A few years ago, Google swallowed some smaller company and Google Docs was born. Before long, I found myself using it to share lists, mailing address lists, and pretty much anything else I could imagine. Professionally, in 2008, I found myself using the presentation software to draw images on slides in real-time with a colleague two states away. We had no idea that would work at the time.
Four years later, my college adopted the Google Suite for educational institutions and I jumped in with both feet! In one calendar year, my academic record-keeping has become centered around Google Drive. This has become so dramatic that I’ve stopped keeping files locally (for the most part).
Ways that I am Using Google Drive
In a recent discussion with skeptical colleagues, I started thinking about all of the ways that I use Google Drive on a regular basis. I wanted to write a post of ways that I’m using Google Drive. Perhaps this will help others.
- Forms and Surveys. For various purposes and collections of information, I’ve been using the “Form” option. I’ve used such to collect faculty, staff, and student votes for an award and to create an online registration form for a conference that we offered on our campus. Google then compiles results from the forms/surveys for me in a separate document.
- Advising. Every faculty member has advisees. I almost instantly create a spreadsheet for each student and plan out his/her academic career for the Mathematics B.S. degree. We put courses in and then take hour totals. Finally, since everyone uses the Google suite on LaGrange College’s campus, I share the document with that student so that they can leave comments. Not only does the student have access to the document but there is no need for them to print it. They can access it anywhere.
- Gradebooks. Of course I can (and do) use the spreadsheet facility for keeping an online (continually backed-up) spreadsheet for each of my courses. I use the same spreadsheet to keep attendance and continue to wonder how I did it with a local spreadsheet.
- Syllabi. This also seems like a no-brainer–but isn’t, really. I’ll make the syllabus for a course shared (again using the Google tools for such) and only post the link in the CMS. Since I will make corrections and changes to the document (before the course starts) I will not have to continually upload new versions of the syllabus. To continue to impress, by using the “bookmarks” of a Google document, you create hyperlinks in a table of contents at the beginning. For online courses, the use of hyperlinks at the beginning of documents will become a new courtesy and we should embrace it.
- CV. My Google Drive curriculum vita is a work in progress. Actually, I got the idea from ProfHacker. But, again, as long as I keep the Drive version updated, then my CV is updated
- Presentations. This really is the no-brainer. As we give lectures, many of us create companion slideshows. Using that AMAZING sharing facility built into Google Drive, I can make it available to anyone with a “@lagrange.edu” email address and who has the link. Since I am a mathematician, I certainly need equations. I’m a LaTeX user by love and necessity and so I’ve fallen into using the Sciweaver iTex2img tool. Anyone out there in math should check it out.
- Additional Tools. I’ve used some of the plugins including the Gantter Project. Basically you can do project planning in Google Drive. There are tons of additional tools–including even video editing.
As you can see, I use Google drive in a variety of ways and none of them are to play games.
Google Drive is not perfect and I recognize that. For instance, I can center the objects in a table but center the table itself is absolutely challenging. Further, for tablet users, attempts at using Google Drive on the iPad or a Nexus 7 (from experience) will be painful. Just get ready for that to be the case. Fortunately, many newer tablet office apps will read/write to and from Google Drive.
So, in conclusion, what a tool. Use it for what it is, recognizing both its strengths and weaknesses.