As teachers continue to shift their practice to include the use of digital technologies, they increasingly need a reliable place to store and organize their growing number of documents. Google Drive is one of the most versatile tools in the G-Suite group of programs and, with a few tweaks, can be the answer to teachers’ file storage issues. The following is the top eight reasons why I think teachers should switch to using Google Drive as their primary file storage utility.
Number 1: The Cloud
Google Drive is ‘cloud-based’, which means that everything stored in it is accessible anywhere the user has internet access. This provides teachers with the ability to access their documents, as well as documents submitted to them by students, from virtually anywhere. Whether it be through their ILP Laptop, a personal computer, or by using the Google Drive app on their mobile device, the days of teachers lugging home a box full of duotangs to mark can be history. The mobile app is particularly useful for teachers as they can use it to easily gather observational and anecdotal data, including photos, that are instantly accessible on a computer. The cloud-based nature of Google Drive also eliminates one of the biggest issues that both students and teachers have traditionally had to deal with; saving! Since all of the G-Suite programs (Docs, Slides, Sheets, etc.) automatically save to Google Drive, the need to remember to manually save a document has been eliminated!
Number 2: Convenience
The sheer convenience of Google Drive is easily one of the best reasons for teachers to embrace it. As stated above, the cloud-based nature of Google Drive means that files are accessible wherever and whenever teachers need them. The mobile app allows teachers to view, edit, distribute and collect digital documents directly from their phones. Also, by enabling “Offline” mode in Google Drive’s settings, teachers can have access to many of their documents even when they do not have internet access.
Google has even mimicked the gestures and processes that Windows users are accustomed to like holding the CTRL key while clicking on files to select multiple documents and clicking and dragging files into new folders. There is even a list of keyboard shortcuts for people who prefer the keyboard to using a mouse or trackpad. Finally, the convenience of Google Drive is amplified by the fact that the storage space is unlimited! That means that teachers will never have to deal with ‘insufficient disk space’ errors when trying to save files again.
Number 3: Google Classroom Integration
As teachers increasingly use Google Classroom as the primary digital assignment and assessment tool with their students, the benefits of using Google Drive increases as well. Since Google Classroom and Google Drive are linked, the two programs, when used together, can greatly reduce a teacher’s workload. Google Classroom uses Drive as a way of storing and organizing all of the assignments and documents posted by teachers and/or students – all without the teacher having to do any of the work themselves. Within Google Drive, Google Classroom creates a folder called “Classroom” where a subfolder is created for each class the teacher creates. Then, within each of those class folders, a sub-folder is created for each assignment that has been posted. Classroom then stores all documents attached to those assignments by either teachers or students in the assignment’s folder. This provides teachers with an organized location for all work students submit within Google Classroom. Additionally, Google Classroom can connect directly to a teacher’s Google Drive account when attaching documents to Posts within the classroom’s stream. This allows teachers to easily attach any file stored in their Google Drive to any post created in Google Classroom by simply clicking the Google Drive button in the assignment or announcement.
Number 4: The “New” button
Google has given teachers the ability to perform many different functions from one very handy button within Google Drive. The button is located in the upper-left corner of the Google Drive window and it’s loaded with powerful functions that can save users time and help keep their files organized. To start with, it can be used to transfer individual files or entire folders from a local hard drive or a USB thumb drive into Google Drive. It is also where users can go to create a new folder within their Google Drive in order to help keep their files organized. Finally, it can be used to create a new file from any of the G-Suite programs, as well as any third-party applications that have been connected to Google Drive. As an added bonus, users can create new documents in a particular folder within Google Drive by opening the folder first, then using the button to create a new document. The document will automatically be created in the current folder so the user does not have to move the file afterwards in order to keep their Drive organized.
Number 5: Sharing
The ability for teachers to easily collaborate with other teachers as well as facilitate collaboration among students is really what sets Google’s G-Suite apart from its competitors. The source of that collaboration is Google Drive’s “Sharing” feature. Google Drive gives users an unprecedented amount of options for not only who to share digital content with, but also, how much control the recipient has over content that is shared.
From within Google Drive, users can share a single file, a group of files or entire folders by simply selecting the files and/or folders to be shared and then clicking the “Share” button . Once the sharing window opens, the names or email addresses of individual people you want to share the files with can be typed into the box. Then, by clicking the pencil beside the box, you can choose from 3 levels of access that the recipient will have when they open the shared file.
- If you select “Can edit”, the recipient will be able to alter the document just as if it were their own. They can add, alter and delete content from the file which anyone else who also has shared access to the file can see in real time on their own computer. This option is great for working collaboratively with others as many people can simultaneously work on the same document from different locations.
- If you select “Can comment”, the recipient will only be able to make comments and/or suggestions for how a document could be altered. No actual changes to the document can be made without the original author agreeing to them. This option is very useful for peer editing activities, where a peer with “Can comment” access can make suggestions for how another student’s work could be improved, but the final decision as to whether or not to make the suggested changes lies with the author who can either accept or reject each comment or suggestion made by the editor.
- Finally, if you select “Can view”, the recipient will only be able to view the shared file. They will not be able to comment on it or change it in any way. This can be very useful for teachers when they want to share information with students in such a way so that the information cannot be altered, intentionally or accidentally.
If you want to share files or folders with multiple people it might be easier to create a sharing link by clicking the “Get a shareable link” button instead of the “Share” button. This option will create a link which can be copied and then sent to recipients by email, or by posting the link in a location where recipients can access it. This feature still allows you to decide between edit, comment, and view only levels of access, but it also adds the option make the files or folders completely public, or restricted to only certain groups of people.
If you would like to share a file with someone and force them to create their own copy while leaving the original intact, you can accomplish this by replacing the word “edit” in the generated link with the word “copy” instead.
For more ways to “Hack” the sharing link, click here.
If a file has been shared with you at any point, it can always be found in a subfolder of Google Drive called “Shared with me”.
Files located in the “Shared with me” folder can be added to your own Google Drive by selecting the file and clicking the “Add to my drive” button. The file will then be copied to your Google Drive and can then be moved to the folder of your choice.
The multiple ways to share digital content within Google Drive allow teachers to work collaboratively with colleagues and facilitate a collaborative learning environment for their students.
Number 6: Search
With an unlimited storage size, the ability to locate a particular file can sometimes be a challenge. However, Google Drive’s search feature can make that task much easier. Along with the basic functions of typing the name of the file you’re looking for and being able to narrow your search by file type, there are also many advanced search features available by clicking the small triangle on the far right-hand side of the search box.
Through these options, you can filter search results by type, owner and location, and narrow your search parameters by specifying a date range when the file was last modified. You can also search using partial information like terms that match some part of the file name or even words you know are found in the document itself. Google Drive’s search feature allows users to quickly locate the file or folder they are looking for without having to resort to blindly scanning folders one at a time.
Number 7: Lookin’ Good!
Teachers love colours! They also love to make things look appealing and keep things organized. Google gives teachers the ability to brighten up their Drive with folder colours and by utilizing symbols in folder names for more visual appeal. Although any new folder created in Google Drive defaults to the standard, gray icon, there is no reason to keep them that way. Users can simply right-click on any folder, choose “Change colour”, then select any of the many colour options available. For anyone who prefers using images to represent a folder’s contents, you’re in luck! Symbols can be used in place of, or in combination with text when setting a folder’s name. To accomplish this, simply copy the symbol you’d like to use then right-click on the folder and select “Rename” then paste the symbol into the text box. A great place to find a multitude of symbols you can copy is at www.copypastecharacter.com.
Number 8: Switching is Easy!
Possibly the most compelling reason for teachers to switch to using Google Drive is the fact that the process is incredibly simple. First of all, you already have it! Everyone with a G-Suite for Education account has Google Drive automatically. It can be easily accessed by clicking on the Google App Launcher (AKA: The Waffle) in the top-right corner of any new tab in Google Chrome. Files can be easily transferred by either using the “New” button or by simply dragging and dropping files or folders from your computer into the Google Drive window in Chrome.
Even converting files to Google Editor Format from other formats like Word or PowerPoint can be done automatically, by enabling the “Convert uploads” feature in Google Drive’s settings.
Finally, if you would like access to your Google Drive files without having to go through the Chrome web app, you can install Drive File Stream for Windows which will create a virtual “G:” drive in your Windows File Explorer.
From this drive, you can open, copy, delete, etc., any of the files stored in your Google Drive as you would any other file on your computer. To install File Stream, you simply need to click on the cog in Google Drive and select “Download Drive File Stream for Windows”. This will take you to a website where the instructions for installation are located.
The whole process of transferring your files over to Google Drive and converting them to Google format is made so simple that there’s almost no down-side to making the switch right away.