5 Tips and Tricks for Google Drive in the Classroom

Wednesday, March 23, 2016 -- Scott Sterling

Google Chromebook™ notebook computers are used in a significant portion of classrooms across the country. So, it’s logical to conclude that many teachers and students are using the Google Drive™ suite of productivity apps, including Google Docs™, Google Sheets™, and Google Slides™. These programs may lack some of the advanced features of their Microsoft Office™ counterparts, but there are still lots of tricks to get the most out of this powerful software.

1. Use Chrome for Offline Saving 

Many people think that editing documents in Google Drive requires an active Internet connection in order to save progress, which means students think they can’t work on the bus or somewhere else where they might not have a connection. Although it is true that updates will not be shared with other group members until they get a connection again, Google’s Chrome™ browser has the ability to save changes in a document locally. Not having a connection is no longer an excuse for not getting work done.

2. Chat Within a Document 

If students are working collaboratively on a document at the same time, clicking the speech bubble icon at the top right of the document window opens up a dedicated chat room. This is great for students who aren’t in the same room and would otherwise rely on texting each other to share ideas.

3. Digitize Documents with OCR 

A relatively new feature for the Google productivity suite is the ability to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to import paper documents. For example, say a teacher wants to digitize their favorite worksheet. They can either use a scanner to create a PDF of the document or use the Google Drive mobile app to take a picture. Then, OCR scans the picture or PDF, recognizes the words, and creates a document in Google Drive. This is a huge timesaver!

4. Take Advantage of the Research Pane 

When working on a document, students and teachers often have another browser window open for quick reference or research. The problem is that the research window can all too easily become the Facebook window. The research pane in Google Docs allows users to conduct quick Google searches and displays the results in a stripped-down form. Useful results can even be dropped into documents as a footnote with a single click.

5. Don’t Forget Add-Ons 

Looking for a very specific feature from the Microsoft Office suite? Chances are it has been recreated by a third party developer and released within the Add-Ons section in Google Docs. There are all sorts of options there, including a thesaurus, formatting helpers, rhyming dictionaries, and other tools that can help teachers and students work more efficiently.

Looking for more classroom tech tips? Check out these 10 digital resources for educators!