The Advantage of Google Docs in Education

It’s no secret that Google Docs has made teachers more effective at teaching writing. After making a full Google Docs integration this year in my history classroom, I will never go back. I require my students to write every paper in Google Docs. This way, I can help with the process and not just the finished product. In this post, I will talk about using Google Docs and the need for a chrome browser extension called WatchDoc that allows for the most efficient, effective teaching with Google Docs.


WatchDoc displays a notification in your chrome browser every time someone updates a Google Doc that you share. Thus, whenever a student is working on his essay, I can meet him in his document and see exactly how he is doing. Of course, this requires me to be in front of my computer, but, as someone who believes strongly in the importance of student writing, I would much rather help a student while he is writing than grade at a final product with major deficiencies.


By meeting students in their documents, I ensure that I see their work at least once before they turn it in. Therefore, if they are headed in the wrong direction, I can steer them in the right direction before the due date. In the end, when students turn in their papers, this process ensures that I receive better work, as I have already addressed any major problems. This form of feedback and collaboration is crucial, especially for the 21st century learner.


Collaboration is often considered a pivotal 21st century skill. With Google Docs, educators can easily place comments in the comments box and in the margins.  Both of these forms of comments are immediately emailed to collaborators. And, if another party is in the document, you can instant message them in the side bar. This way, the feedback is truly instant. Students can also reply to my comments and if so, I get an email notification. This makes the process of editing more of a discussion rather than a lecture.


In addition, with Google Docs, it’s easy for one student to share his or her work with another for peer editing.


Often, I will pair up students who are proving a similar thesis. Other times, I will pair up students based on ability. Peer editing with Google Docs allows me to watch the discussions that go on between students during the editing process. It’s hard to doubt the effectiveness of peer-to-peer discussion in learning–especially under the watchful eye of the teacher.


This process takes time to get used to and certainly requires extra time from the teacher, but Google Docs affords better feedback and better collaboration, which leads to better writing. My students have made leaps and bounds this year in their writing skills. Both the students and I love working in Google Docs, and with each additional essay assignment, they need fewer virtual meetings for assistance. Give it a shot; I think you too will love the results!


Please comment and let me know how you use Google Docs. Check out what my colleague, Morgan Harris is doing with Google Docs here.

Nate Green

Nate Green


Nate Green (@mrshakedown) says: I teach, I coach, I lead. I enjoy technology, politics, sports and most of all, learning.

  • Bronwen Narsiman

    Hi Nate, Thanks so much for sharing your story re google docs. I teach at an International School in Kuala Lumpur where google apps ( Sites, docs, etc) were introduced about two years ago, for me this has been life changer. I teach 6th grade humanities, although we use a myriad of tech tools daily, google docs for collaboration, comments and feedback is phenomenal. 
    One of my teaching goals a year ago was to improve the quality of my feedback – google docs has allowed me to do this so easily!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Bron Narsiman

  • Maureen Devlin

    I agree. My 4th grade students use Google docs for just about all writing.  I didn’t know about WatchDoc.  I’m looking forward to using it.  Some ways that we are using Google Aps and Docs: Collaborative writing/research projects, making tables for math, science and other subjects, writing letters using Google draw to insert word art and images, and for anchor charts–I keep class notes/info on Google doc and portray on board.  Students can add and refer to this at home or in school easily.  

  • Thanks for the great ideas, Nate.  My students work in pairs or triads and I recommend they use Google docs for collaborative writing.  I’ll add the recommendation to use WatchDoc.
    Thanks for posting,

  • DS

    This is awesome. They have helped our class and my personal writing a lot I think. Thanks Mr. Green!!

  • kevin smith

    Wow, Google Docs is a great tool to use and you really hid the nail on the head on this article. Great Work!

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  • Morgan Harris

    One of my favorite ways to use Google Docs in the classroom:

  • Nolan Callahan

    Google Docs has always pulled through when I’ve needed it most, and it’s been an essential tool for me in the classroom; especially when collaborating with classmates. Awesome article.

  • DS

    These have helped my essay writing so much! thanks Mr. Green. Best teacher ever! yea buddy.

  • I use Google Docs also to maintain an ongoing assessment sheet of students’ projects. The Doc is shared with the student and me. This way, we both have a complete log of how the student is progressing, and we can both add comments to the assessment Doc. Overall, I am a huge fan of Google Docs. Also like it for classes to collaboratively work on a set of notes or to plan a project. The concept enables and empowers learning to occur in new ways not possible without the technology. I like the idea of WatchDog, but am already a 24/7 person, and wonder if I would just increase my multitasking to a point of depletion with that tool added. What do you think?

  • Kregan

    Hi! I have been using gdocs in my English class. Kids hand in hw or essays an they love getting the instant feedback. I also had them use it to collaborate on a research project. They shared articles, notes, and other info with each other. They now ask other teachers if they use gdocs. Oh they also love being able to use te mobile version on their devices, they aren’t necesarily tied to a desktop.

  • Interesting. Thanks for the feedback. That’s very self-aware. If you feel that your attention is already spread thinly, maybe WatchDoc isn’t for you. Regardless, you can easily give it a try, it’s free!

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