Posted by: Staff | 05.06.2010

Gmail and Google Docs: A Blessing with Obstacles


The new laptop requirement at the start of this year came Beaver’s new way of communication: Gmail. Along with every student and faculty member’s Beaver Gmail account comes a Start Page, similar to a Google Search engine and features extras like Calender (which teachers can edit to show upcoming tests and projects). The start page also features Google Chat, which is a messaging system similar to aim. The feature that most students and teachers use this year is Google Docs. Google Docs is a place to write documents, make spreadsheets, and slide show presentations, but is attached to your individual Gmail account so it can be accessed from any computer.
It was somewhat difficult to use Google Docs after using Microsoft Word for several years. The programs are very different. With some getting used to, it is manageable. It is true that there are many great features to using Google Docs, but there are sometimes complications while using it. Google Docs as a whole can sometimes go down when large amount of people are accessing the program at once. There have been a few times when I have been in class and not been able to save edits on a partners essay because of this problem.

Google Docs is a brand new type of teacher-student communication. For example, it is easy to collaborate with others, you simply “Share” your document with the other people in the Beaver community and they can instantly edit it. More than one person can edit at the same time so even when every member of a group is at home they can work together. Dean of Students Tom Manning explains how this system helps students greatly, “My favorite thing is that if you use Google docs for your assignments if your computer breaks, or you lose it, you can get your assignment from any computer. That’s the beauty of it.”
While all of this is great, there are problems with Google Docs. Overall it is very difficult to use. It is hard to change the paragraph spacing or see how long your document is without going to the “print preview” section. Many times I have copied my work into Microsoft Word to see how many pages it is. Upper School English teacher Sarah Akhtar says, “I think it’s a great program for instant collaboration, and I enjoy using the revision history option to track students’ changes. However, I wish it had more of the capabilities that MS Word has, particularly for inserting comments and tracking changes. ” Another problem is that it is near impossible to transfer work from Microsoft Word to Google Docs. There is always a change in font, font size, and the arrangement of the document.
I believe that the ideas behind the system were well thought out, though as always there is room for improvement. Additionally, we all are teenagers using laptops, it is beneficial that if something were to happen to one no notes and essays would be lost. While Google Docs is a good way to communicate it has many flaws that the BCDS community will have to face. I do think that over time teachers will be able to have their students use Google Docs to their advantages without completely relying on them. After all, what ever happened to taking notes with a pen and paper?



  1. I think that Google Docs is a good idea, but it is very disorganized and unreliable. It is a good thing to use for editing in groups, but it is very inconsistent. We need to find another type of software like this that is better to use.

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