Back to School With Google Docs

Last year all of the students in our school district received Google Docs accounts and I was kept quite busy all year getting students up and running and then finding innovative ways to use the tools for learning. Upon reflection,if I got the opportunity to do it all over again there are three things I would make sure to do at the start of the year to kick off Google Docs. 

1. Encourage Teachers to Create an In Box with a Google Form

One of the challenges of using Google Docs with a class full of students is in managing all those Google Docs. While it's fairly easy for students to learn to share their work with you, the clutter that ends up in your email box can be overwhelming. Last year I was thrilled to discover an awesome idea from John Miller that utilizes a Google Form as an Assignment Tracker. The idea is innovative, efficient and simple. Here's how John's invention works:
    • Teachers create and publish a Google Form, or In Box, in a convenient place for students to access. 
    • When it's time to turn in a Google Doc, students complete the simple form and submit a link to their Google Doc.
    • The information submitted by students automatically populates a spreadsheet to be used by teachers to keep track of assignments and also to quickly access those assignments for grading and review.
Here are a couple of tutorials to help you create and use an Assignment Tracker as an In Box to keep your mailbox clutter free.


Teacher Tutorial
Student Tutorial

2. Teach teachers and students how to use the revision history 

The Google Docs revision history tracks all changes that have been made to a document by each collaborator, which makes this a useful feature for student accountability. The date and time stamp are extremely useful for tracking student progress and randomly assigned user colors make it simple to monitor the contributions of each collaborator. To revert to a previous version of a Doc, just click Restore this version. Teach students about the digital documentation in Google Docs.

3. Encourage teachers to create and use templates

If you're looking for an easy and efficient way to provide students with a starting point for a digital project, Google Docs Templates can help. You can save time and guide the learning by providing students with a consistent page format by using and creating your own templates. A Google Docs template is like a virtual copy machine. You create it like any other Google Doc than make it available in the templates section. Users can click to pick up their own copy of the template which is added to their list of Google Docs while the original document stays in tact. There are plenty of user-submitted templates already created and available for public use and there is even a category for Students and Teachers. Here are some tips and tricks to get you started.

How to Use an Existing Templates
  1. Sign in to your Google account
  2. When viewing your list of GoogleDocs, choose Create New > from Template .
  3. Use the search box at the top of the page to find templates and use the links on the left side of the page to narrow your search by category or specific type of Google Doc.
  4. When you find a template you like, click Use This TemplateA unique copy of the template will move to your list of Google Docs, while the original template will remain in tact.
  5. Modify the template as needed and use it.
How to Create a Template
  1. Sign in to your Google account
  2. Create a new document, presentation, form, spreadsheet or drawing.
  3. Add your content and save.
  4. Go to your list of Google Docs.
  5. Choose Create New > From Template .
  6. On the new screen that appears, choose Submit a Template.
  7. Click on the link to Choose from your GoogleDocs
  8. Complete the form with information about your template and submit.
  9. The template will become available in the gallery in a few minutes.
Here are some ready to use templates available for teachers and students:
Looking for more ideas? View my Bulletin Board, Great Ways to Use Google Docs.

Join me for a free webinar on 8/21/12


Thank you for this. Templates seem like a great idea. I hope to be able to try all three of these ideas this year.


I love these easy to implement ideas. I've forwarded this to my junior high team.

Thanks again for adding information to my wiki page. I would love to invite you virtually to my school to present live next time!



Thank you for sharing these great ideas! I've sent this to my junior high team.

I also want to thank you for adding the ThingLink presentation and info to my wiki. I hope you can present live to my colleagues soon!


Thank you Mrs. Allen. I enjoyed doing the ThingLink presentation virtually for your PD and am truly amazed at the learning event you put together! Would love to present to live to your colleagues. Thanks for the opportunity and keep up the fantastic work!


Here is an additional twist on the dropbox idea. This template have some Apps Scripting that give the ability to send email feedback comments to students right from the spreadsheet.


Susan, thank you for the suggestions on different ways to use Google docs. We are rolling out Google Docs in the middle school where I work as a technology coordinator. I especially like the idea of using a Google form to collect homework. Much better than drowning in a sea of email.


James, thank you for the kind words. I am glad you have found some useful suggestions. There are more ideas on my Google Docs page, found at the top of this blog.Best of luck to you as you roll out Google Docs!