Last night I used Google Docs for the first time.
Here are my first impressions.
Google Docs is an on line word processor, designed to facilitate collaborative work. In some respects it is similar to a wiki, but with many additional features.
The workspace is simple and clear, if you can word process you can use this, existing documents can be imported or you can start from scratch. The working or completed documents are stored by Google ( I know there are issues here), so accessing and working on documents is made possible anywhere with Internet access, at home, at the office, in the library in the cyber cafe.
What makes this application special, is the ability to collaborate, to work with others on the same document, at the same time or at a different time. Documents are shared via an email link in which collaborators can be offered viewing or revising rights. A revision history (cf wiki) is kept, allowing users to reference, compare or revert to earlier versions.
There is no doubt that this has enormous potential as a tool in educational settings. Imagine two users working on the same document; in the same room on two separate laptops, the revision history facility makes it possible for tutors to see who contributed what to group assessment activities, a class of students pupils can all access the same document, etc.etc.
A brief glance at the privacy settings suggests that work should be safe from prying eyes, the facility to publish documents to the web is provided offering viewing or editing rights according to the original author's wishes. A facility is also offered allowing posting directly to a blog (used for this post).
This is a special application, no wonder Microsoft and Adobe are rushing to release similar offerings.