Teacher Tech blog with Alice Keeler

Paperless Is Not a Pedagogy

Alice Keeler

Google Docs are Better Than PDF Comments

Google Docs Comments
Google Docs are Better Than PDF Comments

Google Docs Comments

Google Docs are Better Than PDF Comments

I have made it no secret that I am not a fan of annotating PDF’s. What makes using Google Apps great is the focus on collaboration. PDF’s are not collaborative, not real time, no revision history, lack engagement, and are oftentimes a direct substitute for paper. Technology should allow us to upgrade what we’ve been doing with paper. How does technology help us to be MORE connected?

Google Docs comments can be inserted by highlighting a word or selection of words. To the right of the document a comments button shows up. You can also right click and choose “Comment” to insert a comment. I prefer to use the keyboard shortcut Control Alt M to insert a comment and Control Enter to save the comment.
Control Alt M

Comments Button

Scribbling feedback comments on a PDF requires the student to go find the document, open it, and scan it for where the scribbles are. Google Docs has a Comments button in the upper right. Click on the button and the student can easily find a list in timestamp order of any comments left on the students work.

Google Docs Comments


One of the most significant ways that Google Docs makes learning better is it transforms comments into conversations. A scribble on a PDF is just that, students can not respond. Google Docs allows me to have conversations around a students learning until they get it.

conversations not comments


When feedback is scribbled on a PDF the student does not receive a notification. Google Docs has the ability to push an email notification that feedback was left. So many times I was in the process of leaving feedback for a student and the student received a notification and joined me in the document where we were able to right then have back and forth about their learning. One of the coolest things ever.

notifications in Google Docs

No Save Button

It is a little hard to get used to, but there is no save button in Google Docs. PDF’s do not have this feature.

No Sae button in Google Docs


A PDF is flat. A Google Doc allows the student to respond to feedback and make adjustments. Google Docs allows for a mastery learning approach. Unlike a PDF, Google Docs has revision history which allows me to see the progression of the work.

Interact better with students. Use Google Docs instead of PDF’s.

1 thought on “Google Docs are Better Than PDF Comments

  1. Helpful reminders here Alice. In addition to the benefits you mention, students also learn the art of digital collaboration, digital responsibility, and executive functioning that will undoubtedly be part of their future productivity and interaction. Bob

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