Use Google Docs to Make Homeschooling Cooler

My son Aengus loves a lot of techie things, but Google probably tops his list. His dream is to work there someday, but until then, he likes to stay on top of all their latest developments and explain it all to me. So, I cannot take credit for learning to use Google Documents – it was all his idea. It didn’t matter to me whether my kids wrote with a keyboard or a quill pen, I was always just happy to see some writing. But then Aengus tricked me into seeing the wonders of Google.

Here’s how it started. For the last year, Aengus has been “turning in” all of his writing assignments on Google Docs (short for “Documents”), which was working fine. But I didn’t really get it. For me, the only difference between Google Docs and emailing a copy was that the document was stored somewhere else in case your hard drive crashed. Recently however, Aengus needed to write an essay for a scholarship application, so he wrote it up on his laptop and called downstairs to ask me to take a look at it on Google Docs. I was already signed in to my gmail account so I switched over to Documents view and saw his essay there at the top of my list, already enabled to share with me. I started reading it and noticed an insistent message on the top right side of my screen: “Hi Mom.” “Oh – how cute,” I thought as I searched for a way to reply: “Hi Aengus.”

Then he wrote back, “What do you think? I’m still working on the last paragraph.”

I wrote: “What was the essay supposed to be about?”

He promptly copied/pasted the requirements into the message sidebar.

And so it went. I made a suggestion or asked questions, and he responded immediately. I could even see his cursor and the words being typed as he fixed things. The essay was taking shape right before my eyes.

Aha . . . that’s how to use Google docs. It’s collaborative! I get it now. And it doesn’t matter that he uses Windows and I have a Mac. We don’t have to use the same software for me to make edits.

Later, he showed me how I could have left comments at specific areas in the text if we weren’t chatting live, and how Google keeps a history of changes made to any document, and how cool it is that any number of people could see or edit documents without emailing it back and forth.

Now we even share a spreadsheet to track changes to another project we are working on. I’m asking my older son Jesse to move the science fiction novel he’s writing to Google docs so that he doesn’t have to email me the whole document when I ask to read it. It’s so cool!

I may be late to the game, but at least I got this far, and I plan to learn more. If you want to learn more too, here’s some quick videos to get you started:

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