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Google Docs offline is a big deal for students

favicon Google announced this week that Google Docs would now be accessible offline. In other words, you can now create and modify documents on a computer not connected to the Internet. When your access comes back, your documents are synced and updated.

This is a big deal for students. Here’s why:

1. It solves the problem of intermittent Internet access.
Many of my students have faulty Internet connections. Their service at home is spotty. Now they can keep working on their essays without fearing they’ll lose their work.

2. It really helps students with laptops.
Many of my students have a laptop as their primary computer, but it’s not always easy to find Internet access. Google Docs offline solves this problem. Now my students can just keep on working, wherever they are, and then sync back up once they have access.

Although Google Docs offline is wonderful, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it is computer-specific. This means that your documents are viewable to others sharing your computer. Second, it doesn’t work yet on spreadsheets and presentations. This capability, I’m sure, will come soon. Third, it works only with the Chrome browser. But that’s not a big deal.

Most important, Google Docs offline doesn’t solve the problem of students who have a desktop computer and no Internet access at all at home. Those students will still have to rely on their phones.

Still, it’s pretty amazing how quickly technology is trying to deal with the digital divide. Just five years ago at my school, we were still dealing with Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, and flash drive viruses. Those were not good times. Then came Google Apps, and since then, my students’ writing skills and confidence with technology have both improved.

Here’s more information about Google Docs offlinefavicon

2 comments

  1. Kevin Eagan

    I’ve always preferred using Google Docs for collaborative work. I attempted using it for revision exercises with my students last semester, but it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. But that was my fault–I didn’t prepare my students well for using the software, nor did I spend enough time emphasizing its value for the class.

    Anyway, now that Docs is offline completely, it makes teaching collaboration much easier. For my personal and professional writing, it lets me use Docs for drafts instead of Word. Docs still has limitations for complex documents, but for everyday use, it’s great. For collaborative work, it’s far superior to any other word processor I’ve used.

    Keep us posted on how this works out with your students!

  2. Mark Isero

    It took me several years to make Google Docs work in my classroom. It finally clicked this year because (1) I required my students to use it and to turn in their essays via Google Docs, (2) I assigned many essays, so students became comfortable with the interface over time.

    The best thing I did was set up individual shared folders per student. These folders were shared with me, their peer editor, and an online writing mentor. All the student had to do to begin collaboration was to drag her essay into her shared folder. It was much easier than requiring the student to share each essay one by one.

    Kevin, thank you for your comment, and if you use Google Docs again in your courses, please let me know how it works out for you and your students.

Please share your brilliant insights!