Creating collaboratively with Google Apps

During this past 4-day weekend, I spent some of my time working on various tasks. One of them was creating a trip packing list, and another was grading some of my students’ performance task essays. For both, I took advantage of the collaborative nature of Google Apps for Education (GAFE). I know I’ve written about this before, but you’ll want to take a look at this one because I’ve covered some new features!

Collaborative Packing List with Google Sheets

I love Google Sheets because it’s as powerful as Microsoft Excel, but easier to use. And, as with all things GAFE, you can easily add collaborators! I was recently working on a trip packing list and asked a few colleagues to read it over and see if I missed anything. I chose to use this particular format because everything is nice and neat and evenly spaced.

First, to invite someone to collaborate, you need to click the “Share” button in the upper right-hand corner

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 5.47.03 AM

Next, type in the email addresses of the people you want to collaborate with, and then select “Done.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 5.47.52 AM

This will send the recipients an email inviting them to share the document. While they’re in the document, they can comment on it by right-clicking on one of the fields, and selecting “Insert Comment.” When you view the comment, it looks like this:


If you notice in the example above, some of the fields have a small orange tab in the upper right-hand corner, which indicates that someone has commented on it. Simply click on that field, and the comment will pop up. To make it go away, click on “Resolve.”

Receiving comments

Also, when someone leaves comments in the document, you will receive an email with all of those comments:


Adding feedback in Google Docs

When my students wrote their performance task essays, I had them share it with me so that I could provide them with feedback directly on the document. While I could do this in Jupitergrades, Google Docs has the added feature that my comments are emailed to the student so that they know they’ve received feedback and can go look at them. Honestly, how often do you think your students really read your comments? It’s more difficult to escape it if they’re emailed to them!

Sharing the document

  • Have students create a new document in Google Docs. I have them name it “Period ______” followed by their first and last name, and then the name of the assignment.
  • Have them share it with you (be sure to give them your school Gmail account, which, for our district, would be the one that ends in
  • You’ll receive an email indicating that they’ve shared a document with you. Click on that link to be taken to it.
  • At this point, you can view their assignment throughout the entire process, which means that you can also see what they have and haven’t done!

While reading their assignment, you can leave comments in a similar fashion as with Google Sheets. This time, select and highlight the text you want to comment on, right-click on it, and then select “Comment.” Type in your feedback, and then select “Comment.” You’ll see it appear to the right of your selection.

When students read it, they’ll see all of your comments listed to the right:

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 5.40.30 AMAfter they’ve made adjustments to their assignment, they need to click on “Resolve” for the comment to disappear.

Revision history

Another “fun” feature is seeing exactly when they’ve made revisions. Go to “File” and then “See revision history.” You’ll be taken to this screen:


By looking at this, I can see that this student only spent half an hour on his essay on February 10, even though I gave him additional time on February 11! In his comments I indicated that had he used all of the time allotted to review and revise his essay, he most likely would’ve fulfilled more of the requirements.

I’ve also done this on assignments when groups are collaborating on the same document. It will show who typed what with a time stamp. If I notice that one student hasn’t contributed anything throughout the process, then I can take steps to remedy that. This helps to eliminate the issue of one student doing everything while others just sit and daydream. Knowing that I’m “watching” them while they work motivates the students to be accountable.

Docs shared with you

Finally, when students share a document with you, it appears in your “Shared with me” section of Google Drive. This is useful if you need to go back and see what revisions they’ve made, or check on how much they’ve accomplished. Luckily when someone shares a document with you, it doesn’t go against your storage limit!



I’m sure you’ve seen a common theme with the various posts I’ve written about GAFE, but as you can see, it’s powerful stuff!

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