April 22, 2018

It has now been six years since I stumbled across Google Drive for the first time. And to say that it changed the way I use my computer is an understatement. But today I want to tell you about the most significant success story I experienced from using Drive. Leveraging the power of sharing files to save us time.

Four years ago I created a shared folder in Drive and shared it with the colleagues in our maths department. We use this as a shared space for all our resources. Anybody can add anything that they think is useful. Looking through our Maths-shared folder, I am in awe of what we managed to build up in a few short years. And then I am not even talking about the amount of time (and paper) we have saved over the years. But most important was that when I left the school at the end of last year, my colleagues did not lose access to all the resources I have created.

Do you have a shared folder yet?
No?
Well, what are you waiting for? Create one TODAY.

4 Reasons why you should have a shared folder or team drive for the teachers in your department

I’ll be honest when I say that I believe that it should be compulsory that there is a resource folder for every subject in the school, whether it is just a shared folder or a team drive. I will almost go as far as saying that it a malpractice not to have it.

Time saver – I cannot begin to explain how much time and paper we used to waste distributing the planning or worksheets within our department. We are quite a big department, so it really was a problem. Now we just upload it to the correct folder, and everybody has access to it immediately. When we started using Google Classroom and needed to scan things in, the time-wasting became even worse. Often 4 of us would scan the same notes/worksheet in or even worse create similar notes/worksheets. Now one person is responsible for scanning something in, and everybody has access.

Sharing of ideas – we all know that we benefit from being exposed to ideas. But in a weird way teaching is a very solitary profession. There is no time to sit in somebody else’s class and be inspired by how they are approaching a topic. Since we have created our shared folder, we have learned so much from each other. Instead of hoarding our lesson ideas, worksheets and classroom activities on our own computers we have now share and use each other’s ideas.

Institutional memory – We saw the biggest advantage to our shared folder when I left the school at the end of last year. Since I was the computer literate one in the department, I created the majority of digital resources. If it weren’t for our shared folder, my colleagues would have lost access to all those resources when I left.

New teachers – As much as it made it easier for me to leave, our shared folder also made life so much easier for my replacement. All we had to do was give her access to the folder and immediately she had access to all the planning and a plethora of resources. This is especially important if you are the only teacher in a subject or a first-time teacher.

Tips and Tricks for a shared folder.

  • Don’t expect to do it all in one go. It took us more than two years to get most of our resources digitized.
  • Don’t dump everything you have on your computer into this folder. Nobody cares if your files are a mess on your own computer, but this is a shared space, so keep it neat and clean.
  • Have a naming convention. Nothing waste as much time as having to open five files named worksheet to find the one you are looking for. TIPS FOR NAMING YOUR GOOGLE DRIVE FILES 
  • Do not make the whole folder one person’s responsibility; everybody needs to pitch in. If you create something or scan it in, you file it in the right folder. We found that it worked very well to make one person responsible for each grade. So while everybody added whatever they could, that person is responsible for keeping it neat and to fill in gaps if there are any.
  • The one risk of a shared folder is that you lose control of your files. This is normally not a problem except when it comes to tests. We made a rule that when you set a test or exam, you do not add it to the shared folder until it has been written. We had one close call when one of my colleagues wanted to share last year’s exam paper with her class for revision and only realised at the last minute that she had attached this year’s paper.
  • At least once a year I would download the whole drive to an external hard-drive as back-up. I do not trust the cloud; you can read here of the near disaster we had when I tried to create a Team Drive.
  • Always number files and folders  Grade 09 instead of Grade 9 that way the files will be displayed in the correct order.

Folder Structures

Start by creating a basic structure. That way teachers are discouraged to just dump their files anywhere. Folder structures are fairly personal, so here you might have to compromise and decide on a system that works for everybody.
In a high school, it would make sense to create a folder for each grade, in primary school, it will probably make more sense to create one folder for each subject. Always create a general folder as well where you can store things that do not fit into a specific category or more important something that can fit in more than one category.

We use two basic folder structures, depending on who was in charge of the folder when it was created.
In the first case, there is a subfolder for each topic, and it will contain anything about that topic, including notes, worksheets, tasks and lesson plans.
The second version has folders for each type of file, and within those folders, you will find the different topics.
Option 1 makes the most sense in my mind, but both of them work well.

Team Drives or Shared folders?

We started with just sharing a regular folder in Google Drive with all the teachers in the department. But Google now offers an alternative called team drives. It doesn’t really matter whether you use a team drive or a shared folder, except when it comes to two things.

  • When you add something to a team drive the document belongs to the team, not the person. Should a teacher leave the school, everything in their personal Drive will be deleted with them, but anything they added to the team drive will stay. This is a HUGE advantage of using team drives.
  • Team Drives still have some offline problems, once Google File Stream is fully functional, this should not be an issue anymore. So if your teachers often work offline you might consider rather using a regular folder, otherwise, team drives are the way to go.

The future of Google Drive – Does Google File Stream work?

Upgrading from Google Drive Sync to Google File Stream.

So what are you still doing here? Go and create that Team Drive and start creating your own Resource Library.

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