Google Docs: Digital Lab Handouts

By | January 17, 2011

I love old-fashioned lab notebooks about as much as I love Google Docs, but a fellow participant at edcampNYC made a great case for moving “lab notebooks” into the cloud.

Here’s what that might look like for a “cookbook” type of lab:

Creating a Digital Lab Handout in Less than 5 minutes:

Once your spreadsheet is prepared, the easiest way to share it with your students is to create a template. With templates,
  • students will have their own copy of the file.
  • the original file remains secure (students don’t have access to it).
  • the template updates automatically when you edit the original file. So its easy to make modifications from year to year without changing the URL
On your Docs List, check the box next to the spreadsheet name, then under “More Actions” select “Submit to Template Gallery”.
Include a description (optional), and submit. It will appear in the gallery within a few minutes. Once it does, right-click on “Preview” and copy the URL.
When you share this URL with students, they should click “Use this Template. ” ¬†They will have a copy of this document in their Docs List.

Example 1: Lab: Determining the Calorimeter Constant

Example 2: Lab: Empirical Formula of Magnesium Oxide

Other ideas
  • Insert images of the experimental setup, or have students insert pictures from the experiment itself on a second worksheet.
  • Embed spreadsheet into a Google Site for project, portfolio, class site, or larger audience.
  • Use Web Clipboard to copy the tables into a Google Document Lab Report for advanced formatting options (super/subscripts, symbols, fonts).
  • For lower-level classes, you can pre-populate the calculation cells so that students only have to enter in their data.


Chris Keipert on January 17, 2011 at 1:20 am.

Sounds like a great idea! I’m very curious as to how you would work it in the classroom to make the most of it. Do the students have individual laptops so they type as they go? Possibly a stupid suggestion but are they supposed to print it off for the lab?


Ms. Bethea on January 17, 2011 at 1:51 am.

@Chris, I haven’t used this on its own (I’ve used it in addition to traditional lab handout/notebook), but I think a 1:2 environment would be ideal. Now that there’s mobile Google Docs editing, it may be possible to enter data using iPods, iPads, and phones as well.

The goal is a paperless classroom, so no printing would be necessary.


Ben Wildeboer on January 18, 2011 at 3:07 pm.

I’ve never thought of creating a template like this for students to use. I like it!

I have created a Google Doc that I shared with all students but had the settings so they couldn’t edit the original. I had them “Make a copy…” to create their own editable version.

You might even be able to kick it up a notch further by integrating a Google Form with the spreadsheet. It’d take some spreadsheet Trickeration to get the data to display how & where you’d like it, but that would certainly make it easier to input results using mobile devices. Right now the mobile editing of Google Docs spreadsheets is pretty clunky.


Ms. Bethea on January 20, 2011 at 12:23 am.

I will definitely look into using forms. Thanks!



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