Review by Paul Cancellieri, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2013

Google Drive

Nifty tool for collaboratively editing docs and syncing files across devices or online

Common Sense Says:
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Grades
9-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Great for:
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Pros: You get much of the functionality of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and it seamlessly keeps files in multiple locations.

Cons: Poses 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 than formatting, formulas, and animations, but Google Drive should perform most of the functions you and your students need. You get a word processor as well as spreadsheet and presentation tools. Add 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 MS 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.

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Originally called Google Docs, Google Drive is a combo online-productivity software suite and cloud-based, file-synchronizing service. Basically, it does everything and lets you put everything somewhere. Each student needs her own Google account to use Drive, which requires an email address. From there, a user simply clicks on the Create button and chooses the type of file to create. Documents can be arranged in folders, and you have complete control over how the file is shared (read-only, password-protected, or completely private) and with whom. The Upload button allows you to add files to the 5GB cloud storage (Google Docs don't count against this total), and they automatically sync to any device with the application installed (iOS, Android, Chrome, desktop).

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The office apps alone make Google Drive a fantastic free tool for your students to complete and collaborate on assignments. They won't exactly learn anything besides, perhaps, how to expertly use tools they may already be familiar with, but the tool will help streamline their learning on other topics. Most functions are pretty intuitive, but the help area provides lots of advice when needed. One big drawback for classrooms with multiple users sharing a device:  there's isn't a sign in/out feature. If students are using their own accounts, they'll need to add and then delete accounts each time they use and then stop using a device. Otherwise, every account that has accessed the device will be accessible by all subsequent users of the device.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
2
This isn't the type of website that's fun, exactly -- it's meant to increase productivity -- but live collaboration should be engaging for older students.
Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3
The tool itself doesn't teach much. But when it's used to electronically submit student assignments and help students work collaboratively in a classroom, it can become a highway to feedback and learning.
Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4
Google is well-known for the huge quantity and high quality of its support materials, and Drive is no exception. There's also an active community of users.

Common Sense Reviewer
Paul Cancellieri Classroom teacher

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