harried trips back to my office to get the files I need for my class.

I also like Google Docs because of the ability to download custom files to help me with my job. If you go into Google Sheets, for example, and look at the menu options along the top, you’ll see a pull-down item called Add-Ons. Click on it and select “Get Add-ons”. You can find a whole bunch of applications built for teachers to make your life a bit easier.

One of my favorites is Flubaroo, which is a free app that allows you to build online quizzes that you can give to students. The scores are automatically mailed back to you and you can access individual student score history. You can also give immediate feedback to students and see which questions were problematic for the class as a whole. This has helped me design better quizzes and tests over the years.

Attendance Sorter is also a nice little app that allows you to track students quickly and easily. You can simply click on a list of students in a sidebar that registers their attendance and the app will basically sort out the list into something nice and easily readable. This is especially useful for tracking attendance in larger classes and it helps me to notice patterns in order to catch any attendance problems before they turn into a bigger issue.

Finally, I like to use Online Rubric, which allows you to create rubrics and share scores with individual students to allow for quick feedback. Since many of students seem to have problems with keeping track of their many sheets and forms, this helps to reduce their clutter a bit and gets us a bit closer to the “paperless classroom”. They can also easily compare their scores on previous assessments in order to track their own progress, which saves having to dig through their own paper files from previous months or semesters.

Not everyone likes Google Docs. Admittedly, it is a bit different from the dedicated programs like Microsoft Office. I think many people started off using Office software and are just so comfortable with it by now that they don’t like the switch. I too felt the same way at first but now I would say that the Google Docs is much better for me in terms of customizability and ability to share information. If you’re happy with using Office and your tech needs for class are minimal then it may not be worth the switch. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something new and you aren’t quite getting it done with Office, then I encourage you to give Google Docs a fair shake.