I am always coming across new web tools that help me in my life or in my classroom. With so many web tools popping up all the time, it is difficult to find time to evaluate all of them. In most cases, I will experiment with a new tool and drop it right away. However, every once in a while a tool comes out that makes a significant impact on how I “do things” because it allows me to do something entirely new, or make something I already do faster and easier. This year I have fallen in love with Google Cloud Connect.
Here’s the situation – I am constantly updating my teaching resources: I create new assignments, I update rubrics, I tweak my templates, I redesign my presentations, I change my writing style. Even when I assign my students an assignment that I developed last year, I always take the time to modify it. Does it need a picture? Is the question confusing? What did students get stuck on? Is the document well laid out?
The reason that “tweaking” is a problem, is that it becomes very difficult to keep my class website updated with the latest versions of each document. Many times, I have made significant changes to an assignment but forgotten to update the web version. This can lead to a major problem when I have some students who lose their assignment sheet and decide to work from the web version of the document, not realizing that the assignment has changed. Google Cloud Connect is the perfect solution to this problem.
Here’s how it works: Google Cloud Connect is an add-on for Microsoft Office. Once installed, it uploads every document you open (automatically or manually) into your Google Docs web archive and keeps the changes you make in sync with the web version. More importantly, as soon as the document is uploaded, Cloud Connect creates a unique URL for accessing the document online. By default, all documents are available only to you when you log into Google Docs, however you can also change the sharing permissions on the document right from inside Microsoft Office.
This service has been a huge time saver for me. From now on, when I update my class website, I create links to the web version of each document stored in my Google Docs account rather than uploading the file to my server space. Now, every single time I make a change to one of my assignments, the change is immediately synchronized with the web version, so my website is always up to date with the latest version of a document. No more uploading – It’s automatic!
This service has also come in handy many time for sharing files with other people. Often other teachers ask to have a copy of something I have created. In the past, I would have to attach the file to an email, which can be very slow for large presentations with lots of images. Now, I can simply share the link to the file in an email message.
Cloud Connect has also allowed me to do more marking of student work digitally. For example, I can open a rubric file, fill it out, save it with a unique name, and email the link to a student without having to mess around with attachments.
Finally, Cloud Connect simply backs up every document I start working on so I never have to worry about losing my work.
As a Google Docs user I have considered transitioning away from Microsoft Office entirely. I do love Google Docs, and it has a place in my life/classroom, but I am not yet ready to abandon Word and PowerPoint altogether just yet. The reality is that I am a master at word processing and formatting, and there is a lot that I can do in Word that I cannot yet do in Google Docs. For now, Cloud Connect acts as a perfect bridge between Microsoft Office and Google Docs.