Google Can Do What? Five Activities to Engage Students

By: Matt Miller


Google Apps, now called G Suite, is really catching on in classrooms around the United States and beyond. But the way we think about its tools, such as Docs, Sheets, or Slides, is stuck in first gear.

It is easy for teachers to think of using these productivity suite tools in these ways:

  • I'll have my students write essays in Docs.
  • We'll create presentations in Slides.
  • We can crunch numbers and make charts in Sheets.

With effective collaborative and sharing functions in these tools, the classroom potential is much greater. It just takes a little experimentation and creativity to produce some really engaging activities.

Here are six creative uses of Google Apps / G Suite that extend beyond normal uses and expectations:

Collaborative Slides

The Slides app is a perfect place for students to work together in a collaborative space while still having their own little piece of real estate to do their work. Here's how you can use Slides:

  • Create a new slide presentation with a slide for each student.
  • Share that presentation with students, either through Google Classroom or with a link, by clicking the "Share" button. Make sure to change the sharing settings to "Anyone with the link can edit."
  • Have students find an empty slide and type in their name to create their work space.
  • Assign a task and students can write, add pictures, provide links, etc. on their slides.
  • When they are finished, the teacher can review what students have created by projecting their slides on a screen for all to view.
  • Have students look at each other's slides and type comments, making their work a discussion and more like social media platforms that many are comfortable using. They can ask each other questions, provide additional details, or insert links to more information.

Animation

If you ever turned the corner of your notebook into an animation flip book, this experience is for you! We can create flip book/stop motion-style animation with Google Slides. This experience puts the power of animation into the hands of students, meaning that if they can visualize it in their minds, they can put it into motion on a screen.

Here's how you can do it:

  • Students create a new slide presentation. Then, they design the scene they want to illustrate on the first slide.
  • Students then right click (Mac or Chromebook: two-finger tap) the slide thumbnail on the left and choose "Duplicate slide."
  • On that duplicate, they move the parts they want to illustrate by using the arrow keys or mouse.
  • Repeat this "duplicate slide and move objects" process over and over until the animation is finished.
  • Upon completion, students can share their animation in full-screen. Flip through the slides
    very quickly with the space bar, down arrow, or right arrow to see the animation in action!

These animations can also be recorded in video. Just use a screencasting tool from the web or a program like Snagit to record those slides on your screen as you flip through them.

Examples of student work and additional resources include:

Interactive Posters

Almost all of us have completed a poster project at some point in our careers. Getting students to bring in poster board is a hassle, and so is cleaning up the mess of paper bits, glue, and glitter.

By using Google Drawings, a Google app that is like a virtual, digital poster board, we can kick up that poster project to the next level.

Here's how you can do it:

  • Create a new Google Drawing by clicking the "New" button in Google Drive, then hover over the "More" selection to locate Google Drawings (or just go to www.drawings.google.com).
  • Create titles using text boxes and choosing from hundreds of fonts.
  • Pull in Creative Commons images (the types students have legal rights to use in their work!) by clicking Insert > Image … > Search.
  • Instead of listing a ton of information (which most posters do), make this digital poster an interactive multimedia poster by inserting links to videos, audio recordings, articles, Wikipedia entries, and more.
  • Have students share links to their Google Drawings interactive posters with classmates by posting them in Google Classroom or a TodaysMeet discussion room.

Use the following link to read a blog post about creating interactive posters (with an example!): www.ditchthattextbook.com/posters.

Photo Comic Strips

Make students the stars of their own comic strips by taking pictures with webcams on their devices! These comic strips can be created either with Google Slides (one frame per slide) or Google Drawings (put all frames on one canvas).

Here's how you can do it:

  • Create a new Google Slides presentation or Google Drawing.
  • Click Insert > Image > Take a snapshot. Have students take a photo using their device webcams, and insert it into the slide presentation or drawing.
  • Students can resize the pictures and add more pictures. Use the shapes button (a button that looks like a circle and square on a computer or Chromebook, yet on an iPad choose "Insert").
  • Insert speech bubbles and type in what the students in the photo are saying or insert thought bubbles. Students might also use arrows to point out important facts.
  • Repeat the process for as many new frames of the comic strip as you would like to include.

See examples and other ideas on Mike Petty's photo comics site by going to www.ditchthattextbook.com/photocomics.

Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

I used to love Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid. They are the kinds of books where you read a few pages and then choose the next step in the story by turning to a certain page. Google Slides is a great tool to create stories of your own!

Here's how you can do it:

  • Create a Google Slides presentation. Write the first part of the story on one slide. Then give the reader options for where the story should go next, either in that same text box or by creating buttons with the shapes tool.
  • Create a new slide for each possible story choice. Write the next part of the story on separate slides. You can give the reader more choices for the next part of the story like you did in the first step above.
  • Repeat this process over and over to make the story as long as you'd like, yet keep in mind that the longer the story, the more complicated it is to keep all of the possible options straight. You might want to create a storyboard flow chart showing all of the options.
  • When you finish writing the story, link the slides together. On the first slide, highlight the text for one of the choices the reader can select. Use the link button and click "Slides in this presentation." Choose the slide that corresponds to that choice. Repeat this process for all of the possible choices the reader can take.

Having a hard time picturing it? See an example by going to www.ditchthattextbook.com/choose.


Matt Miller is a blogger, speaker, and the author of Ditch That Textbook: Free Your Teaching and Revolutionize Your Classroom. A classroom veteran of more than a decade, he is a Google Certified Innovator and writes and speaks regularly on using Google tools in the classroom.
@jmattmiller
www.ditchthattextbook.com

Published in AMLE Magazine, April 2017.

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Article tags
Student EngagementStudent Motivation

1 Comments
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1 comments on article "Google Can Do What? Five Activities to Engage Students"

I love how easy google has made it to include technology in the classroom. I am completing my field experience in a school where the students use Chrome Books for a lot of things. I am in a Language Arts classroom so we use google docs and google forms a lot. The students love it and are more willing to work when they know that they can do it on their Chrome Books. I love all of the ideas that are given here and will have to try and use them in my classroom.

—Leah
12/4/2017 4:40 PM

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