When you think about what Google is doing with their cloud services, it might be one of the most exciting things in technology, and it has a dramatic effect on what schools can use those services for. There are not many companies in the world that would open up their services to outside developers to add extended features. Google does it in almost everything. Chrome can still have apps even though they are a little harder to get, and it can also have extensions that extend its capability. Nearly all of their native Drive apps (Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides) can have add-ons to make them just that one step better.
In today’s post, we are going to discuss the most widely used of those add-ons because I would argue its the most commonly used of Google’s Cloud apps. Let’s talk about Google Docs Add-Ons! You can find my favorite five below, but I think it’s essential to cover where to find them first. You may be reading and saying that’s a no-brainer, but there are always some who may still need it.
Add-onsns aren't a hard thing to find. In the menu bar at the top of every document, there is a menu that says add-ons. Click that and then click get add-ons to access a whole app store of extra capabilities. When you add them, they will then show up in that same add-on menu for use when you need them. The vast majority of them bring up an extra toolbar on the right side of a doc to give you added capability, but that depends on what that add-ons intended function is.
My five favorite add-ons include
Joe Zoo Express:
Rubrics and feedback can be a hard thing to get right. In the end, anything that requires a rubric also requires a subjective assessment. There is no getting around a teacher having to add personalized feedback to it. To do so, you need a tool that simplifies and streamlines both the process and workflow. That’s where Joe Zoo Express can help
Joe Zoo is an all in one feedback add-on for Google Docs that gives you many of the capabilities you need to provide positive feedback to students. To start, it has a rubric builder that is quick and easy. You build a rubric within their web portal, and the add-on allows you to insert that saved rubric and use it. You can also add comments and see insights. It indeed gives you a great feedback option.
Another feedback tool that gives you options. The idea is that you can record audio feedback that you can then add to a student's Google Doc. If you have ever had the text you have written lost in translation, you know this tool is excellent. The add-on simple lets you highlight text within the Google Doc and record your voice. The students can then see and click on those audio files as they open their document. You can then save that comment to reuse it on other students work.
This way of commenting has to advantages. To start, students can hear things like the tone in their feedback. This gives them an added layer of insight that allows them to improve their writing. It also can be a bit quicker than typing. Just highlight and speak, and you can add those comments to the doc!
Google actually offers Google translate as an add-on directly in Docs. From a teaching standpoint, this is incredibly helpful. If you have have been teaching long enough, you have had a student in your class where a language gap between you and those individual students can impede their learning. It’s no fault of either person, but the reality is that it makes the situation tough.
What if you could have that person write in their native language, and then you could translate it in docs? Translate allows you to both embrace their native language as they learn the countries language of choice, and it could even give you a place to allow students to comment and explain things in their native language that they may not be able to find just the right words for. While most people see the value in learning the language of choice within a country, they are living, having the option of a native tongue provides both comfort and understanding. Tha’s exactly what we want kids to have. We want them to be comfortable in our classroom, and we want them to understand what they are trying to learn.
Docs to Form
This is one that I think on the surface doesn't look that helpful, but when you drill it down to the assessment level, you realize that it can be incredibly beneficial. Most teachers operate from a standpoint where they have content specific notes and notebooks somewhere. They also have to give assessments which can be done effectively in Google Forms. This add-on makes the process of going from one to the other reasonably straightforward.
When you start the add-on, it pops a menu on the right-hand side of the screen that lets you build forms directly from the information you have in Docs. You still have to copy and paste stuff from Docs to the add-on, but having the add-on means I don’t have to have a whole other browser window open. It allows me to copy content directly from my notes into an assessment format within Google Forms, and anything that makes my life easier is an incredible tool for me.
GradeProof: Proofreading with AI
This is the one that I think is a bit off the wall, and to get the full value it does cost a bit. If your teaching writing or writing on a regular basis, it may be worth it though. The primary function of GradeProof is to proofread things within your Google Doc. It also checks plagiarism in the premium version which may be of incredible use to teachers who are having students write on a regular basis.
The program works by using AI to check what is in your paper. It checks everything from spelling, to grammar, to phrasing, to eloquence, to in-depth analytics about what the document contains. It can give both a teacher and incredible student insight on how to improve their writing. The price could be a little restrictive for some (it’s $120 a year), but its one of those things which I think can be used consistently. Consistent use makes $120 worth it.