So can I use Google Docs at home?

Absolutely. One of the children in my class had waited to the end of the session to ask me if they could access Google Docs at home. This afternoon we introduced all of our Year 5 children (60) to Google Apps and we had lots of fun exploring the tool with our new classes. 

We discussed with the children the make-up of their usernames and then the syntax of their email. I use a little information sheet (see above) for them to record their data on, I asked the children to come out to me and I tell them and write down their password. Simple and effective.

Please use this document to support your own introduction to Google Apps in the classroom.

With the laptops already running  back at their tables they then go and login. (It is worth noting that they also have to go through some security questions before they access their Docs home.) As we had last year we had the usual problems of not typing things in correctly but otherwise the children all managed it well.

I decided that a simple data entry spreadsheet would be one of the best ways to introduce the idea of sharing a document. I created something that would accommodate the results we have collected during our circuit training in PE, number of repetitions in a minute for steps ups and star jumps, that sort of thing (see the header in the film clip). Once I created the document I shared with all of the children in our year group, this way when they login they will see a document in the home screen.

All the children had to do in this intro activity was to find their name and add their data they had recorded on paper to the shared resource. Just before they began I asked the children to try to imagine what it would be like if I asked every child in the class to record their data on one sheet of paper – their bemused looks helped me to emphasise the power of working in an online document and how we can all access it at the same time.

We began to explore the spreadsheet and as we opened it we could see that the other Year 5 class were well on their way in terms of adding their data. Again I took this opportunity to help illustrate the live update of the document and how the different coloured cell outlines signalled different users (Incidentally if you roll over these coloured cells you will see the username pop up) I asked one of the children in my class to enter their own data and we watched as it updated on the class IWB and all 16 laptops looking on. The children’s excitement was building, similar to the moment when they realise what all the fuss is about in a Voicethread.


This short screencast shows our spreadsheet being updated – a pretty dull video but useful to illustrate how it looks when being worked on by 16 users.

The children were buzzing by now and I felt we could push them on to learning about how you share a document, so once I had shown them how to do it I challenged them to create something and share it with me. I displayed my inbox on the screen and watched as the message alerts came rolling in. I realised the children loved to see this, they got so excited to see their email alert pop into my inbox – before their friend had managed it! I remember this being the case last year. I am going to explore the idea of incidental writing opportunities using email this year.

I showed the children GMail and asked them to send me an email and once again they were very adept at what they were doing, highly accustomed to it all already and were clearly enjoying it. I once again observed, even in this first session, the community of use that appears – children helping each other out, a supportive word, children asking their friends. And of course children empowered to be a mini-expert.

We have gotten off to a flying start and this week I have declared it a sandbox week, in that the children can email me and share any documents they create, a time to play and get used to this great set of tools. At the end of the week we will rein in this activity a little and discuss some simple guidelines for sharing docs.

Last year we only had about 7 weeks of work with Google Docs, today it begun in our classes and I am really looking forward to digging even deeper into what we can do with the tools to support learning in the primary classroom. And we have a got a whole year to dig!

Who knows what we will find?

Some related posts from this blog that you might find useful too.

6 thoughts on “So can I use Google Docs at home?

  1. Love your flow of posts on your use of Google Docs in the classroom, Tom – fascinating to see how they’re liberating what you can do with your students, and what they themselves are able to do. Keep up the great work!

  2. I look forward to getting to the same stage you are with your class. I’ve just introduced Google docs to the staff at my school so that they can share their planning documents. I hope that they can see the possibilities for their classes.
    We have a long way to go though considering students work in a protected environment on the internet (No Google!). I will point them towards your blog Tom.

  3. Another brilliant post – thanks! I will be sharing this with my clusters of schools in my next newsletter.

  4. When I signed up for google apps and got started, I created a form for the kids to fill out.

    This went into a google spreadsheet and I downloaded it as a CSV file.

    Then I uploaded THAT to google apps to create all my student’s accounts.

    All done in about 5 minutes.

    — Now if I can just get my students to remember the password THEY made up two days ago!

    See form here

  5. Hi Kevin – that sounds like a great way to gather together student generated passwords etc – it is always a challenge to get the children remember their passwords, so lots of use and practice in the early days is crucial. This is much easier if you have the class every day, like I do, as opposed to once or twice a week.

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