Starting March 3, educational technology specialist Jennifer Bloomingdale launches three exciting courses on Google Apps.

Google Apps may be similar to traditional productivity tools. But look a little closer, says Jennifer Bloomingdale, you’ll find they are so much more.

A few years ago when I was first introduced to Google Apps, I was not convinced it was such a great thing, I loved using my traditional products and I didn’t want to change anything. That was…until I got a classroom set of netbooks and began teaching in a 1:1 environment. I discovered that Google Apps was so much more than productivity tools. There was a whole other level of collaboration that could happen when using Google Apps, not only could we develop group projects, but then we could then easily share our work and receive almost immediate feedback. Although I am not currently in a classroom, I continue to use Google Apps professionally and personally, I love that I can access a file whenever I need it even if I don’t have my computer, that any work I complete is automatically saved and that I can easily work with others. Here are some tips to consider as you use or consider using Google Apps.

1. Utilize the Collaboration Features

handsThe most powerful feature of Google Apps is the ability to collaborate with colleagues, both synchronously and asynchronously. You can create, edit, and chat even if your project members are in different locations.

There are three ways to do this:

  1. Work on a project in real time. You can have a number of people on one document at the same time making changes and you will see their changes as they are making them. Keep in mind, there are limitations to the number of people you can have editing at one time. This varies depending on what app you are using. 50 people can edit or view a spreadsheet, doc or drawing, while only 10 can edit or view a presentation.
  2. Any user signed into a gmail account can use the chat feature alongside the document. This allows you to work synchronously with other collaborators.
  3. If you are working asynchronously then you can also leave comments for your colleagues. Users can reply to specific comments or add their own as well.

2. Practice Netiquette

One thing to keep in mind when collaborating on a document or project with someone is that at times you will be editing someone else’s work. Be sure to establish guidelines with your group or partner to determine how changes will be made, when and if the group should be notified when changes are made, and how everyone will communicate.

3. Know the Share Settings

In order to collaborate with others, you will need to share your project. Google Apps provides you with several options for sharing your projects.

  1. Share with specific individuals by adding their email addresses. Individuals will need a Gmail account in order to edit the document.
  2. Create a live link, anyone with the link can access the document. Be sure to keep in mind that the link can be passed on, so you never know who will be viewing the document. If you send the link to someone, they do not need a Gmail account in order to edit the document.
  3. Make your project a public webpage, which can show up in search results. When you publish to the web, this also allows your document to bed embeded your project into a blog or site.

When you are determining how to share, be sure to think about the content and purpose of your document. If you have information in the project that you would not want passed around, consider sharing with specific people and ensure that they can not change the share settings.

4. Utilize folders to organize

As you begin to use your Google Apps account more and more, you are probably going to want to keep things organized. The folder feature has greatly improved over the past few years, you can create folders within folders, share whole folders, name and color code them as well. The ability to share folders also allows for more organization within projects and ensures that everyone can access all of the documents they need.

5. Save time with templates

iStock_000019916493SmallNeed to organize information or create a project using Google Apps? One way to save time is to search the Google Apps Template Gallery. There you will find templates created by other users or google, you can even create and add your own! If you have a certain form or layout that you want everyone in the group to utilize, you can upload that into the template gallery (keeping in mind that this will be public to everyone using the gallery) and then send your team the link.  They will then be able to create a copy of the document in their own Google Drive and edit it freely.

6. Know where to find your files

It can get a little overwhelming to find files as you begin to share projects and add your own files. One way to help you organize is to know the difference between the different areas of your Google Drive.

  • My Drive: Any file that you have created or uploaded.
  • Shared with me: Any file that has been explicitly shared with your email address. (These files do not show up in your drive, unless you move it your drive)
  • Recent: Anything you have opened recently.
  • Activity: Anything that has been recently edited, including your own files, files shared with you, or links that you have opened.
  • All items: Everything in your Google Drive.

If you are still having a hard time locating a file, Google Drive includes a search bar that allows you to apply many different filters.

7. Use the Revision History

google_apps_logoThe revision history allows you to see who made what changes and when. This is very helpful when you have several people editing and developing a project, as you can see who has contributed the different aspects of the project. Another useful feature of revision history is that if there has been a mistake made, you can always revert back to any of the versions listed.

8. Use the Research Tool

The research tools allows you to research a topic or find pictures without even leaving your document! It will also search your personal emails, files, and Google+ accounts for information as well. If needed, it will also automatically add a citation or link for you!

9. Be adaptive

As with any web tool, things are probably going to change. Google is constantly adding features, adjusting layouts and making changes, so keep that in mind as you use this tool.

As you work with Google Apps you will begin to see what works for you and what doesn’t, I find it all depends on my ultimate goal for a project.

Google Apps 101 eCourses launching now!

Jennifer’s Google Apps courses are scheduled back to back for a full 6 weeks of learning. You can also take one, two, or all three, but taking the full range of courses will give you the full learning experience!

  • Google Docs 101 starts March 3 – Enroll now
  • Google Presentations 101 starts March 17 – Enroll now
  • Google Sheets & Forms 101 starts March 31 – Enroll now

About Google Docs 101

Google Docs 101Leveraging Web 2.0 tools is a powerful learning strategy in the 21st Century. But how do you choose the right tool that will enhance classroom learning and not be an afterthought or add on? This course is part of the Web 2.0 Tools Series, which will address the relationship between content, pedagogy, and technology while covering the nuts and bolts of each tool and how to use each within the context of your classroom.

The first two-week course in the Google Apps 101 series will be Google Docs. As result of this course participants will:

  • Learn how-to create and collaborate with Google Docs for professional and classroom use
  • Evaluate how Google Docs can enhance curriculum
  • Discuss pros/cons of private and public viewing of information
  • Confer on value of Google Apps versus Microsoft Word, Corel Word, etc.
  • Create engaging lessons and activities with Google Docs

This course launches March 3 and space is limited! Don’t miss out!

Enroll now

About Google Presentations 101

Google Presentations 101This second two-week course in the Google Apps 101 series will be Google Presentations. As result of this course participants will:

  • Learn how-to create and collaborate with Google Presentations for professional and classroom use
  • Evaluate how Google Presentations can enhance curriculum
  • Discuss pros/cons of private and public viewing of information
  • Confer on value of Google Presentations versus Powerpoint, Hyperstudio and other multimedia software
  • Create engaging lessons and activities with Google Presentations

This course launches March 17 and space is limited! Don’t miss out!

Enroll now

About Google Sheets & Forms 101

This third two-week course in the Google Apps 101 series will be Google Sheets and Forms. As result of this course participants will:

  • Learn how-to create and collaborate with Google Sheets and Forms for professional and classroom use
  • Evaluate how Google Sheets and Forms can enhance curriculum
  • Discuss pros/cons of private and public viewing of information
  • Create engaging lessons and activities with Google Sheets and Forms

This course launches March 31 and space is limited! Don’t miss out!

Enroll now

About the Instructor

Jennifer BloomingdaleJennifer Bloomingdale graduated from the College of St. Rose in 2006 with a Bachelors in Childhood Education. In 2011 she completed her Masters in Educational Technology and became a New York State certified Educational Technology Specialist.  Jennifer has four years of elementary teaching experience, which includes implementing a 1:1 netbook initiative. It was through her teaching experience and masters program that Jennifer developed a passion for integrating technology and assisting others in doing so. Here you will find Jennifer’s Digital Portfolio.

This article originally appeared in Inside Learning Technologies & Skills

About the author
Powerful Learning Practice is a professional learning company for the 21st Century. Our model is collaborative and community-based. We've helped over 4,000 teachers and administrators worldwide to re-envision their classrooms, schools, and their roles in education. Become a part of the movement today. Sign up for an info session to find out more, and while you're at it, follow us on Twitter.