Morphing of Google Docs into Google Drive

Google Docs is being absorbed into Google Drive. Google Drive is similar to Dropbox in that it is cloud based storage for ALL your files regardless of type. But Google Drive is different in that it includes Google Docs for creating various documents and adding collaborators with editing rights.

Upgrade Recommended

This upgrade process has been going on for months. Google hasn’t forced this upgrade on all users yet, but has allowed users to choose it. However, there will soon come a time when all users will be upgraded.

At this time, some teachers are having difficulty consistently finding the “shared” assignments from their students. This could be due to some users having upgraded to Google Drive and some not. At this point, I would recommend that everyone upgrade to Google Drive.

Left Navigation Pane

Google Drive brings some cosmetic and navigation changes.  Folders are once again called folders. So Collection has been replaced with Folder under the Create button.

  • My Drive: Automatically includes everything you’ve created, uploaded, or moved here.
  • Shared with me: Files and folders that others have shared with you in the order that they were last modified. You can move items from this area to My Drive by selecting them and then clicking the Add to My Drive button that appears in the menu across the top. If you want to be able to add files to a shared folder owned by someone else, you will need to add it to your My Drive.

If you don’t add this shared folder to your My Drive, when you attempt to place a file in this folder, you won’t see the folder listed as an option.

  • Starred: Files and folders that you’ve deemed as star-worthy.
  • Activity: Everything in your Google Drive in the order it was last updated by ANYONE. Activity is the old Home.
  • Recently opened: Everything that YOU have recently viewed or worked on in the order it was last updated.

Search for a File

The search bar at the top is powerful. This is Google after all. You can search by document type, owner, and other advanced filters. It will even use OCR technology to search for keywords in all your files, including those that are not native Google Docs files, and even images. That’s right, images. It uses Google Goggles technology to recognize your uploaded images (without you tagging them). So if you search for cat, it will pull up any file with the text “cat” as well as any of your images that it can identify as a “cat.”

Preview Files

Google Drive includes viewers that will allow you to view files of various formats (doc, ppt, pdfs, jpgs, wmv, etc.) from within your browser. So while I can’t edit a wmv video file within Google Docs, I can view it without downloading it to my computer.

Upload Settings

Each user gets 5GB of storage. You can upload any type of file (images, videos, PDFs, etc) into your Google Drive. It’s a virtual flash drive, your file cabinet in the clouds. You can edit your Upload Settings to automatically convert all uploaded files, or set it to ask what to do before each upload. If you convert a file (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc) to the Google Docs format, you will be able to edit the file using Google Docs. Not all files can be converted to a Google Docs format, ie video and image files.  If you don’t convert the file, then you can view it within your browser, and download and edit it using the appropriate software on your device.

Documents in the Google Docs format do NOT count against this 5 GB storage limit.  Files that have been uploaded but not converted to the Google Docs format WILL count against this 5 GB storage.

Supported Browsers

Google has announced that they will no longer support Internet Explorer 8, which is the newest version that a Windows XP station can run. Stations with Windows 7 can upgrade to Internet Explorer 9. I usually have a more successful Google Docs experience when using Firefox or Chrome (browser made by Google) as my browser.

All our high school students using school provided laptops have Internet Explorer 9 and Firefox. Our teacher desktop stations are a mix of Windows XP and Windows 7, so some upgrades or installs may be required.

Local Syncing

For our Willard Google Apps account we’ve disabled the desktop application feature to locally sync your files in Google Drive to your computer for offline access. With all our users, this could put a fatal strain on our network.

Related Topic: Digital Distribution and Collection of Documents

First, I recommend that students name their assignment files based on a pattern defined by the teacher, for example: class period, last initial, first name, name of the assignment, 6GJanettaPersonalNarrative – think sort by titleThe teacher provides the name of the assignment for all students to use. It would be helpful to students if our building agreed on the same pattern, so that students wouldn’t have to recall different file naming procedures for different teachers.

Next, a system of shared folders must be created to manage the digital distribution of papers and submission of assignments. I recently came across a script from Bjorn Behrendt of EdListen that automates this process! The script creates these folders for each course:

  • Class Edit: Houses files that are editable by everyone in the class. (group documents)
  • Class View: Houses files that are only viewable by everyone in the class. (syllabus, worksheet templates)
  • Student Dropbox: This is shared only between the teacher and a particular student. (submitting assignments) You can choose to organize these in class period folders, or just in the course folder.

I tried out the script with four made up student accounts and it worked as advertised. If any one is interested in utilizing this script, I am help you. You can easily export from our student information system what is needed to run this script.

So if you haven’t flipped the Google Drive switch I recommend doing so.

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