How to Use Google Apps to Share and Collaborate with Classroom iPads

By Sam Gliksman

Google Drive lets you store and access your files anywhere on any device, including classroom iPads. As a personal cloud storage service, it’s certainly comparable in features to Dropbox. Where Drive really excels is in its powerful options for sharing and collaborating on your work anytime and with anyone.

Google Drive and Docs are part of the GAFE suite, which contains a wide range of extremely valuable tools for any school or organization. Educational institutions can sign up for a free customized GAFE domain. You have the choice of creating Google Apps accounts for all staff and students or any subset of either.

The GAFE suite contains several of the well-known apps you associate with Google. Apps include Gmail, Google Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Sites, and more. You can activate all of them or select only the ones that fit the current needs of your school. Most of the apps work across devices and provide powerful features for sharing and collaboration.

Google Drive is the hosting account for your content. If your school has signed up for a free GAFE domain, accounts can be set up and administered for all staff and/or students in your organization. Each student with a school Google/GAFE account will most likely have access to Google Drive, where they can store, share, and collaborate on their content.

Content can be created in companion apps such as Google Docs and Google Sheets. Describing everything you can do with GAFE would likely take an entire book, but here’s a quick rundown of some of the main features and options:

  • Using Drive: Access Google Drive on the web or by downloading the Drive app on your iPad.

  • Moving content into Drive: Remember that you can use the Share/Open In function in most apps to move your content from that app into Drive. Tap the Share icon and select Drive as the destination app.

  • Creating content: The Drive app on your iPad is used for access and sharing of your content. Create documents in the Google Docs app and save it back to a folder in Drive.

  • Sharing permissions: Content saved in Drive can be shared. You can give others rights to view or edit any content in your Drive account.

  • Distributing content: Create a folder in Drive and give your students permissions to view it. From that point forward, anything you place in that folder will automatically be available to all students. Because you only gave them viewing rights, they will be able to open and create a copy of the document, but they won’t be able to edit the original.

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  • Sharing folders with students: Create a folder for each student and give them editing permissions. You’ll be able to open, review, and edit any document the student saves in that folder.

  • Unplugging the printer: Create shared folders where students can drop off their work. You’ll never need an ink cartridge again.

  • Commenting and feedback: A critical part of every teacher’s role is to offer constructive feedback to students. Too often, however, that feedback comes at the end of the process, when students have completed work and submitted it. Wouldn’t it be great if you could “pop in” and give some advice as the students are working on their projects?

    When you’re sharing a folder with a student, you have access to the files in it at any time. Open a document in Docs and use the Comment function to highlight parts of the document and give them meaningful feedback while they’re still working on it. Your comments may help improve the quality of the final work they submit.

  • Providing peer feedback: Use the sharing features to allow students to edit and offer feedback on the work of other students.

  • Enabling group collaboration: Students working in groups can share and collaborate on the same content. Two or more students can be working on the same document — even at the very same time. You can use the Revisions feature to track contributions made by each student. Create a shared folder and they can share and collaborate on documents and resources.

  • Department sharing: Create a shared folder among teachers for lesson plans and resources used across your department or grade.

  • Going global: Sharing doesn’t have to stop at your classroom walls. Consider projects with classes and people in other parts of the world, and create shared folders to work collaboratively on content.

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