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One of the most powerful aspects of using Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides is the ability to share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with others, so you can collaboratively edit those documents together in real-time from anywhere in the world.

Collaborators on a document can view, comment on, or even make changes to the document, depending on the permissions you give them. You no longer have to email document attachments or merge edits from multiple copies of a document ever again. Safely share the files instead!

Here's a handy two page guide, from Oxford Brookes University, on how to share Google documents safely.

page one of share documents safely pdf

ICYMI, read Bart Everson’s “Drive Right In” blog post for more information about Xavier’s adoption of G Suite (formerly Google Apps) and sharing files in Google Drive.

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Drive Logo

In a big win for Xavier faculty, ITC recently "opened up" Google Drive for global collaboration.

What does this mean?

As you may know, Google Drive is a service for storing, syncing and sharing files. When Xavier adopted G Suite (formerly Google Apps), all Xavier users got an account allowing them store files in Google Drive. You can access your files at drive.google.com.

However, files stored in Google Drive could only be shared with other Xavier users — until now. Now you can share your files with colleagues at other institutions around the world. (Please note that the new policy applies only to faculty at this time.) We anticipate this will greatly aid in your efforts at scholarly collaboration.

What's the benefit?

Instead of emailing files back and forth, you can share a file in Google Drive. If you grant editing access to others, they can make changes; Google keeps the file in sync. You are less likely to run into the confusion that commonly arises when different versions of a document are edited by multiple contributors.

How to do it?

Sharing files with Google Drive is pretty easy, but not entirely goof-proof.

First, naturally enough, you have to have some files in Google Drive to share! I'm going to assume you already do; if that's not the case, a basic tutorial is available.

Second, navigate to the file you want to share in the Google Drive web interface. Remember, you can access your files at drive.google.com.

Finally, click the share icon for that file. (It looks like a little person with a plus sign next to their head.) You'll be prompted to enter the names or email addresses of the people you want to share with. (Names will generally only work for others in the Xavier system. For anyone outside Xavier, you'll need to use their email address.) You'll also want to specify the level of sharing. Do you want them to be able to view the file only, or to make comments, or to make edits? It's up to you.

But what about security?

Files uploaded to Google Drive are stored in the Cloud — on servers controlled by Google. You may have some concerns about what this means.

According to Google, your files are located in "secure data centers." There are some clear advantages. If your computer (or other device) is damaged or misplaced, you don't lose your data. You can get still get to your files once you get your hands on a new device.

Google also stipulates that "your files are private unless you share them."

When using Google Drive for collaboration, you'll want to observe the same common sense guidelines that you use when sharing information with anyone. If the data is sensitive, think twice before sharing it.

How can I learn more?

  • Learn more online.
  • Keep an eye out for ITC workshops.
  • CAT+FD has a workshop on collaborative authoring planned for Thursday, 16 March 2017; stay tuned!

by Bart Everson

CAT's XX anniversary newsletter contains an article by yours truly which traces the origin of the word "sustainability" to just around 1980. I came to that conclusion by using the Google Books Ngram Viewer, an online phrase-usage graphing tool.

Sustainability Ngram

I stand by that minor feat of scholarly inquiry. (It took me less than five minutes.) However, I was a little puzzled by these results. Surely the concept is much older than that?

My method had obvious limitations. I was looking at the history of a word, not the idea behind the word.

New research by Jeremy L. Caradonna suggests the roots of the idea go back to late 17th- and early 18th-century Europe, when people started cutting down too much forest and endangering their own way of life. Caradonna points to one Hans Carl von Carlowitz as the one who coined the word "sustainability" in 1713.

How did I miss that? The twist is that since von Carlowitz was German he called it Nachhaltigkeit.

Indeed, the Ngram Viewer yields quite different results when searching for this term in the corpus of German texts. There's still a major spike in usage over the last several decades, but it doesn't spring out of nowhere.

The spike is evidence of our contemporary sustainability movement. It's an expression of burgeoning concern, but it's also cause for concern in and of itself. As Caradonna notes in a recent interview for the Boston Globe, "If you have a sustainability movement, you know you have a problem." Hans Carl von Carlowitz started writing about Nachhaltigkeit because of a problem he saw with deforestation. The huge spike in writing about this topic in recent years, in English and German and other languages, is an indication of an even deeper problem.

Sustainability is about coming to terms with our limits — living within our means — and in the modern industrialized West, we have pretended for some time that there are no such limits. This illusion is becoming more difficult to maintain, which is why sustainability is becoming ever more prominent in our discourse, including the college curriculum. Thanks to Caradonna's research, the history of our current concerns is a little clearer.

Jeremy L. Caradonna's new book is Sustainability: A History.

In an attempt to make students start working on a research project long before 24 hours from the due date, as well as discuss plagiarism and the pitfalls of research on the internet, I've been researching the internet myself.

I checked into Google Alerts.  I've been experimenting with setting up the searches and verifying the results.  It's quite easy to begin using immediately.  So I suggest that at the beginning of the course when discussing the syllabus, instructors take about 5 minutes to have the students set up a Google Alert on their mobile devices for each possible research topic they may wish to explore.

For Google Alerts, there is very little to fill out and you can specify how often to receive notification that matches to your search have been found:

Google Alerts is fast and simple to use
Google Alerts is fast and simple to use.

By having the students set up weekly alerts and seeing that they can limit their searches instead of being overwhelmed with a million hits, it is hoped that at least once a week (or however often they have set up the alert), they will be thinking about their research project throughout the semester rather than at the last minute.  Happy searching!

If you use any Google services, you've undoubtedly noted their new privacy policy, since they've been springing pop-up alerts to users over the past month or so.

How does it all boil down?

Sharon Vaknin offers a concise summary of the changes and why you might have cause for concern:
Five ways Google's unified privacy policy affects you