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New Google Drive Features Open New Choral Possibilities

 
Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) is a very powerful tool for sharing files and information amongst large groups or multiple devices. Whether through your own Google account or through a Google Apps for Education (or Business) system, using Google Drive lets you create entire folder/file structures that can be shared with anyone you choose (as with any other cloud storage system), with much more storage available than many other competitors. A couple of new features just released help Google Drive be even stronger in a music rehearsal space or ensemble.
 
Baby, You Can Drive My WAV
Now that Google Drive has finally caught-up by offering a robust mobile app, it can be a direct pipeline to your musicians for sharing recordings in rehearsal for them to take home and practice. By using either the app (for mobile devices) or client (for desktops/laptops), depending on what you're recording on, you can transfer large files very quickly. Consider this possible scenario:
  1. While rehearsing a tricky technical section, you record it for the group to be able to consult for practice at home. You do this using any range of recordfing devices connected to a computer or mobile device.
  2. Save the file into a Google Drive folder which you have previously shared with your musicians. On a laptop with the Google Drive client installed, you'd have a folder on your computer to drag the file into. On a mobile device, you'd send the file from your recording app to your Google Drive app, which would then let you place it in the shared folder.
  3. The file would then appear for all of your musicians to access on their devices -- syncing is automatic, so once you've started the process by putting it in your Google Drive, there's no need for any other steps. They can now listen to the file later on for their own review.
This model works with any kind of file-- where Google Drive started as Google Docs, and was limited to those types of files, it now allows you to host any kind of file you like and share it. This means that videos, rehearsal notes, scanned score corrections or pictures are all fair game as well. If you'd tried Google Drive in the past and found it too limited for your purpose, I suggest you take another look-- the additions made to Google Drive in the last 6 months have really improved the experience and potential of the software. In addition, their mobile apps are much more stable and reliable than they were even a few months ago. Where as of last summer, I was reluctant to recommend Google Drive as a full-time storage and sharing solution, it's now become my go-to solution for these scenarios.
 
Class is in Session
In addition to increasing the reliability and stability of the service, Google added a major set of tools to Google Drive this week for Google Apps for Education users. Classroom by Google is their attempt to make an official "Learning Management System" toolkit for Google Drive in order to address a major educational technology market. An LMS is an evolution of the class website, where students and teachers can share files, communicate on assignments and have an online class workspace. Teachers have used third-party scripts and services to boost Google Drive towards these functions, but now Google is making them available within Drive itself. Classroom by Google is only a part of the Google Apps for Education package, though, so it is only available to schools who use that system.
 
One of the Classroom features which will have a big benefit to supplementing rehearsals is the ability to automatically make copies of a document/assignment for each student. In the choral classroom, this makes reflective writing and practice logs very easy to accomplish. In our scenario above, we took a brief recording from a rehearsal as a model for students to use in their own practice. Using the "make a copy for all" feature in Classroom, you could then open up a Google Doc for each student to write a couple of sentences of observation about the recording, or make notes on how they used it to practice during the week. Since students can also share files back to you or with their choirmates, sectional rehearsals could work the same way-- have a section record themselves and submit the recording and "practice plan" or log amongst themselves for reference.
 
Much of this functionality already exists within Drive, so if you are not a teacher and want to use Google Drive without having access to Google Apps for Education, you can still accomplish these steps. Use of Classroom will streamline the process for teachers, but the core power of Google Drive to quickly share files across users and devices applies to everybody. With your recorder in hand, it's a very easy process now to make rehearsal exerpts available to everyone in your group for practice and reference.