How It Works
Google Drive is a cloud storage service. That means you keep files there instead of (or in addition to) keeping them on your hard drive. That means you can access them from any device, as long as you’re logged in to your Google account. It also means you have way more storage space than you would on your hard drive or USB stick, and you don’t have to worry about those things’ physical vulnerabilities. Remember when you used to email stuff to yourself so you would have it elsewhere? It’s like that, but better.
Google Drive is organized much like you’re used to from other systems. Files can be contained in folders, which can be contained in other folders. Any of these can be moved or renamed or deleted. When you delete them, they go to a Trash folder, and from there they can be permanently deleted.
But when we talk about Google Drive, we aren’t just talking about storage: we’re also talking about all the related services like Docs and Sheets. Most are similar to parts of the Microsoft Office suite such as Word and Excel, but just like the aforementioned files, they are based online instead of on your computer. They can even use and create the same file types such as .doc and .xls. Others, like the super useful Forms, don’t have obvious analogues in Windows and instead take advantage of their unique setting.
Finally, the best part is that Drive is not solely individual: Drive can help you share files with anyone instantly, and it can help you work on files with anyone collaboratively. Hit the Share button to send a doc to someone, or lots of someones, and then you can both work on it. Or some can work, others can comment, and others can view. It wasn’t made specifically for schools, but it might has well have been.
How It Breaks
It usually doesn’t, so this section and the next will mostly deal with tips and tricks.
Every once in a while you’ll get an error with Google’s servers, which as you can imagine will clear up quickly. More likely, if you’re getting an error connecting, it’s the wifi — Google services don’t like it when the connection is unreliable — or it’s the filter. If you’re at school and you see “The app is currently unreachable,” it could be a lot of things in theory, but in practice, it’s the filter.
You may have no internet connection at all. In that case, you can do a lot in what Drive calls “Offline Mode.” It will wait until the next time it gets a connection and then immediately reconcile your changes with the cloud.
You may have a file but be unable to find it. You may think you deleted it, but that’s unlikely. Almost every time, it’s something to do with organization or naming. See below, and see one of the many tutorials online.
You may have a device but need an app. Google makes great apps (Drive, Docs, Sheets) for Android devices, and okay ones for iOS devices.
How to Fix It
If you get “This webpage is not available” or “The app is currently unreachable” at school, log in to the filter: go to lsaccess.me/login and log in as you (assuming this is your account on your computer) then go back to Drive and refresh the page — and hold shift while you click on refresh. If a student gets the error on her Chromebook or a computer lab computer, go to lsaccess.me/login and have her log in.
If you get “The app is currently unreachable” at home, check your connection. If you’re sure it’s good, (if you can go to other, non-Google sites) then go back to Drive and refresh the page — and hold shift while you click on refresh. If you get “This webpage is not available,” check your connection a little more thoroughly.
If you need help finding a file in the short term, use the search bar at the top. Type a few key words from the title of a file — or even from the contents, if it’s a Google Doc/Sheet/etc. You can also add search terms like “from:” and the email or “type:” and the filetype.
If you need help finding files in the long term, work on your organizing and your naming. Use stars, use colors, get rid of unused folders, and convert Word docs to Google.
Remember, Google Drive works with your Google contacts, so if you have a group, you can share a doc with a group. If you have people in your contacts, you can type names instead of emails.
Remember, Google Drive is the basis for Google Classroom, so if you have a well stocked, well organized Drive, you will have a better experience with Classroom. If you have a well organized Classroom, you’ll have a better Drive. And so on. It’s a virtuous cycle.
If you need help with Docs or Forms, stay tuned for future pages on this site.