I hope everyone has enjoyed their few days off since school let out and that you are starting to feel somewhat rested! Now that we are not *quite* as rushed, I want us to spend some time getting to know Google Docs. I know that some of you already use Google Docs regularly; if you do, please feel free to chime in with your experiences and tips/tricks to help the rest of us! Remember, we’re all here to learn together!
**Please read this next part carefully…as part of MCS, you already have a Google account; it sits behind, and can be accessed through, the portal. By default, your Google email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to use this Google account to use Google Docs, that is perfectly ok; however, please understand that the only way to access Google/Google Docs with this account is through the portal. You may choose to create a different Google account outside of the portal or to use one that you already have. The choice is yours! If you have any questions about this, or need further clarification, please don’t hesitate to ask!
Before we jump in with both feet, let’s take a look at what Google Docs is. Basically, Google Docs is a free, online system that allows people to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online and share them with others for collaboration. In addition to creating new documents, you can also upload your existing documents for sharing and collaboration. This online system allows you to share your work with others, collaborate on assignments, and save documents online for access anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the internet!
Why should we consider using Google Docs? We can use it to:
- Work on files anytime, anywhere (as long as we have an internet connection)
- Get feedback from multiple people – simultaneously and asynchronously
- View the full writing process – including revisions
- Share data sets
- Upload/download documents in various file formats
Take a couple of minutes to watch Google Docs in Plain English before we move on.
That’s a very brief overview of Google Docs. Now, let’s get hands’ on! As I mentioned earlier, you have to have a Google account to use Google Docs. If you already have a Gmail account, you can use that same login to access Google Docs, as well as all of Google’s features. You can also use your school Google account by logging into the portal. If you don’t want to use the MCS Google account, but don’t yet have an “outside” account set up, you will need to do that now. So, let’s get logged on!
- Go to docs.google.com
- Log in or click the Sign up button to create a new account
- If you are creating a new account, you will be taken to a page that looks like this
- If you sign up for a new account, make sure you check your email account (the email address you used to sign up for the Google account) for the confirmation email. It will contain a link that you will have to click on to confirm your account.
Once you are signed up and logged in, you should be in your main page. If you are not sure, look at the URL (or web address bar) in your internet browser. It should say docs.google.com. If you look at the screenshot of my homepage, you see that the URL also includes authentication information. If you are still not absolutely sure, it is ok to erase what is in the address bar and manually type in docs.google.com and press Enter. That will take you where you need to be.
Now that we’re all on the main Google Docs page, let’s start by creating a basic document. Keep in mind that, while we are working with a basic document (the equivalent of Microsoft Word), the functionality that Google Docs provides extends to all of the document types (spreadsheets, presentations, etc.). To create a new document, click on the red Create button and, when the box of options pops up, select Document. This is what you will get.
The first thing you might notice is that your document is Untitled. To give it a name, go to File and select Rename.
Now, here’s a feature about Google Docs that might take some getting used to – at least it did for me (and still does!). It does not have a save feature! It saves all of your changes automatically! Test it out…start typing some random characters on your document and watch how the “All changes saved” at the top, middle of the page changes to “Saving.” Just to be on the safe side, though, I am going to recommend that you don’t make any changes to a document and then immediately close Google Docs. Give it a minute to save everything. Just to be sure.
From here, you are going to work with your document just as you would a regular Word document (except for the saving part, of course!).
Let’s say that you have a document that you have already created that you want to share with others. You can do that through Google Docs, too. From your home page, click on the red Upload icon (next to the Create button) and select Files. From there, navigate to the location where your document is stored to upload it to Google Docs. Once it is in Google Docs, you can modify it and share it as you like.
The ability to share documents in Google Docs is what makes the platform so great to work with. Multiple users can collaborate on a document at the same time and Google Docs will record their changes. You can also look at the revision history in order to know who made which changes! To share a document, start at your Google Docs home page. To the left of the document you want to share is an empty box; click to put a check mark in the box. Then, click on the icon that is the picture of a head with a plus next to it.
A Share Settings box will pop up that allows you to set who has access to your document. If you want to leave the settings as Private, simply type in the email addresses of the people you want to share the document with and then click Done. If you want to share your document with a fairly broad audience, click on the Change….icon next to the Private settings. A box with additional options will pop up. Here you can choose to make the document available to anyone and everyone who finds it, or to anyone who has the link to the document. If you choose to go with “Anyone with the link” option, it will be up to you to provide the link to those you are sharing the document with. Once you have made your choice, click on the Save button.
I’ve created a Google Doc for us to practice with. Click on the link below to access it. Once you pull it up, enter your first name only and then a Yes or No for whether you have used Google Docs before. Here is the link:
Google Docs is a great way for students to collaborate on projects; it is also a great way for teachers to collaborate and share information without always emailing documents back and forth!
Whew! That’s a lot of information about Google Docs! It only scratches the surface of what Google has to offer for us, but that’s all we’ll cover during this series. What do you think? Questions or comments? Have you used Google Docs before – if so, share your experiences!