Saturday, October 22, 2011

Share the File then the Link

While the default for most teachers is to use Microsoft Word or Libre Office for most of their document production, there are a lot of times when it is quicker and makes more sense to use Google Docs.  I will admit there are documents where Google Docs are not really up for the task, but for day to day use I prefer its ease of use and searching capabilities over Word or Libre Office.

In addition to the search capabilities, one thing I really enjoy with Google Docs is the privacy settings. This is much more productive than having all these attachments floating around the cloud. Google Docs shifts how you are used to interacting with documents. In Groupwise you typically would have attached a word file to another teacher or group without worrying about the permission of that file.   This may have worked ok in Groupwise, but becomes riskier in an always on, online environment.

Google Docs allows you to share files by controlling permissions.  The default for most shared files should be MMSD which will allow anyone signed into their district Gmail account to view. When you are in the document look next to the title, that is where it lists who the document is shared with. It should state Madison Metropolitan School District if it is shared district wide

Private is only viewable by you unless you have share it with other teachers. This is great for larger collaboration or for sharing it with a few people. For example, you write up a document for the K/1 Team, you can select members of your team so it is only editable or viewable by teachers. There is even a function where you can save those members as a group for future sharing. If you share the document as edit you are giving those members co-ownership of the files. Sharing the file as read only allows member to view it.

Here is a another scenario, you get an email from a member of the K/1 that is shared with all team members. You decide it is pertinent for the Speech Teacher, but after you forward the link she emails you she can't open it.  As the owner (created it) of the document you need to be aware that read means only those with permissions can read the document. This is great for confidential documents you would not want forwarded or shared with others. If, for example, you would like those who you've given permission to be able to give other teacher's access set it to edit. Edit allows those with permissions to edit, and share, but not delete the document.

Share the file, then the link. It is not a good practice to grab a Google Doc link and forward it on. The file could be accessible to a few people, a school, or district wide.  A better practice is to click on the link and open Google Docs and share it from there. For example, when I view the document in Google Docs I may find out I only have permission because I am on a tech committee and that permission is only to read the document. If I forward this on it will only be viewable by teachers on the tech committee.

Another advantage of sharing documents this way is attachments become a thing of the past.  After you share the document you can email the link, or simply remind the teacher you shared a document with them. Files that you share will show up in the Google Docs of the person you shared with. In this way Google Docs not only allows you to view the files you created but all the files you have access to. Email becomes a way to notify a particular person of a shared file, not to share the file itself. You no longer have to search your email for that attachment, just go to Google Docs and find it there.

One last point I will make is Google Docs, like Gmail itself, is a shift from finding to searching. The old way of document management was have folders, folders in folders to organize your documents and hopefully retrieve at a later date. Although when I use Google Docs I have various labels, they work best when I want to browse documents of a particular label such as Author Study. If I want to find a file search usually retrieves it in seconds.