So what has gotten me so excited? I have been using google apps for the past month. My students have access to their own Gdrive (I have eliminated their email). You might not think this is anything special but within google apps there is an amazing scripted called doctopus.
Now a script is a computer code that is embedded into your program to allow you to other functions. Doctopus works with spread sheets to create lists for your class and "push" documents to your students without having to click on every single name and share. It also allows you to give the ability for students to edit their own document and then have it there for you to mark; all in one easy area. The nice thing is I can send all students one document, I can have certain groups have a document or I can have every single kid have a different document all in one click of the button.
Take a look at this YouTube video from Jay Atwood:
This is how I have been using it. Because of apps I have been able to hand out documents that I want my students to work with. In this case I wanted them to be able to collect their research on communities and write a comparison paragraph. I gave most of the students a copy of a template I wanted them to follow. The template included success criteria, and a check list for them. I also created another one for my ESL students which had a chart and sentence starters. If I wasn't using google apps this would have had to be photocopied for certain students or each student would have had to copy out the success criteria on their own. Part way through the writing process I shared a doc with them all as we talked about paragraph writing, students found my doc and then copied it to their drive so they had access to the exemplar. Yet again without google drive they would have had to photocopy or hand write. Students just finished the work today, so back to my spreadsheet. Through doctopus I was able to add a "goobrics" a fancy name for a rubric. See this video for more help:
I then embargoed the work, which means they no longer have access to the document until I am done marking.
When I mark the rubric is right next, so I can highlight. I can also leave comments, do track changes in their work and then send it back for them to reflect, revise (if they want) and send back. Not only this but students have this in their drive and can access it for an online portfolio. This has been mind blowing and I can't believe I didn't start earlier. If you haven't used doctopus yet I highly recommend trying it.