Thursday, January 28, 2021

Get Started Collaborating on Projects Using Google Chat Rooms


Not too long ago, Google unveiled a new feature to Google Chat called Rooms. When I first saw it, I really didn't see the point. I couldn't imagine why I would ever use it. It appeared, at first glance, as a glorified group chat. After experimenting with it for some projects, it has become a game changer for collaboration. Rooms integration into the Gmail interface has really made Gmail a one-stop shop for productivity. 

You may be wondering, as I did, when will you ever use it? If you are a classroom teacher, its great for the work done within a PLC. If you are a coach, it's a great place to collaborate with fellow coaches on PD projects. If you are an administrator, Rooms is great for facilitating collaboration on staff meetings with leadership teams. In a nutshell, if you need to collaborate on a project, Rooms is an amazing productivity tool.

Rooms allows you to invite stakeholders who can hold threaded discussions, share files easily, assign tasks and more. The sharing of files is much easier than finding the file in Drive and sharing from there. If you add a file to thread in Rooms, with only a few clicks, all members of the Room can have access to the file. In addition, each post within a thread gives you the option to call a video meeting with Google Meet. When threads are updated with new posts, pop up notifications appear as a Chat message in Gmail. This makes it easy to stay on top of news regarding the project. If there are threads within a Room that don't concern you, you can unfollow it and not get notified when it is updated.

Get started in Gmail by clicking the little arrow next to Rooms. Depending on your settings, this may be on the left or right side of your screen. This will show all the Rooms you've created or are a part of.

To start a room, click the plus button to the right of Rooms.

In the menu that appears, click Create room.

A small window will appear. Give your room a title in the first box. Below, add people's names/email addresses. Below there, you have two options. One is to organize the "conversations" into threads. This is something I highly recommend you do. The other option is whether or not to allow people outside your district's domain to be able to join. This is up to you. If working with county level, state level or consultants, you will want to check this box.

Once created, this is what it looks like when you open the Room in Gmail. You can go to the dedicated Google Chat website,, to access Rooms if you want. When your Room is brand new, you can get started by clicking the New thread button at the bottom of the page.

When starting a new thread, my recommendation is make the first post the title. At this time, we don't have the option to give custom titles to threads. That would be very useful. Until that time comes, make your first post in a thread the "title". This is helpful for organizing your room. In the sample below, the thread was titled 3rd Quarter Common Formative Assessments.

Members of the room click Reply to initiate a conversation, share links, share files or start a video call with Google Meet. Those buttons are to the right of the Reply bar circled below.

If you click the Google Drive button, circled above, it will open a menu where you search your Drive and add files to the thread.

When you use Rooms in Gmail, not the Google Chat site, and you open a shared file, it opens right within Gmail. You can see real time edits from collaborators and edit the file yourself. No having to have extra tabs open. This is making Gmail more of a one stop shop. 

When you post the file to thread, you'll be prompted to give permissions to the members of the Room. This doesn't seem like much, but it can be huge time saver. Before Rooms, you'd have to find the file in Drive, click Share and type in all the names of those with whom you wanted to share. This is much faster. In addition, collaborators don't have to go looking for old emails or the Shared with me folder. All they have to do is open the Room to access the file.

If you were to click the Google Meet icon, what you see below is what it would look like in the thread. This is useful for generating Google Meet links for instant or future meetings.

At the top of each room, you see three tabs. The default one is Chat. Next to it you will see Files and Tasks. When you click the Files tab, you'll see a list of all the files shared throughout different threads within the Room. 

In the Tasks tab, you can create Tasks for room members. Do so by clicking Add room task.

When creating a task, you can set a due date/time and assign it to a room member. To whomever it is assigned will see it appear in their Google Tasks list on the Gmail side panel.

When typing or replying in a thread, you can direct comment/message room members. You do this by typing the "@" symbol and the person's name. This is good for reminding collaborators of action items that need a response.

Since I started using Google Chat Rooms in late November 2020, my productivity and ability to collaborate has increased tremendously. Chat Rooms has really helped transform Gmail into a one-stop shop for much of the work I do daily. 

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