Today’s guest post is brought to you by Andy Wolber. You can find more of Andy’s work in TechRepublic where he writes for the Google in the Enterprise newsletter.  We know it’s summer and teachers would prefer to think about the beach as opposed to the best ways to leverage Google Docs. But there’s a good chance that if you’re school isn’t already on Google Apps, you will be soon. After all, 72 of the top 100 universities have “Gone Google”, according to Google executive Sundar Pichai at Google I/O 2014. (We have a cool infographic that shows the crazy growth of Google Apps for Education.) Here’s the thing. Google Docs is more than just a web-based word processor. The real power of Google Docs is collaboration: the ability for people to write and edit a document together. Here are a few tips to store away for the beginning of the school year. These will help you use the full feature set of Google Docs in your classroom.

1. Take notes: type together

In the class I teach, students sometimes take notes in a shared Google Doc. One student creates the document, then shares it with the class. Typically, two or three students serve as active note-takers. Every now and then a technically proficient student will add—or correct—clarifying details to the document. (The class covers the use of technology by governments and nonprofit organizations.) A maximum of fifty people can simultaneously edit a Google Doc. [Learn how to share a document from Google.]

2. Discuss a document: chat

When multiple people access a document while logged in, they can chat in real-time. The chat appears as a sidebar, next to the document. Chat offers a way to discuss document details, but also can serve as an informal “backchannel” chat: a way to comment without interrupting another person. Some students are more comfortable typing than speaking. Chat sessions related to a document disappear when the document is closed, though. You’ll need to select, copy and save any information you want to preserve from the chat session elsewhere. [Learn more about document chat from Google.]

3. Provide feedback: insert a comment

To provide feedback within a Google Doc, select the relevant section of text, then choose “Insert”, then “Comment”. The selected text will be highlighted, with your comment displayed to the side of the document. Comments work well to identify and discuss issues that might be resolved in a variety of ways. For example, a comment might identify that a paragraph “seems vague”, an “assertion is unsupported”, or a “sentence is awkward”. An entire discussion can occur within an inserted comment. Unlike Chat, all comments and replies are saved with each document. Within a comment, click “Resolve” to close the comment thread and hide the comment. (Select the “Comments” button to view all comments—including resolved comments.) [Learn more about comments from Google.]

4. Recommend an edit: “suggesting” mode

Switch to “suggesting” mode to recommend a specific change to a document. (Select the drop down arrow next to “Editing” while in a document, then choose “Suggesting”.) Type your suggestions within the document. Suggested changes display in-line with the original text, but in a different color. The owner of the document may either “accept” or “reject” each suggested change. Use “suggesting mode” when an issue has a clear and obvious fix. For example, to suggest that the word “Goggle” be changed to “Google”. Suggestions work well to identify grammar or spelling errors. Any person with “can comment” permission may make a suggestion or insert a comment in a document. [Learn more about how to suggest edits from Google.]

5. Find, insert and cite resources: research tool

The Research tool offers a way to find, insert, and cite resources without leaving your document. A young writer might use the research tool to find a quote to use as a story prompt, while an academic researcher might use it to cite scholarly research. To use the Research tool, select the “Tools” menu, then “Research”. A search window displays to the right of your document. Type your search term, then view the results. You may narrow the results to a specific type of content, such as “images”, “quotes”, or results from Google Scholar. Place your cursor over the result you want, then insert (or cite) the content in your document. [Learn more about the Research tool from Google.]

Using Google Docs in the classroom? If so, what other features have you found useful?