I’ve used Google docs ever since it used to be called “Writely.” I liked it then, and I love it now. Google docs is a way you can write a document or import one online, have access to it from any computer, and most importantly, share it with whomever you want. People can collaborate on the same document at the same time. (more or less)
Besides being able to collaborate and share files, Google docs offers another storage for your work. Even if you write your paper in Microsoft Word or OpenOffice, you can import it into Google docs, so that you have it available in an online repository, safe and accessible. Never rely on only one storage medium for your work. You should always have it backed up in at least 2 other places. Always.
There are many, many ways to use Google docs. And Google docs is not only limited to word processing, but also includes shared spreadsheet and presentation (PowerPoint) features.
You can create folders on your Google docs account and organize all of your files that way if you want. You can search for files, find them according to how recently you’ve worked on them, and of course collaborate with other people, creating and editing the files together. Here are some ways teachers can use Google docs for writing projects:
- Student writing/editing with teacher feedback. Students can write, edit, and add their instructor to their document in Google docs. Instead of emailing the document back and forth, all editing can take place in the same space and changes are recorded, much like wiki page history. You can compare versions and revert back to a previous version if wanted. Like Word documents, you can add comments and do quite a bit of formatting. It’s not a full-fledge word processing program, but for most writing, it will work great. Plus, students can always FIND their work, something that often can be a problem.
- Collaborating live on the same document. Many times you need to work on a document with someone else while you are in the same room. I know this might sound strange, but you can both open the document in Google docs and talk your changes through while you edit. As one person edits the document, the other person can see those changes. It’s a very efficient way to work on a paper together and get the final revisions done!
- Peer review of writing. Students can invite other students as peer-reviewers, to get feedback and suggestions for change.
- Publish final writing online. Google docs includes a publishing feature, which will provide a URL. You can also indicate that you want the published document to be updated, if it is edited within Google docs, a very handy feature. As an instructor, you could ask your students to put these URLs on a class wiki or other collaborative website, as an easy way to showcase and publish student writing.
These are just a few ways you can use the word processing feature of Google docs for writing projects. Remember, you can also share spreadsheets and presentation software. I have used the PowerPoint feature in Google docs as a way to store my presentations, always knowing that I’ll be able to access them, should my computer crash or any number of other incidents occur. My kids think I’m overly cautious, but I tell them I’m just smart. Yeah.