Google Docs for Communicating

photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons - user - kpwerker

Google Docs continues to be my number one tool for communicating and collaborating with any number of people involved in my students’ education.  As a special education teacher I am constantly in contact with parents, related service providers, and other professionals like doctors and private therapists.  Google Docs allows me quite a few opportunities to easily keep all parties informed and in the loop.

Documents – probably the simplest way for sharing documents with my team members.  The most common is sending out agendas to weekly meetings, and any participant can add an item to the agenda.  During the meeting that same agenda becomes our notes and we can all go back and review at our leisure.

Forms – an easy way to track student goals is by creating simple Google Forms that send the data to a spreadsheet.  I’ve found it particularly effective for recording data on behavior.  Also, Google Forms work great on mobile devices which makes it very easy to track student behavior in close proximity to the student. I’ve even gone so far as to create a shortcut on the home screen of various mobile devices so the forms are easy to find!

Spreadsheets – for years I wrote out (longhand) daily notes to parents in notebooks.  There were 3 main problems with this procedure. First, it took a long time (upwards of 30 minutes a day), time I felt could be spent with students. Second, the notebooks took a beating; paper only lasts so long in a backpack.  Last, but certainly not least, I have terrible handwriting.  I can’t imagine how parents actually read what I wrote.

To that end I’ve started using Google Docs spreadsheets to share daily progress about students.  I created a simple template that covers the basic areas we do each day.  I have invited all persons involved with the child to collaborate on the document and now everyone can add notes, comments, and share ideas all in one place.  Parents have a place to include notes from home, information about medication changes or doctor visits — even notes from outside therapists!  The best part is it is an entire year’s worth of educational progress, behavior notes, therapy notes and parent updates all stored in one convenient place.  I have students whose parents now have 3 years worth of data they can refer to at a moment’s notice.

If you are interested in learning how to set up a document like this for yourself check out my wiki – Google Spreadsheet Communication Log.  I’ve included a link to the template, and some screenshots to walk you through the process of setting one up.

Patrick

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