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The latest news and updates from the Google Drive team.
Tips for introducing online collaboration to students
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Tom Barrett is an assistant headteacher at a primary school in north Nottinghamshire, England. We first noticed
in May when he gave a week by week account of introducing Google Docs and Google Apps to his Year 5 students. Tom's starting a new term this September and we've invited him to share some best practices for introducing new people (in his case, his 10-year-olds) to Google Docs.
Modeling expected behavior and good practices first
As our first Google Docs project began to gather pace last school year, I realised that the children were finding it difficult to work together. With hindsight it is easier to recognise that the children were not only being introduced to a new piece of technology (the Docs tool) but also their traditional way of working was to be challenged by the new concept of working collaboratively in an online document.
It was clear that the children were unsure about the way they should be working together. They were each working on their own laptop and it was not the technical side of things that they struggled with, it was the fact they were expected to interact with others in their group as well as use a screen. I found it very useful to model the process. Just as I would if I were showing the children a style of writing in Literacy or a type of stretch in PE. I worked with a colleague on an example document and gave the class a running commentary as to what we were doing. As we worked we talked to each other and I underlined some of the key features of what made that short demo collaboration successful for us.
I think that every class of children will respond differently to the challenge of working together in an online doc, but it proved incredibly valuable to our classes to model what is expected of them. In September, I'll have a new class and I will be keeping in mind this idea from the outset. Another idea would be to encourage the students to demonstrate the concept to the class - this is much harder to show but valuable nonetheless. I will be planning in time to model the technical and communications side of working together and also reflective time with the groups throughout the project to discuss and review the process of collaborating.
Introducing group collaboration: entire class, working in pairs, and groups of four
With the 9 and 10 year-olds in my classes, I found it valuable to take small steps towards an open collaborative project with 4 or 5 group members. As I introduced Google Docs to the class, we began to work together on documents that everyone could contribute to, revealing the ways that it worked and how it updates. In many respects this could be labelled as modelling the process that the children will in turn use later on. It proved valuable to be able to prove the concept to the children in a simple "step in, step out" controlled type contribution, nothing protracted. We added ideas to a large grid within a spreadsheet, with the children being told to choose any cell to write in - you could also invite them to fill in some information about themselves next to their name in a class list document. This single contribution to a whole class document was our first step.
It was followed by children working together in pairs on one document - a laptop each, sitting next to each other and sharing the document between them both. Finally the children worked in a larger group of 4 in a more lengthy collaboration as part of a Geography project. I believe it is important to progressively build up to bigger group collaboration and for this coming academic year I will be taking the same approach in developing the children's collaboration experience over the first 6 weeks of term.
Tom Barrett, Assistant Headteacher
Another summer, another thank you note to our interns
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I know it's not over yet - but summer has flown by too quickly
. We know it's coming to an end when we start saying 'goodbye' to the incredibly talented interns who
joined our team
for the summer. With the goodbyes are always a load of thank yous for what they've added to Google Docs. Here are some anecdotes:
says, "The fact that I got to work on what I asked for and to see all the changes I made actually make it to production is immensely gratifying. Some of the
I implemented are incidentally the only features that I can conceivably demonstrate to my friends and family. I say, 'Look I did this' when asked what I did during the summer and there are always 'ooohs' and 'aaahs' in response." Shrikant's work on our offline capabilities in spreadsheets also seems to have removed a bunch of "ouch"es from our user community. For that we are grateful.
, and as he describes it, "embedded himself in the team, retrieved information from a range of sources, internally processed the data, generated interactive analysis, and shared it with relevant parties. I can't help but notice that this is awfully similar to what spreadsheet gadgets do." Ya think maybe we had him too focused?
took on several projects within the
of Docs, including required questions, lots of bug fixes, and... oops, I almost gave away the other killer features which haven't launched yet. Jessie didn't have a quote to add here, but she's currently running a survey using Forms to get ideas for what she should say. ;-)
implemented several critical parts of the infrastructure behind some exciting upcoming features. We can't describe them yet, so you'll just have to trust on this one for a while. Many of you will one day thank Jorrit for his part in improving our products significantly.
worked on some much needed improvements and fixes to our
including some not yet launched methods for controlling data feeds.
categorizes his work this summer as "incredibly non-glamorous", which, in our minds, means necessary and high priority work. He's helped to speed up the application and made it easier to maintain and add features without degrading performance. He had the advantage of being with us last summer, too - so he knew where to look for improvements.
, aka our Rubik's Cube Queen, slam-dunked a series of killer features in presentations, getting way more done than the team dreamed of. Watch for her improvements to come in presentations soon!
's code has already launched and has been used by anyone who's visited the
. Star ratings for templates and "Templates I've Used" were all Grant. And thanks to him, you can embed a template in your web page. We can't spill the beans about the rest of his work quite yet.
has developed some soon-to-be-released functionality for the document editor that students can use for their term papers this fall. We'll be sure to credit him on the feature announcement blog post.
has improved the folder view in Docs, making it easier for all users to add descriptions and colored labels to
, as well as name/edit/delete them. If you haven't yet used folders in Google Docs, try creating one now and you'll see Isaiah's handiwork in action.
has been knocking bugs upside their heads all summer long, and has decided to complete his last remaining units online so that he can stay with us indefinitely. We are ecstatic that David has chosen to stick with us, so no 'good-bye' for Bloom!
worked on a top secret project out of our Boulder, Colorado office. Here's what the censors are letting us say: Rob created a proof-of-concept framework for Docs that will enable users to
[bleeeep] when someone [bleeeep] [bleeeep]
. Some people might call it [bleeeep]
, but we think there's a lot of users who might want to [bleeeep]
. Oh, and Rob also helped convert his cubicle "pod" at Google Boulder into a model of the International Space Station.
has been digging through the innermost workings of the document editor to make it generally speedier and more efficient. You won't see his work since it's all under the hood but if you notice that the document editors feels faster... well it probably is, thanks to Nikolay.
Update: Corrected Rob Turer's section, adding the missing "bleeeeps" that were supposed to be there in the initial post.
Update: Corrected Erdal's last name. Sorry, Erdal!
Posted by: Jonathan Rochelle, Product Manager
Forms move out of their parents' basement (and other improvements)
Thursday, August 14, 2008
We made a few improvements to the spreadsheets editor this week, which you can read about in our
. Among the changes were some improvements to
The most visible change makes the whole Forms feature more accessible to you, since "spreadsheets" isn't the first place you'd look to create a form. We noticed that many of you search for "Forms" from your Docs List and from within the other editors (documents, presentations). So, we've made Forms accessible directly from your Docs List in the "New" menu.
Next, we changed the Forms interface a bit to make it easier for you to add and edit the questions in a form while giving you more clues about the types of questions available. You can also delete a form completely now in addition to just turning it off (not accepting additional responses).
We also now identify each spreadsheet with a Form using a special icon on your Docs List.
Moving out from under the shadow of its spreadsheet parent seems like a good step - but give us feedback if you've got other ideas. Just wait until Forms is old enough to drive... Oh, the places we'll go!
Posted by: Andrew Bonventre, Engineer
Students will tell us... what issues matter the most
Thursday, August 7, 2008
The U.S. presidential campaign is drawing unprecedented interest among young people. What issues matter most to America's youth? Are they concerned about the economy and gas prices? Or is climate change, Iraq, or global terrorism foremost on their minds? We'd like to find out by giving them the ability to express themselves through their words during the period of the presidential election.
We've teamed up with the
National Writing Project
Letters to the Next President: Writing Our Future
an online writing and publishing project that invites young people to write about the issues and concerns they want America's next president to address.
During the presidential campaign, high school teachers will guide students through the process of writing a persuasive letter addressed to the candidates. Topics will be chosen by the students themselves to reflect their specific personal, regional, and age-related interests. Google Docs will allow teachers to incorporate peer review, revisions, and publishing into support of these letters. Participating students will publish their letters online to a
Letters to the Next President
website (which launches in September) for their peers, parents, and the public to read.
Students and teachers, visit our
Letters to the Next President
project page learn more. The registration deadline is
Sept 12, 2008
To see how teachers and students are using Google Docs to enable effective peer review and publishing, watch the following video:
: Due to popular demand, registration has been extended to
September 12, 2008
Posted by: Andrew Chang, Marketing Manager
2008 Editors’ Best award
Monday, August 4, 2008
A big "thank you" goes out to the editors of
Windows IT Pro Magazine
for naming Google Docs a
in the "Breakthrough Product" category. We're honored.
: Corrected the name of the magazine.
Posted by: Andrew Chang, Marketing Manager
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