Google Docs

Google Docs is the “word processor” arm of Google Apps For Education. Google docs are edited in the browser or in the Docs app on mobile devices. The feature of Google Docs that have made them stand out for so long has been the fact that they are collaborative, meaning that multiple people can edit the document at the same time and there is no to-ing and fro-ing of a document where you don’t know if you have the latest version. The sharing capabilities along with access across all devices really blows it out of the water.

The first time anyone uses a collaborative document they find it to be a pretty cool experience and they can quickly see the worth. When they realise they can continue to access them elsewhere and that they can share them so easily is when the penny drops.

Ideas for Learning:

  • Collaborative Notes (Docs, Slides): Seems obvious but students quickly realise the power of collaborative shared documents and better efficiencies and power that they can achieve. We have already seen them vote with their feet to in this direction.
  • Class notes: a student (or students) assigned as the “scribe” can type up notes and collect information like images and links as the presentation runs. Others can keep an eye on it and help with fixing typos or adding in missed content.
  • Group work content: this works in really well with shared drive folders where documents dropped into the folders have permissions already set. See the Drive page
  • Comment on Content: Use the comments feature to add dialogue and further content to specific sections.
  • Running tasks: having one document that you jot your thoughts and tasks on can work really nicely as you have access to
  • Embedded collaboratively built content: Docs can be embedded into all sorts of content including websites, Learning Management Systems, Blogs etc. This allows the ability to externally change content collaboratively if need be with better permissions.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Headings as Table of Content Links: Using headings and Page breaks can be a great way to organise content and manage larger documents and effectively enable many users on the one document. If headings have been used then a “Table of contents” can be added to give linked access to all your headings. To do this go to “insert” then “Table of contents” this can be refreshed as new heading are added.
  • Style your Headings and Spacings: get rid of spaces before and after headings if you want by going to “format” then “line spacing” to make all your headings match, right click on the heading and choose “update heading # to match”
  • Bookmarks: Alternatively use Bookmarks to create your own index of links to your content. PS Bookmarks look cool.
  • Footers to link back to the start: this is a great way to have a link back to the table of contents. Just add  a link to first Heading. It is good to make this a subtle colour so that it does not muck up your document.
  • Limitations compared to Word: there are a few features that are not available in Google Docs format like columns are not supported.

Sharing and Permissions:

Google Docs, Sheets or Slides can be shared as “read”, “comment” or “edit” with individuals, groups, or publicly as well as a file that can be searched for via a unique link. (more info at Google support)
Note: A publicly accessible link will mean that users that are not explicitly invited will show up as anonymous.
Note: if you have Google for your organisation then you get options to share only with folks in your organisation. In this case users need to login and their name shows up as they edit.


Google Sharing Settings: Click image to enlarge.

Version History:

A version history of all changes is kept and users can see who has made each change AND you can revert back to an older version. This is accessed in “File” then “See revision history”
NOTE: this still leaves the errant changes in the history (another reason to remind all web users of digital footprints!)

Converting to Google Docs:

You can convert documents to the corresponding Google Collaborative format when uploading.
To convert when uploading: go to the setting cog at the top right, choose settings then tick the “Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format” If you then want to upload a document in its native format then untick this before doing the upload. Alternatively converting to Google Docs format can be done within the mobile apps now as well.

Google Docs and iPads:

Edits used to be done in the drive app but they are now done in the docs app. It is quite frustrating that the docs app still does not allow edits of Tables or inserting images. The work around for now is that you can log into your drive in the browser like Safari or Chrome App  and choose “desktop version”
NOTE: you can choose to make files editable offline by clicking the information “i” button and sliding the “Keep on Device” slider to ON. When you come back online your document will be synchronised and updated.
NOTE: since the update in August 2014 word documents can now be edited in the Docs app and Docs can be saved as word.

Publish to Web:

This gives an option to have a viewable file with no interaction sent as a link OR embedded into a page or Learning Management System or blog or website or .. …. .

Publish to Web options: click to see in more detail

Publish to Web options: click to see in more detail

Embed documents into pages!

Embedding a Google Docs, Sheet or Slide document into a page can be a great way to externally update a page have collaboratively.  Good use cases of this could be for embedding collaborative class notes or a slides document into a page in a learning management system (like Edmodo, Canvas, Schoology, Schoolbox etc etc)
HINT: The code does not have  any parameters for width or height. You can add these into the code like in the eg
eg add the bold bit into your copied code (with your choices)
<iframe src=” …. /pub?embedded=true” width=”500″ height=”300″></iframe>
ALSO it seemed to work best when the margins on the Google Doc were set to zero to do this in the doc go to “File” > “Page Setup”

– – – – – -Embedded Document below: – – – – –

Other Thoughts:

Chat: There is a feature where you can chat with others working on the file to talk about content and changes that are being made.  This can be very useful but can be annoying when you have a view only file for a big group. It does not appear to be able to be turned off but an alternative for this could be the “publish to web” option talked about in this page.

“suggestions mode”: a new feature that gives the ability to recommend changes to a document without actually changing it. The changes can then be applied in edit mode if agreed upon. We are yet to test this out but will add to this after doing so.

Research feature: A very neat tool for referencing material. At the moment it does not do it in the same way that the library is recommending so we need to research research a bit more!

Addons: These are superb but we are just checking these to recommend a safe set of tools. (care needs to be taken in allowing third party products access to your documents!)

Comments and Feedback:

We would love to hear your ideas and experiences or maybe something from this page that has helped.

Also Check out:

Further overviews and ideas for use:
– Google Drive

– Google Sheets
– Google Slides
– Google Forms
– Google Shortener

– Google “Blogger”
– Google Sites
Return to #GoogleGold MENU page

Page History:
16 Jun 2014 Page Created by Rolfe Kolbe @rolfek
20 July 2014 Huge updates to this page
29 August 2014 Updates in relation to iOS app info