I have known about the vast options that Google offers, but I had not played with any of these options until about 6-8 months ago. Suffice it to say...I am in love! I finally switched email addresses completely to a Gmail account, and now, I can link my mail, Google Docs, RSS feed, calendar, and more! Google Docs is a free online collaborative file sharing/storage that allows 2 or more people to come together and work simultaneously. It has come in handy for many of the projects that we have been working on for this cohort, but it has also been useful at school as well. I'll blog more on that part later!
I was able to utilize Google Docs in the past without a Gmail account, but it seems much easier to use if you have a Gmail account. Google Docs offers five different file types that can be created and shared between a variety of users: document (word processor), spreadsheet, presentation (similar to PowerPoint), drawing, and form. I have recently used the documents, spreadsheets, and forms, but I have experimented with both drawing and presentation.
Once a new type of file has been created, the sharing process can begin. In the right-hand corner of the screen, the file can be shared with a variety of settings. A file can be sent to a number of people in order to simply view without the ability to edit, with the ability to edit, or just as an attachment. If you have a Gmail account, you can actually share with groups of people that you have created within your email. This would greatly benefit teachers who could share files with an entire class of students.
All of the file types seem fairly user-friendly, but do not function exactly like the Microsoft programs with which many people are familiar. I have to admit that I do not particularly like the presentation file or the drawing file simply because they do not offer all of the bells and whistles that other programs offer. On the go, however, I am sure that these types of files would be useful in the business world or even for students for whom having less options would be a solution for a better product.
There are many other sites in existence that can provide information or support for Google Docs, and one of them in the Support Site within Google. It can answer many questions and aid the troubleshooting process. Another helpful site is the official Google Docs Blog. The blog provides tips on using Google Docs and shortcuts for how to make using the file types a bit easier and faster.
Over the next few weeks, I will explore each file type in depth a bit more and provide some examples of some of the files that I've created both for school and for this cohort. For now, enjoy this video (or see below) about how some teachers and students have worked collaboratively with Google Docs.