Google Documents has a word processor file type just like Microsoft Word. I find this particular type one of the simplest to use and access. the toolbars are very similar, and it allows the user to complete many of the same tasks as other word processors. Again, the advantages to Google docs over other word processors are that it is online, accessible anywhere that Internet is available, and allows multiple users to collaborate all at the same time. I am sure that the business world loves Google Docs in general, but it has to be a fabulous resource when working on proposals and projects across the nation and the world. Some businessmen and women probably never even have to meet in person now thanks to Google Docs (I would miss the face to face interaction, however).
Google Docs has been particularly useful in our current graduate program. We have had numerous group project in which we need to collaborate, but our schedules do not match up. Instead of meeting face to face, we have been able to collaboratively organize/add research, edit a document, track each others changes, and even submit our final product. One example of our use of Google Docs was for our Distance Education course where we had to design a distance education program including support staff, ideas for learning modules, and even a budget. Fellow cohort members, Aime and Keith, designed a program for Home and Hospital students who need to continue their education while at home for a medical reasons. While we did meet in person one time, we were able to divide up our project and put together the entire thing online! It was such a time saver because our schedules did not match up in the least bit!
I have not yet used Google Docs with my students, but I have suggested it for various group projects where students need to collaborate. Some students have acknowledged that they have used Google Docs, others know what it is but have not yet tried it, but the majority do not know anything about it. I hope to provide a tutorial on this in the future, and guide students through how they can use it to their advantage. There is even a Google site for educators in order to get both students and teachers started with Google Docs!
In order to get started, you simply have to log in to your Gmail account, choose Create New, and then, document. Finally, you can type! It's that simple! From there, the user can copy, paste, track changes, insert objects/graphics/tables, and make any other formatting adjustments. The user can share the document initially in order to collaborate with others, or share the final product for others to view/edit. Side note: What I like about Google Docs are the privacy settings and the share settings; while I may want multiple people to have access to the document with editing privileges, I may only want another person or group of people to view the document.
As always Google Docs offers help for users on its website. On the site for Google Docs for educators, Google provides a page of resources for teachers, advice on types of activities, and a space for teachers to share activities and resources that they have created. While I have not found too many issues with Google Docs (only minor formatting issues probably due to html), some have suggested issues converting the documents to PDF and the number of people collaborating on the document all at one time.
Stay tuned for more uses of Google Docs for teachers, students, and telecollaboration!