Monday, August 8, 2016

10 Google Ways to Show What You Know

Going beyond replicating analogue tools in a digital world is not a new approach. Long before the SAMR model, Microsoft's Encarta (1993) was marketed as multimedia – it was more than a digital print encyclopedia. It had videos and audio recordings embedded in the text, if my memory serves me.


These days, kids can make their own Encarta with Google Apps. Most of my students, however, don't wake up in the morning ready to make the next great interactive exhibit for an online museum. But they would prefer to do something meaningful, as opposed to taking notes and regurgitating the information on the next assessment.  

Keeping with the approach of choosing the technology for the learning, and not the other way around, the following list is conceptual. Although more specific examples are included in the bullets, don't hesitate to match an example to a different concept.

As always, share your ideas in the comments to add to the discussion.

1. Slide Presentations

Google Slides is one of the most versatile tools in the box. Coming from experience with Adobe Creative Suite, my need to layout books, posters, and reports is well satisfied. Make PDFs, traditional slideshows, or website content with the formatting options and integration with other tools.
  • Traditional images and text
  • Photo essay
  • Choose your own adventure
  • Game 
2. Posters

Here's another set of products that I would make using Google Slides. More importantly, these kinds of projects are real. At some point in almost every student's life, they'll have to promote something by presenting the information visually. Take this project to the next level by promoting a cause or organization that your class is supporting.
  • Top 10 list
  • Advertisement
  • Charity promotion
  • Public service announcement 
3. Screencasts

The most knowledge building and retention of information happens when we teach. Turn your students into teachers and they'll be personally invested in the outcome (engagement).

YouTube has so many tools to make videos and slideshows, but don't be afraid to try some of the Chrome extensions, too. I like Snagit and Screencastify.
  • Instructional video
  • Show and tell
  • How-To 
  • Slideshow w/ annotations 
4. eBooks

Guess which tool. My favorite – Google Slides. So many people are using Slides to make ebooks, newsletters, magazines, and so much more. The layout is wide open, like a blank slate. I would encourage students to search Google Images for reports and magazine design concepts to get inspiration.
  • Children's book
  • Textbook section
  • Short story
5. Drawing

I'm used to Adobe Illustrator, so Google Drawing was not high on my list. That was until I realized that most of what I was doing with Adobe could be done with Google, only much faster. Furthermore, having a medium-powered drawing app in the suite of tools makes it easy to format your images just the way you want them. Give a shot. It's not just a paint accessory.
  • Comic strips
  • Graphic organizers
  • Stickers or T-shirt designs
6. Collages

Remember that the reason we use Google Apps is to go beyond what's possible otherwise. I love a paper print collage. I also love clicking on images and seeing videos that relate to the media in meaningful ways, like a slide of the artist's process.
  • Scrapbooking 
  • Mosaics (try this by cropping w/ shapes)
  • Interactive video collages
7. Survey

Google Forms is one of my go-to apps for so many reasons. The best work my students do is their own. Think about the kinds of problems your students can respond to with data that they've collected and refined critical analysis.

It gets me excited when a student makes a survey. Asking questions is still the inroad to learning. That will never change. Try thinking about anything with questions. They're crucial.
  • Collect data on interests
  • Sample a population for a social problem
  • Make news with real data
8. Blog or Newsletter

Smore looks great. It's probably time for me to get a subscription so my emails to parents about the week's activities look more professional. I'll probably get more clicks and reads.

Our students, on the other hand, don't need to send professional newsletters, for the most part. They can make an announcements page on their Google site (the new Sites looks great), or they could use Blogger. Either way, the experience of writing something that will be published for the world to read creates a different force driving the effort. 
  • Technical instructions
  • Share a refelction on learning
  • Advice column
  • Collect Tweets and annotate
9. Museum Exhibit

It doesn't have to be for a museum. It could be a multimedia feature for a video or a slideshow embedded on a website, to name a couple more examples.

The power of the possibilities lies in the choice of the museum (natural history, art, ancient history, etc.) and the opportunity for students to work with evidence to organize a response to a problem.

10. Video

Is there anything more popular than video? Let's look beyond the multitude of tools and uploading to YouTube so we can focus on the learning outcomes. 

Let's imagine students who are more aware of how they sound, more confident to respond in the moment, and believers in the importance of organizing ideas coherently. That's what making videos does for learners.
  • Newscast
  • Documentary
  • Skit (satire)
  • Discussion panel
BONUS: App Smash

Consider the app smash concept. Why limit the students to one app. Much of what is produced in our economy requires multiple tools. For example, a poster made on Slides may need visuals created with Drawing. It can all be taken a step further when the kids collaborate on a documentary that includes promotions by news, posters, and YouTube trailers. Making the branding assets with Drawing will allow the students to use the same file on the poster and video.

I think that you'll find (if you haven't already) that kids will find what they are good at and want to contribute their work for the better of the group. It's my goal to provide my students with the opportunities to learn about their strengths and interests. Although I'm still in the process of eliminating wastebasket work and shifting control to my students, I can see moments of what our classroom will one day become. It takes time, so I'm glad that I have some.

Thanks for reading.