An Ode to Google Drive

The last two weeks have been quite an interesting two weeks in the world of Google Apps for Education with the release of their newest product, Google Classroom.

That there is a very tight integration with Google Drive that I love. And so, in spite of Classroom being the flavour of the month, it is Drive that is the hero here.

Google Drive’s sharing model means that I can link to a document in the middle of a folder full of other documents that I don’t want students to see without having to panic about sharing permissions and the integrity of the rest of the folder. Sharing it in Classroom is easy and so instead of pupils getting a myriad of links to manage and documents to find, one of Classroom’s primary functions is to create an interface where those links and documents can be centrally stored.

One of my favourite features of the mobile app version of Google Drive is that it has a great document scanner. This has meant that uploading worked solutions to the notes and worksheets that I distribute using Classroom is as easy as taking a few photos with my phone and then simply pointing to the PDF that Drive created from within Classroom.

I will confess that I’ve not yet made use of the Assignments feature in Classroom. I haven’t rushed to this yet because it is apparent that the pupils need to be brought on slowly. I’ve been surprised by some of the technical obstacles that the students have faced, but mostly these have been minor insecurities and have quickly adapted to the system. As an effective pilot class, I want their experience to be positive. This will help when it comes to encouraging and driving staff and other classes to use the system.

Because Maths doesn’t lend itself to pupils typing up their homework, I intend to make use of the Drive scanner for assignment handins. Pupils will effectively submit a PDF for marking. With iPad apps such as PDFExpert having built-in Google Drive capabilities, I can annotate and synchronise back marked documents, and then “grade” and return the assignment in Classroom. If I were in charge, the next feature that Google would bring to Drive is the online annotation of PDF files…

One issue that has caught me out more than a few times is the fact that I have multiple Google accounts and share folders between them. Because much of the content originates from my home PC, this often happens to be my home PC which is signed in using a personal account. This means that while the file is accessible in my school Google Drive folders, my school account doesn’t own the document. Classroom won’t share a document that isn’t owned by someone within the school. I guess that this has to do with the sharing model and the fact that document ownership cannot be transferred between domains. The solution isn’t complex, but it is irritating: make a copy of the document and share that. My workflow is to right-click and copy, delete the “personally” owned version and then rename the “school” owned version.

While people are raving about Classroom, I’m quietly aware that without Google Drive, Classroom would be nothing. Tools like Moodle provide much more comprehensive features (including linking directly to – although not automatic sharing of – Google Drive documents), but it is power of Drive that makes the workflow in Classroom so much more appealing.