Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

5 Burning GAFE Questions Asked by Educators

5 Burning GAFE Questions Asked by Educators

By Michael Fricano II

It’s hard to believe that Google for Education turned 9 years old in October 2015. Now, there are more than 50 million teachers, students, and administrators using Google Apps for Education and more than 10 million active users of the newest application, Google Classroom.

With so many users from a variety of schools and countries all over the world, there are bound to be some questions. So I asked my PLN, “What is your burning GAFE question?”, and I got some great responses. Some of which I’m going to try answer here today!

1. Teachers want to organize their “Shared with me” folder. What do I tell them? by Martha Thorburgh

I feel like most teachers have this innate need to organize things, and so it makes sense to want to bring some organization to the wildly chaotic “Shared with me” folder in Google Drive. There are tons and tons of files and folders being shared with you by your students, colleagues and administrators, it can feel like a dumping ground—like that mismatched stack of papers sitting on your desk!

As much as we would all like to keep the “Shared with me” folder neat and tidy, it’s simply just not possible. It’s not meant to be. It’s truly meant to be a dumping ground of all the files that are shared with you. And that’s it.

Really, you should only feel obligated to organize your My Drive. If there are any files in the “Shared with me” folder that you want to keep, you should move them into My Drive and preading too much? Whooos Readinglace them in the appropriate sub-folders.

Still, there are a few ways to better control and manage the “Shared with me” folder.

You are able to organize the files by either their name or share date. Share date is the best option if you’re looking for the most recently shared files, but if you’re looking for something that was shared a while ago, then organizing the list by file name might be a better option.

You can delete files from the “Shared with
me” folder in an attempt to de-clutter. But be warned! Deleting a file from this folder does not place it in the trash, which means you can’t recover it. The only way to get it back is if the owner removes you from the file and then shares it with you again.

So, the answer I can give you for this burning question is to ignore the chaos in the “Shared with me” folder. Focus all your attention and organizing power on My Drive, moving important items in there when possible.

2. What GAFE tool is available to mark up PDFs? by Patrick Reid

Even though Google Drive has some great feedback tools like Suggested Edits and the Comment tool, teachers want the ability to annotate over student work. It would be great if students could annotate over their own work as well.

Unfortunately, there are no Google tools that currently do this, so we’re forced to use third-party applications that connect to our Google Drive.

If you want to work strictly within the Chrome browser or on a Chromebook, the best tool, in my opinion, is DocHub. DocHub is a free Chrome app that also connects to your Drive and lets you open Google Docs into it’s own DocHub service.

Once open, it will convert your doc into a PDF file, and then allow you to edit it with their great, built-in annotation tools. You can see the full list of features here. When you’re finished, you can save the PDF in your Google Drive for safekeeping or to share it with others.

More: 20 Best Google Education Resources for Teachers

3. Why is it, when a teacher puts something in their Google Classroom folder, it doesn’t get shared with the students? Isn’t it a shared folder? by Molly D

This is a great question because I find a lot of teachers and students get confused by the folders that Google Classroom automatically creates for them. First, let me explain what happens when you set up or join Google Classroom for the first time.

As a teacher, when you create your first class in Google Classroom, a folder called “Classroom” is automatically created and placed in your Google Drive. A subfolder, named after your class, is also created and placed inside the “Classroom” folder automatically. The same process also occurs with your students when they join the class.

The important thing to understand here is that none of these folders (the “Classroom” folder and the class subfolders) are shared with anyone. The teacher’s folders aren’t shared with the students and the students’ folders aren’t shared with the teacher.

However, the files inside those folders can be shared between the teacher and the students. But the folders always remain private to the owner. So to answer the question, if the teacher puts something inside the “Classroom” folder, it will not automatically be shared with the students, because the folder itself is not shared with them.

If the teacher does want to share files with the students, it should be done directly within Google Classroom, either as an Announcement or an Assignment. Or, if the teacher would like to have a shared folder with the students, then that folder needs to be set up and shared manually by the teacher in Drive. You can put the share link to that folder in the About page of the Classroom for easy student access.

More: 10 Ways to Use Google Forms in the Classroom

4. How do you safely use YouTube with students? by Kathi Smith

Unfortunately, I find a lot of schools continue to block YouTube completely for students, and some even for teachers. But times are changing, and that mindset to overly protect our children is shifting to one that allows them to have opportunities to demonstrate responsibility and control.

However, if you’re lucky enough to have access to YouTube at school, you may be wondering how you can protect your students while still providing them with a great educational resource.

The first line of defense for teachers is to always vet YouTube content before you send your students on the hunt for great videos. If you want them to search for videos you should conduct that search first, using as many keywords that you can think of. Determining what the searches will produce ahead of time can save you from running into issues with inappropriate content later on down the line.

Another great option for teachers that want to show YouTube videos in class or want to share the videos with students for homework is to use a service called ViewPure. ViewPure is a web-based application that will strip away all of that unnecessary clutter that surrounds a YouTube video while you’re watching it (i.e. advertisements, suggested videos, and the comment thread). This also serves as a great way to reduce distractions and help your students to focus on what matters most. is another great service for YouTube, allowing your students to take synchronized notes along side a YouTube video and then save it to their Google Drive. Like ViewPure, it clears out the clutter and just displays the video itself alongside a space to take notes. This is also a great way to leverage the power of YouTube videos while keeping students focused and safe.

The last suggestion I have is for your Google Apps administrator. Recently, Google for Education released new YouTube settings for administrators of a Google Apps for Education domain. What I like most about this setting is that it allows the school to give students access to YouTube videos that have been pre-approved by teachers (not just administration).

With this option, teachers can be verified and given the ability to “approve” YouTube videos for students. When one teacher approves a video, everyone in the school has access to it. This limits the student’s ability to use YouTube, but protects them from accessing inappropriate content.

More: 5 Google Docs Features Hidden in Plain Sight

5. How do I introduce Google Apps for Education to younger students? by Tarah Green

I love this question because using Google Apps for Education with younger students is definitely possible!

One great way to get younger students started with Google Apps is to have them begin storing their work in Google Drive as a portfolio. When they create something (whether it’s a physical object or a digital file), have them snap a photo and upload it to a folder in Google Drive. This teaches them the very important yet basic skill of file management and organization.

If you’re adventurous enough to have your young students create content online, try Google Slides or Drawings. Both can be used in very simple ways and can be fun and engaging for the students as well.

I saw one great example from a first grade teacher: she used a shared class account and had her students take turns creating a slide about their favorite animal. She taught them how to use the Research Tool to find a picture of the animal on the web and then create a textbox to type a single sentence about the animal.

The students became very efficient with this process, and for those that struggled, other students became the experts and could effectively train their peers, leaving the teacher to focus on the content. Better yet, she noticed a significant increase in typing speed and skill later in the year! Students can really surprise when you give the opportunity!

The most important thing when getting young students started with a new tool is to make sure that you’re comfortable and confident in that tool first. Because believe it or not, if you aren’t comfortable using that tool your students are going to pick up on that and they may not become as engaged as you want them to be.

I hope I was able to clear up some of your most burning GAFE related questions! I received even more great questions here, but I’ll save those for another time. Feel free to ask your own as well and check my resource site and blog at!

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