The beauty of web applications, such as Google Docs and ThinkFree, is stated so well in Computer World’s article. It states, “…they take advantage of the fact that they are Web-based to add another level of productivity. In various ways, they incorporate “presence” features that let you enable collaboration with others from within the apps themselves — you can e-mail files, share access to files (either read-only or read/write) with individual contacts or groups, or publish files (to a blog, a Web page, or a select group of contacts). http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9108799/Online_office_apps_get_real_Google_Docs_vs._ThinkFree_vs._Zoho
In 2007, ThinkFree was touted as the best alternative to using the Microsoft Office Suite. It’s many features are discussed here http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9007884/Online_Office_Suites_The_Winner_Is_Clear?taxonomyId=168&intsrc=kc_feat&taxonomyName=internet_applications. However, in the year 2013 this web application is no longer free and, therefore, I wouldn’t consider it for use with my students. I then turned to Google Docs, which was also rated highly.
I personally use Google Docs, Drive, and Presentation on a rather frequent basis in my professional role as a Reading Specialist. I have never used it with my students, but rather with my colleagues. We often “share” documents with each other, collaborate together on certain documents, and then share information with others all via Google. I decided that if I use it and like it for collaboration, why wouldn’t my students. Even though some of my students prefer working independently, many of my students prefer working collectively together. Collaborative skills are so important for these Net Generation learners, and Google Docs is one way this can be accomplished.
Google Docs and Presentations can be used on an individual basis or with a group. https://support.google.com/drive/answer/49008?hl=en gives a great overview of the capability that Google offers. For example, students can create and edit presentations from any computer. Web applications are saved on the web, so they can be accessed from any computer! The presentation can then be edited by other group members. Students can also chat while working on the project. Images and videos can be inserted. The final product can be shared with others, or downloaded into a blog or website very easily. This allows collaboration among students from virtually any computer, any time! These presentations can easily be downloaded into a PDF or PowerPoint format.
Google Docs is a great alternative to using Microsoft Office. It takes collaboration to a whole new level. I can see my small reading groups using this app to work on presentations regarding the books they’re reading; discussing information relevant to the books, and sharing information with others. As a professional who spends most of my day working with adults, I can see using this more frequently to work collaboratively together and share information eliminating the need for the plethora of emails that quickly get lost or become time consuming. Google Docs allows students and teachers to work together “real time” and then publish their finished products.
I also found a Google Drive Blog at http://googledrive.blogspot.com/ which is a great way to keep up with the many changes made to this web app. The coolest feature I found that I could definitely see incorporating into my lesson planning is the ability to translate and collaborate with students and others that speak different languages! I’ll have to think this through as to exactly what this would look like, but my school has a large ESL population with over 16 languages represented. How cool would it be to work collaboratively with students that speak a different language. At the moment, I could see this as a great tool to use with our students who just arrive at our school with no English skills. These students often sit silently for a while until they begin to learn the language. They could be included in group work immediately…. and not as a silent bystander! Another possibility is connecting with classes around the world and working on a collaborative project. This is definitely something to look into.
This is just another great web application that our students should be exposed to. They truly have an arsenal of apps to choose from! This is a great place to start!