Some Tips on Collaborating in Google


In earlier post, I described how I set up teams in my College Algebra class and utilize Google shared documents to work through projects. In this post, I want to demonstrate how students can communicate with each other through notes and comments in these shared documents.

Most of the student teams in my face-to-face classes utilize in person meetings along with collaborations through comments. My online students do not usually meet in person so online comments and email (and some phone calls) are their primary means of collaboration.


Google Sheets and other Google applications contain many features designed to make collaboration easy. Two of the most useful are notes and comments. Notes are useful to document work in a worksheet so that other readers understand where the calculation came from. Notes are a part of the sheet and are viewable when looking at the worksheet. A comment is designed to pose questions and input to the rest of the team. Generally, when a comment is made an email is sent to each team member. Then other team members can reply to the comment. If one of the team member notices a mistake in one of the team’s sheets or needs to ask a question about something in a sheet, a comment is the way to go. Let’s look at how these are created in a Google Sheet.

Suppose you are working in a Google Sheet like the one below.

and you want to make a note about something in cell B2. Move your insertion point to that cell and right mouse click on the cell.
This will open a menu showing “Insert note”. Select “Insert note”.
A box will open next to the cell allowing you to input text.
Enter the text you want to link to that cell.
Once you click outside the box, the note will disappear and be replaced by a small black triangle in the upper right corner of the cell. This indicates to you that there is a note attached to that cell.
If you click in the cell again, the note will be displayed.
You can remove a note from a cell by right clicking on the cell and selecting “Clear notes”.
To link a comment to a cell, you right click on the cell and select “Insert comment”.
This opens a box showing your profile picture and space for text. After you type the text, click on the Comment button to attach the comment. As long as other team members are set to accept comments by email (they are by default), an email will be sent to them with the comment.
Once you have inserted the comment, a small yellow triangle will appear in the upper right corner of the cell.
Other team members can reply to the comment by clicking in the cell and typing a message. The message is posted once the Reply button is selected.
Once the comment has been dealt with appropriately, you can resolve it by selecting the Resolve button. Comments can also be edited or deleted by clicking on the button with three dots on it.
I ask students to refrain from deleting comments since they are evidence of collaboration in their group and I can use that info when grading your participation in the group.

You can view all of the comments by selecting the Comments button on the upper right hand corner of the Google Sheet.
This is a convenient way to see all of the comments in a sheet in one place instead of having them attached to individual cells.
The process for commenting on a Google Docs document is similar to the commenting described above. The video below describes the process in the context of the documentation my students turn in for their projects.