PLC Resources. You want your staff and team members to have them, copy them, edit them, and share them. Team Drives seems to be the perfect solution, and in many ways, it is. BUT I would take a look at Google Classroom as a really efficient alternative.
First, Team Drives are a great way to "house" documents that belong to everyone. Every document in there is accessible by everyone, and although users' permissions to those documents may vary, everyone can see everything. Here are some pros and cons of Team Drives according to teachers:
*Thank you to Jordan O'Donnell, Mattie Walton, Shaundel Krumheuer, and Linda Horst for their contributions to this post!
The biggest "hang-up" seems to be with the editing and sharing capabilities when people are not clear on how to use the resources held in Team Drives. Google Classroom's ease of use, delivery, copying, sharing, and housing of resources might be the perfect alternative.
Creating a post in Google Classroom is as easy as clicking on the plus sign in the bottom right corner. As the teacher in a Classroom environment, you have 4 options for posting. You can:
When you simply want to share information, or even resources, an announcement is the perfect means of delivery.
In this example, I not only attached a link, but I also included the shortened URL in the informational text part of the announcement so that users would be able to copy and paste it or even make a note of it for later. They can always come back to the Classroom to access this link, but seeing the shortened URL (especially if it is memorable) will allow users to access it without going through that step in the future.
Assignments are most useful when you want to require some sort of action on the resources you share. For example, if you want to share your building's PLC planning sheet with staff members (aka the "students" in this scenario) and not only make sure that everyone gets a copy but that they also compete and submit it to you for review, create an assignment. You can pull your template right out of your own Drive, and Classroom will generate a brand new copy for users (retaining the integrity of your original document).
In my example above, I elected to make a copy of this template for each class member. Besides being an easy way to force a copy, the bonus of this method is that Google will automatically name the students' newly created documents for them according to your naming scheme; their names will be appended on whatever title you give the file. For example:
Whether you decide to request "students" to actually turn in these assignments or not is completely optional; the second they click on the link to OPEN the assignment, this document is not only created and named, but it is also filed away in a Google Drive folder that is automatically created when you make the assignment. This makes them incredibly easy to find and manage.
Students can also post and create their own content (without using a template from you). For PLCs, this is useful when teachers need to share files or documents they create in their PLC meetings (posters with group norms, graphs from data collection, etc).
Finding and managing files
There are several ways to find the files that students add to Google Classroom. It's useful to know that the instant you create a Classroom environment, Google automatically establishes a folder in your Drive that will collect everything from that class. In fact, the second you initiate Google Classroom, whether as a teacher or as a student, a folder is created for you! Aptly enough, this folder is called "Classroom," and it can be found in the top level of your Drive (the first group of folders you see when you click on your Drive).
You can also find and access this folder right from Google Classroom itself. When you click on the About menu/tab at the top of the class, you will see a link to the Drive folder on the left side of the screen:
Regardless of how you choose to navigate to the folder, it's going to be what's inside that matters. For every assignment you create, Google will again automatically create a sub-folder within that class folder, named with the same title you give the assignment. So for each assignment you create, you will get a brand new sub-folder, which will contain all of the work your students turn in. If you create the template, they won't even have to actually click "Turn in" for you to see it; the instant they click on that assignment, their document will be created inside this folder. For an open-ended assignment you create that does not have a template (ex: "Submit your group norms;" groups may elect to create a poster on Canva, a Google Doc with a bulleted list, or even a presentation in Slides), class members will have to actually "Turn in" their creation or attachment in order for it to appear in the folder.
Accessing student work
Another really easy way to see these documents is to simply go to the assignment itself. Clicking on the title of the assignment in your Classroom Stream will pull up every student's work; you can access those documents by clicking on any of them in the Student Work "tab":
**NOTE: When you open these documents in this environment, remember that you are opening the "students'" actual work! If they are working on it at the same moment you open it, you will see them working live . . . and they will see you visiting! Take a moment to comment or give some feedback while you're there!
The last critical thing for you to know is that once a class participant clicks "Turn in" on an assignment, Google transfers ownership of that file over to you, the teacher. There are useful reasons for this, but the problem is that the submitter (student) no longer has editing rights to his/her own document. This can be easily remedied if he/she simply clicks "unsubmit" on the assignment (you will still be able to see it, and it will still be in the folder), OR if you select his/her name (see the image above) in that assignment and return it.
With its ease of use, efficiency of access to files (by teachers and "students"), and ability to do so much more than just file sharing, my opinion today is that Google Classroom would definitely be a front-runner in its "in-Ann's-imagination" competition against Team Drives . . . for now.
In larger districts like the one where I work, keeping track of shared documents can not only be confusing, but also problematic if an owner leaves or even simply moves or deletes a document. Team Drives, first introduced in March of 2017, help groups manage access to documents that are important to whole teams of users. Where an individual's Google Drive is solely managed by a user, and all of the documents created and stored there can be given permissions determined by that user, Team Drives make it easy for anyone in the team to manage access to files. Every member of the team has set permissions based on who needs to edit, comment, view, reorganize or even remove files.
It's important to note that, by default, all members within a Team Drive can automatically see ALL of the same files, regardless of who adds or reorganizes them. This can be extremely helpful when trying to "efficify" shared documents, but could also prove to be problematic when the wrong documents are shared. Documents containing student data or sensitive information should NOTE be stored in Team Drives (or anywhere in Google, actually . . . ).
The most critical difference between Drive and Team Drives is that, unlike files in a user's own Google Drive, files in Team Drive belong to everyone in the team instead of a single individual. This is great for documentation of critical pieces of workflow, especially if members of the team ever leave. When created or moved to Team Drives, files stay there so that the team can continue to share information and documents.
Once the Team Drive is established, anyone with "Full access" can manage the other team members and their privileges within the Drive. If it is not essential for a user to be able to edit files, for example, his or her permissions can be changed to "View access" only. This would be useful if there is concern that someone might be able to modify or edit an important template, for example.
One final observation about Team Drives, and something to consider when and if you decide to implement them. If you create or are a member of more than one Team, and you wish to move files between Drives, you must have "Full access" privileges to the original Team Drive and at least have "edit" access to the destination Drive. The only to move a file if someone else is the owner is to ask them to do it for you.
The moral of the story is to give some careful consideration as to what you will store in Team Drives, and who will have what kind of access to it . . . all of it. Remember: everything in the Team Drive belongs to the Team.
You have created a digital work of art that you want to share with people, but you don't like the clutter of a long URL . . . like the ones generated by Google documents. Here are a few options to shorten those up and deliver them to your students or colleagues in an efficient way.
In my previous post, I shared two ways to "force" a user to make a copy of a document without allowing them to edit or modify yours. This is a perfect place to employ these URL shorteners.
If you have a loooooooooong URL, like this one:
and you want to share it with people in an easy-to-write-on-the-board or tell-in-a-quick-conversation manner, simply navigate to one of the tools above, paste in the long URL, and click the button to shorten it. As you can see in the chart, some of the options are preferable over others because they are customizable when you have an account. My personal favorite it bitly, not only because the name itself is short, but also because I can give a custom name to my shortened URL that will be meaningful to my recipients.
Adding either the goo.gl or bit.ly Chrome Extensions adds an extra layer of ease because you simply navigate to the page you want to shorten, click on the extension's favicon, and DONE. Here is a demo of the bitly extension, applied to a document template (forced copy), from start to finish:
**You'll need to sign up for an account on bitly in order to customize your URLs.
Once you have shortened the URL, you can share the new link with anyone, anywhere; email, social media, website, notecard, whiteboard, word-of-mouth . . .
You have a presentation or a spreadsheet or some other Google thing (which I shall henceforth refer to as a document for ease of reference). You want others to have your document, too. BUT you don't want them to be able to edit yours. Is there a way to "force" them to make a copy of their own? Why yes . . . there is! In fact, there are a couple of ways!
With either method, the first thing you will need to do is to access the sharing settings by clicking on the blue Share button in the top right corner of your document. When the window opens, click on the tiny word "Advanced" near the bottom of that box:
In the new window, you will have the ability to adjust the who and the what by clicking on the permissions and the access level options. In order to share this copyable document, the permissions will need to be set to at least the level of the people you want to make the copy. If this will only be shared within your domain (ie... the teachers in your district), then selecting "On - Anyone at your domain with the link" will be sufficient; I typically choose a level or two up because I may want someone outside of my domain (ie... students!) to be able to have the copy, too. Once you have chosen who has access, then you will decide what they can do with that link. Since you are going to have them make a copy anyway, the access level "Can view" is sufficient.
Once the permissions and access level have been selected, click "Save." In the final window, you will see that the sharing link is now accessible, and probably even hi-lighted for you. Simply click on that link (be sure the whole thing is hi-lighted, and then COPY it by using a keyboard shortcut, by right-clicking, or by using the Edit menu. Once it is copied, simply click the blue "Done" button.
Forcing a copy: Method 1
Once you have copied that link, you will open a new tab and paste it into the Omnibox. BEFORE HITTING ENTER/RETURN, you are going to tweak the URL as follows:
In a nutshell, change "edit" to "copy" and get rid of everything else to the right. Hit ENTER/RETURN and you will then be directed to a page that looks like this:
Users will click the blue "Make a copy button," which will be theirs to edit as they wish. All you need to do is to get them that newly modified URL.
Forcing a copy: Method 2
This method is similar except for a few things. Most notably, the screen where they are taken when clicking on your link will give them a preview of the document they are about to copy. In addition, their new copy will retain the name you originally gave it, instead of "Copy of . . ."
Again, once you have copied the sharable link in your document from the steps above, you will open a new tab and paste it into the Omnibox. BEFORE HITTING ENTER/RETURN, you are going to tweak the URL, but this time, like this:
With this method, by changing "edit" to "template/copy" and getting rid of everything else to the right, recipients will then be directed to a page that looks like this:
Not only do they actually get to visualize what it is they'll be copying, but by clicking on "USE TEMPLATE," recipients will now have a document of their very own, with your original title, to edit to their hearts' desire.
The next post will walk you through methods to deliver those new URLs to your recipients.
If you wish to manage people and their documents in Google, Classroom is the perfect tool! Setting up a new class is quick and easy.
The first thing you will need to do is navigate to Classroom. While there are variety of ways to do this, I find that the easiest is to simply type in the direct URL:
Once you are there, just click the star inside the Omnibox (in Chrome) to bookmark it. This will make getting there quick and easy in the future.
If you are new to Classroom, you will need to indicate how you will be using the product; if you are reading these instructions, then most likely you will select "Teacher." This setting will allow you to join and create classes. If you will be using this with your students (actual children, and not teachers who will be in your class as students), it is important that they select "Student" here. If you accidentally select the wrong role, simply send an email to your Google Administrator, and they can easily reset it for you.
Once you have indicated your intentions as a user, you are now ready to begin setting up your Classroom "environments." This is as easy as clicking on the + symbol in the upper right-hand corner of the page.
You are now ready to begin posting and sharing!