Drum Roll, Please! Announcing the Newly Released Doctopus, An Add-on for Google Docs | New Visions for Public Schools

Drum Roll, Please! Announcing the Newly Released Doctopus, An Add-on for Google Docs

Classroom teachers spend most of the day chasing after students and the rest of their afternoons and evenings chasing after paper. Time and again educators lament not having personal assistants like many of their similarly-educated colleagues. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone who could make your copies, distribute papers and help you with grading? Well, it turns out that there is, in the form of a Google Add-on called Doctopus.

Doctopus is truly the educator’s virtual personal assistant. This script is so many things: a virtual copy machine for your Google Drive, a customizable feedback tool and a great way to digitize differentiation. As simply stated in the script itself, it "copies and hands out Google Drive files to students listed in a Google Sheet."

Goobric, the Robin to Doctopus’ Batman, is an add-on Chrome extension to the script which allows you to grade distributed assignments with a rubric, then store this assessment data in the same spreadsheet you began with. Doctopus has been incredibly popular for a couple years already, but now it’s getting an exciting makeover. This new and improved version of Doctopus heralds many new features, thanks to the work of the amazing systems team at New Visions and the release of the new Google Sheets.

Just a couple of months ago, Google started rolling out a new version of Sheets. Our favorite spreadsheet tool has seen some fantastic improvements and a major redesign. The new Sheets handles large datasets more efficiently and quickly handles complex calculations. New formulae, filter views and offline access are all exciting features that bring Sheets to a new level.

Apps Script lovers REJOICE! Scripts are back in the new Sheets and there’s a new way to make the magic happen with the brand new Add-ons menu. Scripts have moved out of the Script Gallery and into the Add-ons Gallery. The new interface gives us more detailed information, screenshots, ratings and support information.

But this isn’t just a visual makeover. There are major changes under the hood as well. Now the code is maintained by its publisher as a single instance and is no longer copied into each Sheet. This means that you will always be using the latest version and updates to the scripts will be pushed directly to you. Best of all, you will only have to install each Add-on ONCE! That’s right! Every time you create a new Sheet, the code for Doctopus and all of your Add-ons will be available. Easy peasy!

To take advantage of the new structures our favorite scripty cephalopod has been rewritten with a whole new look and some great features. While much of this new, improved Doctopus will be familiar to those who already hold it dear, there are many exciting changes to check out. To help you find navigate, we've included a screencast by Jay, and we’ve outlined some of our favorite changes below.


  • The script navigation has conveniently been moved to a right-hand panel. This is awesome not only because it's cleaner, but also because it also allows you to better see the roster as you move through the steps.
  • The navigation also now features color! While this may seem like a simple addition, this subtle differentiation helps add emphasis or delineation between different concepts, categories or steps. Speaking of steps, there is a much more detailed explanation of each step, including screenshots to help you when something may be confusing.
  • As mentioned above, you now will launch scripts from the Add-ons menu at the top of your spreadsheet rather than inserting it from the Insert menu or the Scripts Gallery.
  • Perhaps a bittersweet change: say goodbye to your old cartoon buddy Doctopus. The dancing GIF with the face of a spreadsheet, gray tentacles and Google Apps hands are no more. Instead, he’s been replaced with a newer, more anatomically correct cephalopod.

Streamlined Flow

  • Now Doctopus creates the roster template for you. All you need to do is add the emails and student names.
  • Moreover, it stores your rosters so you can reuse them! Now there is no need to copy and paste your class into sheets or make a copy of a roster.
  • If you’re already using Hapara Teacher Dashboard or gClassFolders, you can import rosters from these tools as well.
  • This new version also allows you to select multiple rosters - share Drive files with multiple classes at once!


  • Doctopus now moves the spreadsheet with your roster to the appropriate folder for easier discovery.
  • It also has embedded gClassFolders functionality. From within the Doctopus navigation menu, you can create nested folders for students and a “Teacher” folder in your class folder.


  • Now there is a handy “next” and “back” button each time you submit a completed rubric. Instead of clicking back to the spreadsheet to find the next assignment, you can click directly from the Goobric pop-out!
  • It no longer requires a costly 3rd party database to run, but instead stores files in the your Drive account. This means that, unlike in the past, when lots of people are using Goobric the service should not slow down. This approach means that Doctopus and Goobric can remain free no matter how many teachers use it and that no information about your Docs is stored outside of Drive.

Doctopus has quickly become very popular for sharing documents. But did you know that you can also work with whole folders of resources? Copy and share out all of the files that your students need from the same Sheet in one go. Be sure to also check out the ways that you can configure the permissions to allow for commenting and viewing quickly and efficiently for groups of students or the whole class.

Rubric-based assessments are easy using our favorite Chrome extension, Goobric. While most of us have used Goobric to assess Docs, have you tried assessing other Drive formats like Slides or Drawings? Scores are recorded back in the Doctopus Sheet. The only difference is that the rubric is not inserted into the other file types, but students still get the email with their marks and comments. When you are ready to grade remember there is an embargo feature to lock out students to view access only. When you are done grading be sure to transfer ownership of the documents back to students.

For those who are new to Doctopus, or who are looking for new ways to take advantage of this tool, here are a few of ways we have been using it in our schools:

  • Distribute blank or pre-templated Drive files (Docs, Spreadsheets, Drawings, Spreadsheets) and use Goobric to provide customized feedback. You can either distribute the same file with all students or differentiate by student group or need.
  • Create and distribute lesson plan templates with teachers, then use the roster spreadsheet as a lesson plan database.
  • Create and distribute collaborative group projects in Drive in jigsawed fashion. Great for group lab reports, group presentation decks, shared data spreadsheets, etc.

Give Doctopus a go! We love it, our teachers love it and we’re sure you will, too.

Jay Atwood is the High School Educational Technology Coordinator at Singapore American School. He lives on G+ at google.com/+JayAtwood or @jayatwood on Twitter.

Jennie Magiera is the Digital Learning Coordinator for the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a network of 29 Chicago Public Schools. You can find her on Twitter as @MsMagiera.

Looking to geek out even more over Doctopus? Check out Jennie and Jay's Google Hangout to learn more!