Using Google Slides with Little Learners

Recently I had the opportunity to work with a group of 7 year olds on a very, very short project about bears. My goal was to help these students learn to problem solve as they engaged in research and writing. I decided to use Google Docs Presentation Slides for this project.  

Benefits of Using Google Slides with Little Learners

Google Presentation Slides have a handful of built in supports to make it easy for students to research, create and publish without leaving the page, so it is well suited for working with young students with little or no experience creating on a computer. The integrated research tool was useful for teaching students to begin to learn to search without yielding an overwhelming amount of results to sift through. The built in image search helped students easily find and insert images labeled for reuse, and it allowed me to introduce copyright to them. This is a concept I will continue to build on as we work together in the future. Best of all, the sharing feature allowed us to work collaboratively to build one slide show, which set an attainable goal for these little ones.

Learn Through Constructive Play

To avoid the pitfalls of total chaos and to keep some of the focus on the content, I decided to encourage these young students to engage in some constructive play and problem solving before they started their own slides. I created a nonsense slide right in front of them and challenged them to fix it, take it apart and add something new to the slide. As I quickly assembled the slide in front of students, I demonstrated how to search for an image, taught them about using “handles” to edit and modify content, and showed them how to scroll over the icons in the menu bar to learn more about their functions. I didn’t expect students to learn how to do these things by watching a demo, I wanted to show them what was possible and model some of the thinking required to accomplish tasks. Here is what the first slide looked like.

Challenge: Can you help me fix my slide?

Think About Questions

On the second day, I set the tone for students to get help with the obstacles they would face when creating their own slide. To maximize instructional time, my goal was to keep them working instead of waiting for me to come around to help them solve their problem. To make the most of the time we had together I taught them how to ask specific questions to identify their problem, as an alternative to “I need help!” After all, it is this type of thinking that will ultimately help students become tech savvy and independent. Those of us who are good at solving our own tech problems know how to search for the answers.

Next, I taught them to use the Comments feature in Google Docs to get the questions off of their minds so they could move on and get something accomplished while waiting for help. I’ve learned that students with raised hands waiting for help accomplish little or nothing, and I wanted to avoid that familiar scenario.

Set Attainable Goals

After this exercise in constructive play it was time to let each student create a slide of their own within our collaborative presentation. I created a blank slide for each student and asked them to write a question about bears. We spent the next few days learning. They learned to use the research tool to find answers, they learned to think about “search” to find appropriate information and images, they learned to problem-solve, and they learned to use comments for feedback and help. 

Develop and Share Expertice

Students developed their own areas of expertise and helped each other throughout our short time together. One student became our images expert and another learned to use the Define Tool to replace boring words with more descriptive terms. They corrected their spelling, struggled with dragging things around through the use of a trackpad, and they learned to use the cropping tool to magically transform the shape of their images. The students took pride in their work, and most of all, they had fun!

This is how the practice slide eventually turned out.

Focus on the Learning Instead of the End Product

This short project met the instructional goals I set and we ended up with a very basic and imperfect slideshow about bears. The goal of this project was not focused on the end product and we were not trying to impress anyone. The work we did together was focused on empowering students and helping them acquire the thinking skills necessary for creating and sharing information in a digital environment. I’d say this project was a success!


Common Core Connections: Using Multimedia to Present Knowledge & Ideas

Technology can be a powerful tool to help us meet the Common Core Standards and move our students forward to prepare them for success in school and beyond. In general, the Common Core calls for the seamless integration of technology into the curriculum. There are also specific Common Core standards dedicated to using technology. The Speaking and Listening strand across all grade levels asks students to create presentations that are enhanced by a spiraling complexity of multimedia components.

am excited and nervous about this standard. My excitement stems from a strong believe that students can construct deep knowledge about a topic as they engage in building a multimedia project. If used efficiently, a well designed student-driven learning experience can take the place of traditional methods of teaching content.

My nervousness stems from the possibility that some teachers might simply add a multimedia enriched project to the end of their unit as a culminating activity and then spend large amounts of class time giving each student an opportunity to present to a passive audience of their peers. In this case, there will be loss of instructional time, loads of frustration, and most likely lack of enthusiasm from students as technology is used to make them do more. Effective instructional technology integration calls for using technology as a tool for learning, not as an add on.

To truly make a difference, there needs to be an adjustment in instructional practices. My suggestion is for teachers to abandon the role of “Content Deliverer” and take an approach in which they become a “Facilitator of Learning”. 

Tips for designing an efficient and effective technology powered multimedia project:

  • Start with an Essential Question to drive the learning. Make sure the answers to the questions are complex and can’t be answered with a copy and paste.
  • Provide students with multimedia platforms that allow them to take flexible learning paths to meet their unique learning styles.
  • Allow students to work in collaborative groups to prompt discussion and decision-making.
  • Serve as a Facilitator of Learning. Spend instructional time interacting with students as you informally assess, reteach and challenge them on the spot.
  • Provide students with built in tech support so you can focus on the content, not the technology.
  • Design sharing opportunities that are engaging and non-traditional. Return to the Essential Question and assign a related task for accountability. Provide students with access to a portable learning device and let them learn and explore instead of watch and daydream.
  • Most important tip: Start by creating your own sample to fully understand the task you are asking students to engage in.
Here is an example of what a student might create as the result of a learning experience driven by an Essential Question. This Common Core aligned student-driven multimedia powered project is one that requires students to construct knowledge and it was created with ThingLink.

Essential Question:

Why and how did people struggle for social justice during the Civil Rights Movement?
This image was created with ThingLink

A Playlist to Guide the Learning

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