Collaborative Tools to Enhance Student Engagement: Using Google Drive and Doctopus add-on to Increase Student Learning

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

Technology is ubiquitous and omnipresent in our daily lives. Increasing effort has been made to utilize technology in the classroom to enhance student engagement and learning. Some newly developed tools produce a need for other instructional technology tools to help the original software perform more effectively for the instructor. 


Dr. Strong is an Associate Professor in the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications (ALEC) Department at Texas A &M University. Dr. Strong's research focuses on technology-enhanced learning and cyber learning technology delivery applications.

Additional Authors

I've been teaching agriculture sciences since 2006. I have a passion for agriculture as well as preparing students with 21st century skills. In the last few years I've had the opportunity to work in a school district that's giving teachers the amazing opportunity to have 1:1 devices. I have experienced first hand how doors can be blown off their hinges when teachers can combine technology integration with project and inquiry based learning. I have taken an active leadership role in curriculum design in the California Agriculture Teachers Association and am excited to serve as the Vision 2030 UCCI Curriculum Chair. I have just completed my first year of doctoral studies through a joint program between Texas Tech and Texas A&M University. I have been given the honor, privilege and responsibility to help agriculture education and career technical education move forward into the 21st century.

Extended Abstract


Since the advent of the internet there has been a shift in education to focus on technology use. Technology has become available in virtually all classrooms (Smerdon et al., 2000). “As the number of computers and access to the Internet in schools have grown, so have the number of questions being asked about the extent to which these technologies are being used in schools and classrooms and for what purposes” (Smerdon et al., 2000, p. 21). Although hardware and software are more widely available now than ever, there is a deficiency in the ability to implement them in education.

A greater number of instructors adopted technology when hardware and software combined with appropriate training and perceived barriers surrounding technology decreased (Kotrlik & Redmann, 2009). “CTE instructors have substantially adopted technology for use in instruction, but they were not making the maximum use of technology in instruction” (p. 7). In-service and preservice appear to play a role in instructor’s adoption of technology as it helps to reduce anxiety.  Kotrlik and Redmann (2009) found instructors preferred self-teaching (92%) as the most frequent method of technology training followed by workshops and conferences (90.4%), then colleagues (81.4%), and college courses (60.5%).  Since instructors utilize colleagues as a major training source, Kotrlik and Redmann (2009) recommend further study and implementation of mentorship training for those instructors already in the field.

Google Drive is an invaluable collaboration tool, when combined with Doctopus this software can transform instructors classrooms into centers of great thought. The benefits of collaborative work are well documented, and is certainly a skill required for the 21st Century. A classroom with a focus on technology utilizes teacher facilitated, not teacher reliant learning. Students are inspired to move beyond finding the right answers and truly engage in the learning process (Cuban, 2001).

Doctopus is a Google spreadsheet designed to assist instructors in overseeing the movement of students shared projects in Google accounts. Doctopus provides instructors the capacity to copy, distribute, evaluate student development, and oversee grading and feedback for student submissions in Google Drive. The tool allows instructors to arrange student Google documents and to simply distribute and development documents for students.  

From January 2016 to April 2016 31,000 users downloaded the Doctopus Add-On.  In the same four month period 1,547,437 individual documents have been created, and 79,464 feedback emails have been sent (Doctopus - New Visions CloudLab, n.d.). ​

Practical Hands-on Learning Activities for Participants

Although hardware and software are more widely available now, there is a deficiency in the ability to implement them in education. Pitler et al. (2012) summarized Schacter and Fagnano’s (1999) research “applied effectively, technology not only increases student learning and understanding, and achievement but also motivates students to learn, encourages collaborative learning, and helps develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills” (p.3). A classroom with a focus on technology utilizes teacher facilitated learning, not reliant learning. Students are inspired to move beyond finding the right answers and truly engage in the learning process (Cuban, 2001).

Google Drive and Doctopus can facilitate the shift to teacher facilitated learning. Once instructors and students have gmail accounts instructors can use the following steps to share assignments and begin collaborating:

  1. Instructors begin by creating a new Google Sheets and adding the Doctopus add-on.

  2. Doctopus will walk teacher’s through the step by step process of creating and distributing an assignment. 
  3. Doctopus Step 1: instructors can choose to use an existing google classroom assignment or use a roster to create a new assignment. Doctopus assists instructors in creating a roster, and saving for use in later assignments if desired.
  4. Doctopus Step 2: Doctopus creates folders for the class.
  5. Doctopus Step 3: Instructors determine which sharing arrangements they’d like for their project: individual-all the same, individual-differentiated, group project, or whole class single shared document. Instructors then determine access for the whole class as well as individuals. Viewing allows students to only view the document. Commenting allows text to be selected and comments to be made. These comments appear in the margin, others can respond to these comments as well. Editing allows edits directly to the document.
  6. Doctopus Step 4: Instructors choose the project they’d like to assign.

Once shared the documents will appear in students shared Google Drive. Instructors can monitor student progress from their dashboard, and when the assignment is complete instructors can prevent students from making any further edits for as long as they choose.

Measurable Outcomes and Activities

This session will show how Doctopus works to help participants increase student engagement and experientially learn curricula regardless of context. Participant’s emails will be collected at the beginning of the workshop to enable the presenters to guide participants through the process of creating a roster and distributing an assignment. Sample emails will be shared to give participants an understanding of how to develop a sample email to students.

The assignment that's shared with them could be a document with the sample roster and other curricula resources on a shared google doc. Participants will also learn how a student could also test out and how instructor’s can comment and use the features before they create an assignment.

Impact on the Profession

An additional Google app called Goobric permits instructors to create rubrics and utilize them for summative and formative assessments. This app is intended to be used in conjunction with Doctopus, and certainly adds more valuable feedback for student’s, and ease of use for instructors in regards to technology related assignments.  Although not required, a Google Educator Certification would serve as a valuable tool for those instructors who might not yet be familiar with Google’s capabilities. 

The benefits of the tools are numerous. Google Drive and Doctopus can facilitate teacher and peer feedback, discussions, assist with summative and formative assessment, and organize folders and sharing privileges for ease of use. The benefit of collaborative work is well documented, and is certainly a skill required for the 21st Century. 


Cuban, L. (2001). Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom. Cambridge, MS: Harvard University Press.

Kotrlik, J. W., & Redmann, D. H. (2009). Analysis of teachers' adoption of technology for use in instruction in seven career and technical education programs. Career & Technical Education Research, 34(1), 47-77.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., & Kuhn, M. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that works (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Schacter, J., & Fagnano, C. (1999). Does computer technology improve student learning and achievement? How, when, and under what conditions? Journal of Educational Computing Research, 20(4), 329-343. doi: 10.2190/VQ8V-8VYB-RKFB-Y5RU  

Smerdon, B., Cronen, S., Lanahan, L., Anderson, J., Iannotti, N., & Angeles, J. (2000). Teachers' tools for the 21st century : a report on teachers' use of technology. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.