Google Drive shifts into reverse.

Teachers of the world, let's face it – technology has made our jobs much easier. While I admire those who still record their attendance in a paper book, I absolutely do not miss the days of hard copy grade books and planners. My appreciation of technology has increased over the years, especially as it has helped me grade countless essays on a regular basis. I love teaching English but, until technology intervened, shuddered at the thought of taking a stack of essays home and grading them. Several years ago, I moved to electronic essay grading, having my students upload their essays via Moodle (our course management system) and then returning the essays using the comment feature in Microsoft Word. That method worked very well for awhile, but I soon wondered if there was an easier way to accomplish my task.

Enter Google Drive.

Beginning as Google Docs/Slides/Sheets, Google Drive appeared to be everything I wanted in an online writing system: easy, convenient, and most of all, fast. Because our school subscribed (and still subscribes) to Google Apps for Education, our students have access to Google Drive and can compose and share documents in no time. What does that mean for me? Well, rather than downloading and uploading 30 essays, I could have my students write their essays in class (or at home) and then share their essays with me so that I could grade them. No downloading, no uploading, no problem! As if that wasn't enough, I also could grade the essays on my iPad (or my iPhone, if I desired) and avoid having to haul my laptop around with me. Talk about convenient, right?

Then, Google Drive changed. And the world wept.

Okay, the world might not have wept, but I (figuratively) did. Last week, Google announced that it had spun off Google Docs, Sheets, and (coming soon) Slides into separate iOS and Android apps. What did that mean? Simple: rather than go into Drive to compose an essay, a student might open Docs, type the essay, and then “save” (it autosaves) it to their Drive. Without a doubt, this was Google's response to Microsoft releasing Word, PowerPoint, and Excel as separate Office apps for the iPad. Fine, Google was copying Microsoft. What's the problem, you might ask?

While Google emulated Microsoft in several ways, the one thing it did not do was port the folder hierarchy to Docs. While Microsoft baked in OneDrive access in each app (Word/PowerPoint/Excel), Google failed to do that for Docs, Sheets, and (I assume) Slides. For me, then, if I wanted to grade on my iPad, I could not go to my Drive folders in Docs and grade essays. Rather, I had to go to Drive, open the folder, choose a document, and then wait for it to toggle to Docs. Yes – I would have to repeat this 30 times if I had 30 essays. No more smooth opening and closing in Drive.

For the first time in recent memory, I have a serious problem with one of Google's products, a problem that might force me to re-evaluate whether it is worth it to use as my primary online essay source. After all, now that Microsoft Word comes on the iPad, I can instruct my students to share their Word documents via Office 365 and then grade them on the iPad without having to upload and download. Word for iPad also works very well, and while many have complained about the need for an Office 365 subscription, I have found it to be well worth the price – and so have 27 million others. Office always has been the gold standard when it comes to productivity, and now Microsoft can boast a smoother and more fluid document management system than Google. Whoever thought that would happen, right?

My hope is that Google realizes the error of its ways and, at the very least, improves the functionality of its individual apps. They really are great for students and educators alike in that they offer superior collaboration opportunities and great ease of use. However, if no changes are made, I likely will go back to old faithful and make Office for iPad my suite of choice. Google, you're officially on notice.

I'm interested to hear from other educators who may be using Google Drive and/or Office for iPad. What are your thoughts on the changes? Does anyone use other products besides the two I mentioned? Sound off in the comments!



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