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Two GoogleDocs Education Usage Scenarios

by Stephen Hebert on Sunday - 31 October 2010

in Education, Technology

Occasionally, I like to post on a tool that has been useful for me, either in teaching or research. Today, I’d like to talk about a tool that’s useful for both: GoogleDocs.

By now, most folks are aware of the existence of GoogleDocs. It should come as no surprise that I, being a rabid Google fan, would be a user. Let me take you through two ways that I use GoogleDocs. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.

1. Reading, Annotating, Storing, and Sharing Research

Recently, I decided that my students at Houston Christian should read Bertrand Russell’s classic essay “Why I am Not a Christian.”1 Fortunately, this essay is now public domain, and I could very easily find it out there on the Internet. Having done this, two conflicting issues arise within my soul:

  1. When I read, I like to annotate — underline, write notes and questions in the margins, etc.
  2. BUT, I like to be as green as possible, so I’d prefer not to print this article.

Enter GoogleDocs.

By copying and pasting the article into GoogleDocs, I’m able to read and annotate on my laptop, store the article and its annotations in the cloud for access from anywhere, and share that document with whomever I please.

I use two primary tools while reading and annotating:

  1. The Insert > Comment feature (option + command + m on a Mac). If you select a piece of text and insert a comment, the text will be highlighted and a little comment field will appear on the outside of the page. Here you can type anything you want. The image below shows these comments.
  2. Underlining. This is very simple, but I underline stuff that I find important or interesting, just as I would on a paper copy.

When a comment is selected, the highlighting turns orange, and the comment field floats so that it is next to the comment. When it is unselected, the highlighting turns yellow.

If you need to share this document with co-workers, all you need to do is use GoogleDocs built-in Share features, and you can easily share it with someone else who can collaborate with you on it.

Should you need to print your comments, you can download the document in Word format, and it will put your comments in as Word comments. Handy!

2. Striving for a Greener Classroom

Houston Christian is a one-to-one laptop school. Moreover, we use GoogleApps to handle student and staff email. Therefore, every student and every faculty member already has a login for our Houston Christian Google domain. This means that every student already has a login for GoogleDocs.

Because I know each student has access to it, I use GoogleDocs to create a more paper-free classroom by providing almost every handout via GoogleDocs. Each course that I teach has its own folder and that folder is shared with all of my students so that they can see its contents (at some point, I may make this folder totally public). Within the folder students will find:

  • Class documents such as syllabi and rubrics.
  • A reading calendar — complete with links to reading guides for various items that we read.
  • Any handouts that I have created.
  • Scanned copies of articles and other readings.
  • Anything else that I would normally distribute via paper.

Again, this is all very easy because of GoogleDocs built-in sharing features.

If you want to take it a step further, you can even use GoogleDocs for paper submission. I used to do this, however, I have switched over to for a variety of reasons.2

If you have any questions, just comment below.


  1. The essay is interesting as a historical document insofar as it documents anti-religious thinking from the beginning of the 20th century. However, I think that many of Russell’s arguments are still prevalent on college campuses.
  2. NB: This still achieves my goal of a paperless classroom as Turnitin now features Grademark and Peermark which allow me to grade and create student reviews of papers.

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