Google Drive De-Mystified

Google Drive offers terrific cloud-based tools for teachers and students. Getty Images/Klaus Vedfelt

Google Drive is the heart of collaboration in your classroom. Drive provides secure cloud storage and file backup for your photos, videos, and other files. Google DocsSheetsSlides, and Forms are cloud-based productivity tools within Google Drive, and there is so much more. In this module, we'll explore some of these features. Here's a quick video from Google on the possibilities of Drive. For help on using Drive, check out the Drive section of the Google Apps Learning Center and the Google Drive Help Center.

Many schools are using Google Apps for Education which provides access for everyone in educational institutions to Google Drive and the aforementioned Google tools. A GAFE account is different than an ordinary Google account. GAFE users have exclusive access to GoogleClassroom. They also have Gmail at their school's domain, shared access to many apps, additional storage in Drive and no advertising within Google tools. Administrators are able to administer user accounts and access to phone and email support as well.

Determine Your Skillset

Neil Charlet of the Maine Township District 207 (IL) has a created skills checklist for his colleagues. Use this to gauge your progress as you work through the following suggested activities. Refer to help documentation if you need further support with some of these skills.

Start Organizing Your Files in Google Drive

  • Make sure you have a Google account or a Google Apps for Education account.
  • Go to your Drive:
  • Click the red Create button on the left-hand side of your Drive and select the folder option.
  • Name the folder.
  • Create a file in Docs, Sheets, Slides or Form in that folder OR
  • Drag an existing file into this folder.
  • Create additional folders depending on your needs. For instance, make folders for departmental meetings, units of study, and professional development materials. 
  • Practice sharing a folder to a colleague. Go to a folder, click on the symbol in the upper left-hand corner that looks like a person with a plus sign. Enter the person's name from your contacts or an email address to share. 
  • If you are using the Chrome browser, install the Save to Drive extension and practice saving a web page or image using this. This extension will let you save web content and screenshots right to your Google Drive. This is really handy when you're conducting research by surfing the web! 
  • Continue setting up folders that you may need in the future. Think about how you can help your students organize their Google Drives as well!  

Explore Features of Google Docs

  • In Google Drive, go to the red Create button and create a Doc.
  • Name your document by clicking on the word in the upper left-hand corner, "Untitled Document".  For example, "Google Docs Practice". You can always rename documents by 
  • Explore the various pull down menus at the top of your Doc.
  • Under the File menu, look at your revision history.
  • Under the View menu, check out the different viewing modes.
  • Under the Insert menu, insert an image, drawing or link. 
  • Under the Format menu, notice that you can edit images inserted into your Doc.
  • Under the Tools menu, play with the research feature. A side menu will pop along the right-hand side of your document. Search for a topic and note that you when you've selected a search result, you can preview it, insert a link or cite this resource.
  • Under the Add-ons menu, you will not see much until you install an add-on. Click Get Add-ons and select an Add-on such as Kaizena which will allow you to leave audio comments in a Doc. See more recommendations further down in this Tacck.
  • Notice there is a Doc Help feature under the Help menu as well as a listing of keyboard shortcuts. 
  • Practice sharing a document by clicking the blue Share button in the upper right-hand corner of your Doc. Click on Advanced to see the full capabilities of this. There are three levels of permissions available: Can Edit, Can Comment, or Can View. 

    For ideas and help with Google Docs, visit Eric Curts' the Paperless Classroom with Google Docs, the Google Docs Editor Help Center, and the Docs section of the Google Apps Learning Center

    Dig Into Features of Google Sheets​ 

    • Log into Google Drive and click the red Create button to create a Sheets document.
    • Click on Untitled Spreadsheet and name your sheet. For example, call it "Google Sheets  Practice".
    • Explore the various menus at the top of your Sheet.
    • File, Edit, and Format menus are fairly standard. In the View menu, note that you can freeze a row or column. 
    • In the Insert menu, practice inserting comments, notes, functions, images, links, and drawings. 
    • In the Tools menu, notice that you can create a form here in addition to creating one when you click the red Create button in Google Drive. 
    • In the Add-ons menu, get add-ons just as you did in Google Docs. Note that these add-ons are a different set than the ones in Google Docs. Try Flubaroo or Super Quiz to create assessments in a Google Sheet. 
    • Installed Add-ons will appear in your Add-ons menu and usually have help documentation to lead you through using these tools. 
    • Review the Help menu. Take a look at Sheets Help, the function list, and the keyboard shortcuts. 

    Support for Sheets is available in the Google Docs Editor Help Center and in the Sheets section of the Google Apps Learning Center. Make sure to check out this video from Google as well. 

    Play Around with Google Slides 

    • Log into Google Drive and click the red Create button to create a Slides presentation.
    • Choose a theme.
    • Click on Untitled Presentation and name your sheet. For example, call it "Google Slides Practice". 
    • Explore the various menus at the top of your presentation.
    • Under the File menu, note that Slides also has the revision history feature. 
    • The Edit menu is pretty standard, but take a look at the View menu. You can enter Presentation mode here, activate animations and transitions, show speaker notes, and edit master slides.
    • In the Insert menu, practice inserting word art, videos, and comments.
    • The Slide menu allows you to add, delete and duplicate slides. It also allows you to customize the look of your slides.
    • The Format menu allows you to edit images and to work with shapes in addition to other standard features.
    • The Arrange menu is for working with the different objects (images, text, video etc) on your slides. 
    • The Tools menu give access to the same research feature as seen in Docs.
    • Practice inserting a table from the Table menu.
    • Again, help is available in the Help menu as well as keyboard shortcuts.
    • Practice sharing a presentation using the blue Share button in your presentation.

    Charlene Chausis has developed a great getting started with Slides presentation. Review this for ideas, and also check out the Google Docs Editor Help Center and the Slides section of the Google Apps Learning Center

    Design a Google Form

    • Log into Google Drive and click the red Create button to create a Forms document.
    • Click on Untitled Form and name your form. For example, call it "Google Forms  Practice".
    • It's important to note that there are several views within Forms.  There is the edit mode which lets you customize your form, the live form view, and the responses view. The responses view is a Google Sheet that is attached to your form.
    • Explore the various menus at the top of your Form. The File and Edit menus are standard; note that there is an embed feature in the File menu if you'd like to embed a Form on a website.
    • The Insert menu is where you'll find different types of question formats for customizing your form. Note that you can insert images and videos into a form.
    • The Responses menu is also very important. You can turn off the ability to submit to your Form here. You can get a summary of responses here and direct form submissions to another spreadsheet here as well.
    • Under Tools, you'll see a script editor, a feature for advanced users.
    • Add-ons are also available in Forms. Click Get Add-ons in the Add-ons menu to see the possibilities and to install.
    • Create a practice form and send it to a colleague. Use the blue Send Form in the upper right-hand corner. This will not share the sheet where answers are collected. You can, however, go to the sheet containing your form data and share that if needed.

    Browse Tom Barrett's 80 Interesting Ways to Use Google Forms to Support Learning for ideas on using forms. Help can be found in the Forms section of the Google Apps Learning Center and in the Google Docs Editor Help Center.

    Get Creative with Google Drawings

    • Log into Google Drive and click the red Create button to create a Drawings document.
    • Click on Untitled Drawing and name your drawing. For example, call it "Google Drawings Practice".
    • Explore the Drawings menus which should be fairly self-explanatory at this point. Note that the Research feature is also present in the Tools menu.
    • Investigate the toolbar menu under the main pull down menus. Practice drawing shapes and customizing colors.
    • Also, note the options for inserting an image. You can take a picture from your webcam, grab an image from your Drive and through search!!!
    • Share your image with a colleague using the blue Share button on the left-hand side of the drawing.

    Again, the Google Docs Editor Help Center has a section on using Drawings that may come in handy if you get stuck using this tool. Susan Prabulous has some good ideas for using Drawings in the classroom and here's a great YouTube tutorial as well. Finally, check out Matt Miller's templates

    Organize Your Images in Google Photos

    This is one of Google's newest improvements. You can now access your photos in your Google Drive. You should see Photos in your Google Drive on the left-hand side of your main Google Drive page or you can go to Watch a video about this here!

    This review by David Pogue points out many of Google Photo's useful features.  Search your photos is incredibly intuitive; you can search by facial recognition or by keywords even if you have not tagged or described your photos.

    Here are some tips for getting started:

    1. I highly recommend that you sync photos from your mobile devices and computers. Directions for doing this can be found here. Google gives you a fair amount storage space for this; you can always purchase more storage on the cheap from Google.
    2. I also recommend downloading the iOS or Android app for Google Photos.
    3. Once you have some photos in your Google Photos, practice editing photosorganizing photos into collections, and sharing them with friends. The Photos Help Center is a great place to find out how to do this. 

    Empower Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Forms by Launching Add-Ons

    Once you've gotten the lay of the land in Google Drive, go back to your practice documents and experiment with add-ons for Docs, Sheets, Forms and Drive. Add-ons are usually created by third-party developers to layer additional functionality onto Google Apps.

    There are also add-ons for Google Drive which you can access through your red Create button.

    Here are some recommendations to try:

    In Google Drive...

    • Movenote for Education
    • Pear Deck
    • Powtoon

    In Docs...

    • EasyBib
    • Openclipart
    • Texthelp
    • Rhyme Finder

    In Sheets...

    • Autocrat
    • Flubaroo
    • Random Generator
    • QR Code Generator
    • Online Rubric
    • g(Math)

    In Forms...

    • g(Math)
    • Choice Eliminator
    • docAppender

    Brainstorm Classroom Applications

    How can one use Google Drive in the classroom? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking. See also this ThingLink from Susan Oxnevad and these directions for creating automated Mad Libs from Jessica Johnston

    • Collaborate on lesson plans.
    • Take group notes during meetings and at conferences. At TCEA 2014, someone did this using Slides instead of Docs. Very nifty!  
    • Create shared folders as repositories for images, articles, lesson plans and other departmental documentation.
    • Monitor student projects closely by subscribing to document changes and reviewing vision history.
    • Design rubrics for student work.
    • Provide timely feedback within documents to students.
    • Publish student artifacts.
    • Invite parents to sign up for appointments.
    • Survey parents and students.
    • Collect authentic data using Google Forms and social media.
    • Design student assessments, potentially including videos and images.
    • Use Forms to create a process for efficiently writing student anecdotes.
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    Your Citation
    Gray, Lucy. "Google Drive De-Mystified." ThoughtCo, Nov. 1, 2016, Gray, Lucy. (2016, November 1). Google Drive De-Mystified. Retrieved from Gray, Lucy. "Google Drive De-Mystified." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 22, 2017).