4 Digital Citizenship Points to Consider in GAFE

Post date: Mar 10, 2015 5:58:22 PM

When it comes to technology, Google Docs have been around for an eternity. A few of us tinkered with it when it first came out and now we have wave after wave of teachers, students, businesses, and others using it daily. As with anything online, the majority of users use the technology appropriately. However there is that small group of users that don’t think before they click.

There are four key digital citizenship points that any teacher will want to know if using Google Docs in the classroom:

1. ADD A NOTEWhen a user shares a Google document with another person, the user is given the opportunity to ADD A NOTE. This note is emailed with the invitation. Many users use this as a place to add information about the document that is being shared. For some reason, this invitation makes some users want to “play around” with their buddy by putting something degrading as a note. These types of notes usually refer to someone’s sexual orientation, exploration of certain four letter words, or a specific body part. While it is tempting to have a little fun with friends, students (and teachers) need to be reminded that they need to be professional when using their GAFE accounts. See the ADD A NOTE image to the left.


99.9% of people will name their documents in a way that makes it easy for them to find them later. There is a small portion of the population that would rather name them based on the mood the creator is feeling. Titles such as “Science Crap” or other, more descriptive, titles are created that don’t consider the professionalism they should.

Along this note, the contents of a document can come into question as well. Students might not be considering professionalism as they are using their GAFE accounts to create and share an agenda for a weekend party that might shock their grandmothers. Some might also use their documents/presentations as a platform to share their not-so-nice opinions of other students and teachers.


One of the best features of Google Docs is the ability for commenting within a document. This activity has enhanced peer edits and the overall grading process. Unfortunately, similar to #1 above, students might be tempted to use this opportunity to goof around with their friends. They are under the mistaken belief that behavior is okay, especially if you can delete the comment. The truth, however, is (1) the behavior is not okay and (2) the comments are not deleted, ever. The comments are stored in the COMMENTS button just to the left of the blue SHARE button.


Many teachers really love the Research Tool (TOOLS > RESEARCH TOOL) for researching and adding images. The reality is that most of the images that are generated are under copyright unless students click the arrow directly under the search and then filter the images by “FREE TO USE, SHARE OR MODIFY, EVEN COMMERCIALLY.” See image to the right.

An even better way to have students search for images, however, is to go to INSERT > IMAGES > SEARCH. The search option actually gives three options:

  • Google Images (sorted by Free to Use, Share or Modify, Even Commercially)
  • LIFE - access to hundreds of images from LIFE magazine
  • Stock Photos - my favorite. Professional grade photos that look great in presentations.

What Do We Do?

Educate. If you are using Google Docs, you know the creativity and collaboration that can empower a user when working with them. For most the cases above, the user just simply isn’t thinking before he/she clicks. It may have never even occurred to him/her that it is an issue.

All we need to do as educators is explain the expectations we have for use in GAFE. When using GAFE, be professional. Send professional notes to colleagues. Create and share professional documents with collaborators. Consider copyright when looking for images.

It helps to even go through the four situations above with students so they understand and see what it truly means to be professional.