Going (almost) paperless with free Google tools

I’ve been organizing a one week school trip to England with about 30 students and I am astonished  by the vast amount of not only paperwork but actual paper such a trip still requires in 2014, when all my students are equipped with computers and smartphones. Starting from catalogues of tour operators to endless lists for payments, passport numbers and host families the paper flow just doesn’t seem to stop. One thing that has particularly puzzled me is that I had to ask for a digital copy of anything I received from the tour operator, including boarding passes and addresses of our host families. In order to reduce the amount of paper I have tried to use electronic tools between me and my students when collecting data and sharing information as much as possible. These include:

Student information
I collected almost all of the information (phone numbers, email addresses, parent’s phone numbers, etc.) I needed via Google Forms (see here) and then exported the contact details to my Gmail contacts to have my students’ and their parents’ phone numbers available in case of an emergency.

Travel documents and information
I have shared some important travel documents and information via Gmail and Google Drive. In particular students should have their boarding passes and the addresses of their host families available on their phones. Other, less essential, information includes: travel guides, tube map, bus timetables in PDF format (these are also available as apps).

I created the programme in a Google Doc initially when it occurred to me that the best way of doing the programme is using a sheet. This allows you to quickly create a (shareable) Google Calendar, which is much more flexible than a conventional table: different views (most useful ones being the agenda view and the weekly calendar), it automatically creates links to Google Maps if you specify a place, students can import the calendar in their calendars and you can update events in real time.


Of course maps are always useful when travelling. For this particular trip I have created a map in Maps Engine for our day trip to London custom placemarks as well as a map of the host families homes. The latter can be easily created from a Google Sheet.

Checklists, vouchers, etc.
For some kinds of information Google Keep is more convenient than Google Drive. Google Keep is way faster than Drive and you don’t have to enable offline availability first as in Drive.  I created a quick copy of a number of documents with my phone and then sent the image to Keep and had the text transcribed (as in the example of the voucher below). Checklists are another thing that are easier to do in Keep than in Drive. I keep a checklist of all participants in a note, which I can copy spontaneously for whatever purpose might come up.


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