Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2018

Google Drive

Nifty tool for collaboratively editing and syncing files across devices

Subjects & skills
Subjects
N/A

Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6–12
Great for:
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (171 Reviews)

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Pros: You get much of the functionality of Microsoft Office; collaboration on files is elegant, and it all stays safely synced on all devices.

Cons: Poses potential privacy issues for classrooms with multiple students sharing one device.

Bottom Line: Google Drive is a smart choice for budget-conscious schools, with its free productivity tools and file syncing.

For classroom use, power users may need more options than are included, but Google Drive should perform most of the functions you and your students need, and there are countless third-party add-ons to extend Google Drive's abilities. With Google Drive, you get word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tools, along with a number of other Google applications. Add in the ability for multiple users to simultaneously edit documents, and you have a real tool for collaboration. The days of passing a draft back and forth or navigating Microsoft Word's Track Changes feature are over. Each user can see the colored and labeled cursor of every other user while they work on an essay, a spreadsheet, or a class presentation. There's even a window for chatting while you work. Projects ripe for Google Drive might include writing workshops, group projects, class discussions, and peer review. It's also ideal for teachers to use to give feedback to their students.

Make sure, though, that each student understands how to sign in and sign out of Google Drive, if it's being used on shared devices, to maintain privacy and security. If students are using their own accounts, they'll need to add and then remove their account each time they use and then stop using a device. Otherwise, every account that has accessed the device will be accessible to all subsequent users of the device. To make the most of Google Drive, teachers should also check out Google Classroom

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Originally called Google Docs, Google Drive is a combo online-productivity software suite and cloud-based, file-syncing service. Basically, it seems to do everything, giving you a place to store all of your files and access them from any device. Each student needs his or her own Google account to use Drive, which requires an email address. From there, a user simply clicks on the New button and chooses the type of file to create, with an option to load a template for many of the file types. Documents can be arranged in folders, and you have complete control over how the file is shared (read-only, password-protected, or completely private), whether others can edit the file, and with whom it's shared. Users can also add even non-Google Drive files to the free 15GB cloud storage, and they automatically sync to any device with the Google Drive application installed (iOS, Android, Chrome, desktop).

Once you've created a file and shared it, all users with access can see when other users are in the file, and you can witness edits or additions that they make in real time. File organization is as easy as drag and drop, and you can also add a star to files to make them easier to find. There's an optional Quick Access area at the top of the home screen to make it easier to find documents you've worked on recently. Additionally, you can sync files or entire folders located on your main computer to Google Drive if you install Backup and Sync. There's a lot to Google Drive, but the ubiquitous help options are there to guide you if you get lost. Google Drive also works well with many accessibility tools.

The office apps alone make Google Drive a fantastic free tool for your students to complete and collaborate on assignments. It's an easy way for them to learn how to use word processors, spreadsheets, presentation software, and more, preparing them for real-world job experiences. Most functions are pretty intuitive, but the help area provides lots of advice when needed.

Additionally, Google Drive includes other applications, such as Google Forms, Drawings, My Maps, Sites, and other Google and third-party apps. The open-ended nature of this tool allows students to use it as they want or need to, and allows teachers to use it in any school subject for any number of assignments and projects. The collaboration feature is one of the most useful and important, as it makes something that's difficult in other applications easy. Some drawbacks of Google Drive include confusing group folder sharing and the lack of a sign-in/sign-out feature for multiple users sharing a device.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

It's not the type of website that's fun, exactly, but the clean, colorful interface makes creating, collaborating, and organizing fast and easy. Productivity takes the lead as synced files and projects can be accessed on any device.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

While this versatile tool itself doesn't teach much, it sets a backdrop of productivity, collaboration, and easy access to materials. It's an ideal setting for student assignment submissions, group projects, and teacher feedback.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Google is well-known for the huge quantity and high quality of its support materials, and Drive is no exception. Help options abound, and there's also an active community of users.


Teacher Reviews

(See all 171 reviews) (171 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Jeremy B. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Thomas M. Ryan Intermediate School
Richland, United States
The All In One Tool-Google Drive Does It ALL!
Our students live in the Google Drive world. Everything they create is stored, shared, and collaborated on from Drive. It plays perfectly with applications like Google Classroom and other LMS type tools. It is free to use and 100% web based so it is accessible anywhere students have web access. The only downside is the lack of internet in some homes as web access is required.
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