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Home > General Science and Teaching > Digital Assignments and Drop Boxes
by Sandy Gady, Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:18 PM
I recently attended the Northwest Council for Computer Education, NCCE, Conference and as always came away with enough new ideas to last the entire year. One of my favorite presenters, Tammy Worcester presented on an idea I had been toying with for close to a year. Her website is full of wonderful ideas, http://www.tammyworcester.com/Tips/Tammys_Technology_Tips_for_Teachers.html One of the best parts is you can sign up to be on her mailing list for tips of the week that come in handy – a lot. She is also incredibly personable and responds to emails quickly.

Google Apps and Google Docs have pretty much dominated the discussion when it comes to digital assignments for the past couple of years. I was fascinated with the concept of creating an assignment dropbox that could be used over and over again to turn assignments in. For instructions on how to create a dropbox, Tammy’s tip of the Week 111 takes you through the steps, http://www.tammyworcester.com/TipOfWeek/TammyWTechTipOfWeek/...opbox.html The dropbox works well, but the one question I have for everyone else is, the dropbox works great for receiving the assignment, but I’m wondering if anyone has found a really good way to provide feedback to students on their work and get it back to them. What I am looking for is some way to avoid having to send everything back using individual emails that I have to type in 140 plus of to make it work.

Any thoughts? By the way, if you ever get the opportunity to hear Tammy in person, take it. You won’t regret it.
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by Ellena Bethea, Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:03 AM
I use shared collections in Google Docs as a drop box. I (or students) create a collection (folder) that they share with me. Anything that they place in that collection is visible to me. I can provide feedback directly on the document via comments, and students can respond as well.This is the only efficient way I've found to manage paperless submission and feedback.

http://googledocs.msbethea.com/basics/creating-shared-collections
by Caroline Encomienda, Fri Apr 06, 2012 5:45 PM
I am a new user of Google Docs and tried it with my classes this year with the help of a colleague and our technical person. I created several collections’ folders to serve as a drop box for student work. I utilized Google Forms as a QA/Survey type form and added it into Google Sites then embed all these into a webpage on our school website. I found it efficient and manageable in collecting student work and giving feedback but would definitely like to organize the collection process. I felt that I needed guidelines in order to adapt these tools in my teaching.

Thank you Sandy and Ellena for posting and sharing these info. I will continuously access these suggested sites and sign up on Tammy Worcester’s mailing list. By the way, I already visited Tammy’s Tip 111 – Using Google Form as an Assignment Drop Box and I really like this idea. I wonder if I could add a field for students to upload their paper or file. I also like the idea of having a “view only” to all members’ page or folder from Ellena's Google Docs in Chemistry Basics.

Sandy, our tech person created one email address for every class. Thus, whenever I had to send feedback or email a class or two, all I have to type is the email address for a specific class and not all of their individual emails which saves time. It works well except for one class that always bounces back an error message. We are still trying to solve this problem. I am not sure though how our tech person created those class emails.
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by Maria Nogueron, Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:12 PM
I have a naive question, how does the new Google use of individuals information affect the use of Google docs with students? Do I have the right question or am I completely out of touch. I do not use Google docs, Facebooks, Tweets, etc. so please forget if I am off.
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by Rena Roybal, Mon Apr 09, 2012 1:05 AM
Thank you, Sandy, for posting this website. I am a Tech Coordinator and am always looking for ideas. To be honest, I've been reluctant to dive into Google Docs and have not had any experience with it in my own elementary grade level classes. I know that there are teachers at our school that are using it within their grade level but not with the students. I wanted to find out if anyone else has used it with upper elementary school students (4th & 5th) and what their experiences were. Also, were there any privacy issues?

Also, are there other similar programs that teachers are using that provide similar or better controls for the teachers. This would be a wonderful resource for working and collaborating on science projects throughout the year.
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by Jennifer Rahn, Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:46 PM
Sandy,

Obviously, Google is providing a free service, and one of the ways they afford to do that is to collect and sell information about its subscribers, which it does quite expertly. Most of the information they currently gather is through GMail, which provides a steady stream of email that is scanned for keywords. Google then distributes targeted advertising according to what they think your interests are.

Private companies use Google apps to share data and provide computing services. In order to limit access to the data, and restrict interaction with outsiders, commercial ventures often will choose a private cloud model which is more secure.

Unless there is highly sensitive content saved in the Google Docs database, I think the risk is pretty small of hacking from outsiders. At this time, the use of targeted advertising is very limited in both the calendar and docs. It is easy to set up a folder for each student that is restricted to the teacher and student. Individual documents or folders can be restricted reliably by email (account) address. Once set up, the student does not even need to access email, but each student must have a Google account.

One of the great things about Google Docs is that it is accessible from a variety of platforms, in contrast to Microsoft's offerings. Apps are available for both the iPad and Android devices that allow those devices to modify documents stored in the Google Docs database.

I am currently using Google Docs to share content among teachers. I find it exciting that you are thinking about using an electronic dropbox. I think it will be a while before schools in this area would be comfortable with such a plan, because there is a large percentage of students without computer access. As more of them have phones with data plans though, it is more realistic that some of those students will have access away from school. It also has great features for document collaboration.

Unless the information stored in the database is extremely sensitive, I would not worry about the security of Google Docs. Just understand that it is a free service, and there will be trade-offs. Greater security is expensive, and until school find themselves awash in cash, Google has a wealth of tools with adequate security.
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by Maria Nogueron, Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:06 PM
Thank you for the information. I will dfinite give it a try.
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by Sandy Gady, Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:22 PM

I love Google Forms and Spreadsheets. There seems to be so many uses for this tool. I should have said I teach middle school and have found this to be an exceptional tool with few limitations.

Caroline, what a great idea to have a class email address. Does that mean every student would be able to see the feedback for every other student?

Rena, so far we haven’t had any privacy issues because only I could see all of the students’ work or feedback. It is set up as a closed site on to the extent that you would have to know the tinyurl to access my dropbox. I am the only person that can see all of the student work. Students however could share their own work back forth several ways either in Google Docs or by sharing the tinyurl. The advantage of sharing within Google docs is students can edit each other’s work, where within tinyrul they can only view it.

I have a tablet computer that allows me to write on documents electronically, but I am still in the “playing around” stage to see if I can write on their tinyurl, save it and send it back. I suspect that may be a summer project.

Thank you Jennifer for the insight on Google docs and how you have used it in collaboration amongst peers. I love how well the dropbox worked within Google Forms. I have yet to use the actual application "Dropbox", though I have downloaded it. Again, probably a summer project.

I am still trying to figure out what the difference is between Google Docs and Google Apps.

I would love to hear how others are using these or similar tools. I have a feeling there are other applications out there we have yet to discover.
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by Sandy Gady, Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:23 PM

I love Google Forms and Spreadsheets. There seems to be so many uses for this tool. I should have said I teach middle school and have found this to be an exceptional tool with few limitations.

Caroline, what a great idea to have a class email address. Does that mean every student would be able to see the feedback for every other student?

Rena, so far we haven’t had any privacy issues because only I could see all of the students’ work or feedback. It is set up as a closed site on to the extent that you would have to know the tinyurl to access my dropbox. I am the only person that can see all of the student work. Students however could share their own work back forth several ways either in Google Docs or by sharing the tinyurl. The advantage of sharing within Google docs is students can edit each other’s work, where within tinyrul they can only view it.

I have a tablet computer that allows me to write on documents electronically, but I am still in the “playing around” stage to see if I can write on their tinyurl, save it and send it back. I suspect that may be a summer project.

Thank you Jennifer for the insight on Google docs and how you have used it in collaboration amongst peers. I love how well the dropbox worked within Google Forms. I have yet to use the actual application "Dropbox", though I have downloaded it. Again, probably a summer project.

I am still trying to figure out what the difference is between Google Docs and Google Apps.

I would love to hear how others are using these or similar tools. I have a feeling there are other applications out there we have yet to discover.
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by Adah Stock, Fri May 04, 2012 12:49 PM
Sandy:
What a great idea.
Adah
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by Patricia McGinnis, Sun May 06, 2012 3:49 PM
Hi Sandy,
Have you checked out Edmodo? You can upload assignments, have kids do the assignment, and then grade the assignment---no typing in emails. It might be easier than google docs.
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by Sandy Gady, Wed May 09, 2012 7:14 PM
Thanks Patty. I have heard of Edmodo, but have not yet used it. I am curious how it could be used as an assignment drop box. If anyone can provide some insight, I would be appreciative.
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by Patricia McGinnis, Sat May 19, 2012 11:15 AM
Hi Sandy,
Kids can email you directly in Edmodo and I believe that they can attach a file when they do so. Would that work for your needs?
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by Patricia Rourke, Tue May 29, 2012 8:40 PM
Patty, Edmondo seems like a neat resource. Please tell us how you are using it and what you consider to be the plusses and the minuses. What do the students have to say about using it?

Thanks a bunch for sharing....patty
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by Jennifer Rahn, Tue May 29, 2012 9:39 PM
I just got notice from Edmodo that they will begin to charge for access to their tools in the near term. Just an FYI - like all good (free) things, it wasn't a great business model.

My district is moving to a Google environment, including Docs (Drive in the future), Gmail, Calendar, and Sites. I have been impressed, and am working on some tools for my kids over the summer. Some of my colleagues are now using Docs as a dropbox and collaborative tool, so I will keep everyone updated as the experiment proceeds.
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by Sandy Gady, Thu May 31, 2012 7:53 PM
Jennifer, I would be interested to hear more on how you implement Google tools in your classroom. There are so many options to use and I find it difficult to decide where to begin.

The biggest drawback I’ve seen so far with the Google tools, aside from not being able to provide written feedback to students, was when students created something in Word, when they uploaded the document into the dropbox, some of the formatting was stripped away. For example, I had the kids create a 3 column document, and then upload it to my dropbox. All of the column work was messed up. I had the students create a tiny.url to submit their work, hoping that would preserve the integrity of the original document, but it didn’t.

There has to be a work around so the format would remain, I just haven’t found it yet. I am wondering if anyone else has found another way.
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by Jennifer Rahn, Thu May 31, 2012 11:26 PM
Sandy,
I have noticed the same problem with using Microsoft tools in the Google environment. I have notice a number of Google apps that will allow more editing of documents in Google, and better opportunities for collaboration. I noticed recently though with a spreadsheet that I received that it was not scalable, which is an important feature for me, as well as doing things like merging cells, etc. It also has been challenging to integrate material from spreadsheets into documents. Overall, if you are looking for top-notch desktop-publishing quality tools, they are not available in Google. Stick with Microsoft and work on the file on the desktop, then copy it back in. Not really collaborative. If more basic tools are acceptable for your needs, and formatting is not critical, Google may be a good alternative.

I think that functionality may well increase over time as third party vendors begin to supply apps for a variety of platforms. It is still a pretty new model.

I will keep you informed as the experiment unfolds over the next year.
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by Patricia McGinnis, Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:22 PM
Hi Patti,
I like to use Edmomdo as a way of communicating with my students (its Facebook-like platform make it very appealing for students). It is easy to set up groups in Edmodo so that students can interact and plan projects. I have also used occasionally to post assignments (which can get graded in edmodo). For teachers interested in learning more, edmodo is hosting summer training sessions (free). You can find information here: http://help.edmodo.com/webinars/
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by Bonnie Patterson, Mon Jun 04, 2012 10:43 AM
Our school is starting with edmodo and I am quite excited at using it. I'm going to spend some time this summer figuring it out. It sounds pretty cool! We use Stemscopes for science and I like to assign webquests for my students. I had problems, however with students who didn't finish at school and had no computer access at home. In essence, computer access. How are others solving this problem with online assignments?
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by Tina Harris, Mon Jun 04, 2012 6:36 PM
I have this problem in my district a lot. Fortunately our school has an "after-school bus" that leaves 1.5 hours after regular school for athletes, choir and school tutoring. So I stay after a couple nights a week to provide time for students to come in and complete homework like webquests. I have also scheduled "make up days" where students that completed a given assignment have an extension activity to work on while students who were not yet done have time to finish. I give students who finish the extension a "no homework pass" for use as needed and that seem to work, too.
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by Timothy Selgas, Fri Jun 15, 2012 12:46 PM
I use google docs for lots of great things such as: Contact information, documenting actual parent contact and result, attendance back up, discipline referrals / pink slips.

Teachers share this information too.
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by Patricia McGinnis, Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:51 PM
Hi Bonnie,
A couple alternatives for those students without computer access would be to have students go to the public library or to use a smart phone if someone at home has one.
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by Cheska Lorena, Thu Jul 05, 2012 7:01 PM
Thanks for sharing that link on Tammy's tech tips. Our school is Google-based, but with many students who do not have access to the Internet at home, I stayed away from using Google Docs and Dropbox this year. Tina, thanks for sharing your tips on how to get around that. Scheduling makeup days for webquests in the computer lab is definitely doable. I am hoping we acquire more iPads next year so we can do that in class too.

Question... when do you introduce students to Google Docs? Do you take time out during the first week of school to set up student accounts for various tools and apps? How do you get these things set up for the school year? We have no IT, so I'm curious about how to get this done myself for next year.

Cheska
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