Sharing – The Google Way

The Google belt.

Setting up collaborative teams and putting a project in place that encourages collaboration is just the start. The pressures of work, schedules, and family commitments conspire to draw student into a silent shell. They only care about getting homework assignments and papers done…collaborating is the furthest thing from their mind.

In the middle of a stressful semester, returning emails from fellow teammates are not the highest priority. Trying to collaborate on a document via email is even more challenging. If several students are working on the same document simultaneously and making changes, it is a nightmare to keep track of the changes. This is where a shared document can help.

On the first project my student complete in College Algebra, they complete several assignments on a shared spreadsheet. I start by creating the shared spreadsheet in Google Sheets. It contains a sheet with each group members name and email. It also contains my name and email. A second sheet within the shared spreadsheet is the beginning of a team log where each team member documents what changes they have made and on what date. When I am satisfied with this document, I name it with a name unique to the team like “p2_team1”. Now I need to share the spreadsheet with the team members.

In the upper right corner of the browser window of any Google tools is a button that says “Share”.

share_buttonSelecting this button opens a window that allows you to specify who will have access to the document.


Enter the email addresses of each team member. I also like to limit who they can share the document with. To do this, select “Advanced” in the lower right corner.


Above and to the right of the Done button, select “Change”.


Choose “Only the owner can change permissions” followed by Save. Since I am the owner of the document, I am now the only one who can share the document. This help to make sure no team member is sharing the document outside the team. It also limits the number of names that appear in the edit…they must use the Google account corresponding to their YC email account.

share_windowOnce you have entered the email addresses, you also have the option to add a note to the email sent out to each student. It is a good idea to let them know what you are sharing, how it is to be used, and the assignments they will use it for.

In my College Algebra course, each student uses this shared spreadsheet to graph a data set of college costs and graph the equation of the line passing through a pair of points. Each team member can see the work of the other team members. And the changes occur as they are made. As long as they are not made in offline mode, they made be viewed by other team members almost instantly. If something does not look right, they are quick to ask questions of me or the other team members. In my next post, I’ll describe how they can use the Note and Comment feature in Google Sheets to communicate with me and other group members.