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Tech Tip: How to manage, organize student projects with Doctopus

A Google add-on helps teachers better manage, evaluate and edit student work. See how.

3 min read



Are you using add-ons for Google Apps? These wonderful tools — available for Documents, Sheets and Forms — make Google Apps even better.

One of my favorite add-ons is Doctopus. This tool lets teachers create, manage, organize and evaluate student projects in Google Drive. Here’s how it works:

  1. Start by creating your roster in Google Sheets. You will only create this once. It will be your dashboard for the assignment you want to distribute.
  2. Doctopus will make a set of folders for you to use as often as you like:
    1. Teacher: Store your files here, such as document templates and spreadsheets for each new item you distribute.
    2. Students: contains the individual shared folders of all the students on your roster
    3. Class Edit: Want everyone to be able to edit a single document? Put it in Class Edit.
    4. Class View: Want everyone to be able to read but not makes changes to a document? Put it in Class View.
    5. Note: Class Edit and Class View appear, for the students, inside their individual shared folders for your class.
  3. Install and run the Doctopus script.

Voila! That’s it. Here are some special features that I like:

  • Different ways to share documents, including individual all the same, individual differentiated, project groups, whole class;
  • Word counts and comment counts based on revision history. Refresh whenever you want an update on the whole class progress;
  • An easy way to email students and include their assignment grade, individual feedback, and a link to the document;
  • Conditional formatting you can use to apply colors to the word count column to give you a sense of who’s done, working on it, or hasn’t started yet; and
  • “Embargo” an assignment to make it read-only for students while you are grading (or don’t, if you prefer to observe students in-process and comment throughout) and then “un-embargo” it to allow students to edit again.

If you use Google Classroom, you will find that Doctopus serves a similar purpose, but it has different features. I began using Doctopus before Classroom existed, so I have stuck with it. Now, whether I teach online graduate school classes or high school computer science, I have all my written assignment prompts, slide deck templates, and other items distributed via Doctopus. When I need student to share links to their project videos on YouTube, I put a spreadsheet in the Class Edit folder with all their names and they can easily copy and paste a link there. It does so much for me, I can’t remember how I lived without it.

Editor’s note: Additional step-by-step directions – with screenshots – for using Doctopus can be found here.

Diane Main is the director of learning, innovation and design for grades 9 through 12 at The Harker School in San Jose, Calif. She is also adjunct faculty for San Diego State University’s Learning Design and Technology department and MERIT/KCI faculty at Krause Center for Innovation and Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif. She is a former program director of the MERIT program at KCI and a Google Certified Teacher. Main’s other ed-tech activities include presenting at conferences nationwide, serving as president for the board of SVCUE, and presenting at CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, Macworld and other events. Follow her on Twitter.


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