A lot of people underestimate Slides as a teaching tool. Sure, it can do slide presentations for standard lecture-type classes, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, one ed-tech blogger calls Slides the “Swiss army knife” of G-Suite – it can be repurposed to do all kinds of interesting things.
Our primary school colleagues have been doing amazing things with Google Slides for a while. There’s a lot that we can learn from them as we adapt our in-person teaching style to the new flex-hybrid world. This post features some of the best techniques we’ve discovered for using Slides, adapted to the collegiate environment.
One great basic tip one of our primary school colleagues offered is worth mentioning right at the start of this post: You can learn a lot about using Slides and pretty much any G-Suite app by right-clicking. Just explore!
There are a lot of techniques discussed in this post, so here are links to help you jump right to the sections you need:
- Resources to Help You Do the Techniques Described Here
- The Tried-and-True, Part I: Post a Writing Prompt or Other Prep-Ahead Content
- The Tried-and-True, Part II: Use Google Slides for Lectures and Presentations
- The Tried-and-True, Part III: Flip Your Classroom with a Self-Guided Lesson
- Level Up Your Presentations
- Design Your Presentations for Screen Reading
- Add Images and Audio and Video Files
- Link To a Specific Paragraph in a Google Doc or a Specific Cell in a Google Sheet
- Link to Another Slide in a Presentation
- Stop-Motion Animated Diagrams to Demonstrate a Process
- Add Polls and Assessment Questions to Slides to Increase Student Engagement During Lectures
- Digital Poster Sessions and “Gallery Walks”
- Designing Posters
- Displaying Artwork in a “Digital Gallery”
- How to Do Digital Poster Sessions or “Gallery Walks”
- Graphic Novels
- Add Slides to Google Sites Pages and Blog Posts
- Idea Collection and Brainstorming
- Lock the Background of a Slide
- Lock the Background of a Slide to Create a Drag-and-Drop Assessment
- Lock the Background of a Slide to Let Students Mark Up a Text Passage (or Solve a Math Problem)
- Lock the Background to Play with Magnetic Poetry
- Create a “Virtual Office” in Slides and Embed It into Your Canvas Front Page
- Start Class in an Interesting Way
- Create Images for Use in Other Applications
Resources to Help You Do the Techniques Described Here
- How to use Google Slides
- How to “present screen” in Google Meet and share your screen in Zoom.
- Google for Education Teacher Center – Get Started with Slides. This page contains links to tutorials, instructional videos, and tips and tricks from teachers.
- G Suite Learning Center
The Tried-and-True, Part I: Post a Writing Prompt or Other Prep-Ahead Content
Writing on the board is a bit more challenging in a flex-hybrid classroom than it is in a fully in-person classroom. Document cameras and Jamboard (see here, here, and here for more CLT materials on Jamboard) make this easier, but you can also reduce your tech stress by prepping some content ahead of time using Slides. This doesn’t have to be fancy at all! Sometimes a single slide with plain text on a plain background is all you need.
Things you can post on a Slide:
- A writing prompt
- Instructions for how to carry out a class activity
- A short written explanation of something you know you’ll cover that day
- An icebreaker or discussion-opening question
Single slides can be a great addition to “soft starts” of your synchronous class meetings (that is, opening up your session a few minutes ahead of the scheduled start time and encouraging students to “arrive” early for some informal chat. Learn more about “soft starts” here.)
The Tried-and-True, Part II: Use Google Slides for Lectures and Presentations
A classic thing to do with Google Slides is, of course, to use it for its stated purpose: to create a slide presentation and present it in class.
For flex-hybrid courses, you need – at a minimum – to do two additional things with your presentation:
- Screencast and record your presentation for students who are attending class remotely. You can do this with Panopto and/or by creating a Google slides presentation with auto-advance and audio (see below to learn how to do that).
- Share your presentation with your students by clicking the yellow “Share” button on the top right. You can share with individual students by typing in their names and selecting whether you want them to be editors, commenters, or viewers; and you can share with your whole class by choosing “Change link to Champlain College” to open up a box that lets you change the presentation sharing from “Restricted” to “Champlain College” to “Anyone with the link”.
- Tip: If you’re cutting and pasting a shareable link to a Slides presentation, publish it to the web first so that when people open the link they see a preview, not the Slides interface with all the editing tools.
The Tried-and-True, Part III: Flip Your Classroom with a Self-Guided Lesson
If you’re flipping your course, the watch-ahead component does not have to be a video – a Slides presentation will often do just as well or better (and be easier to make!).
You can enhance your students’ class prep materials using some of the “Level Up” techniques below.
Level Up Your Presentations
While the above will meet the basic requirements for a flex-hybrid course, there’s so much you can do to make your presentations more accessible and useful to the students in your flex-hybrid courses.
Design Your Presentations for Screen Reading
Many of your students will interact with your presentations primarily via a screen. Eye-tracking studies have shown that people read differently on screens and are less able to concentrate and retain what they’ve read. Fortunately, there are a number of simple techniques to improve the readability of your Slides presentations and other documents designed to be viewed on a screen.
Add Images and Audio and Video Files
Google Slides allows you to add music and audio to your presentations. This can be a great way to spice up your content.
One great suggestion is to use historical audio or video, such as Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech or the fall of the Berlin Wall. Many recordings are in the public domain.
You can do this yourself – and/or you can have your students create an audio presentation! One interesting genre that you can ask your students to work in is Ted-Ed talks.
Important: Don’t forget to add captioning to your audio. You can do this automatically in Slides.
On the first day, if Slides audio is something you’re going to use a lot during the semester, you can have students practice it by creating a single slide with audio that introduces themselves to the class (or you could assign it after the first class to be presented during the second class).
You can also put your syllabus on slides and present it to your students this way, as long as you also post a PDF of it to Canvas to fulfill the College’s requirements.
Link To a Specific Paragraph in a Google Doc or a Specific Cell in a Google Sheet
You can link from a Slide straight to a specific paragraph in a Google Doc or to a specific cell on a Google Sheet. This can function like a paper in-class handout – it can point students to a particular passage or calculation you want them to analyze together.
First, make sure that your Google Doc or Google Sheet is accessible to your students (that is, either make it public or open for all Champlain addresses, or share it with students individually if you haven’t already).
To insert a link to a specific part of a Google Doc, create a bookmark in your Google Doc. Do this by highlighting the paragraph you want to link to. Click “Insert” and then “Bookmark”. You’ll then see a little box with two options: “link” and “remove”. Click “link” to copy the bookmark, and then insert the link into your Google Slide as you would insert any link.
To insert a link to a specific box on a Google Sheet, highlight the cell to which you want to link, and then right-click and choose “Get link to this cell”. When you do this, the link will automatically be copied to your clipboard and you can simply paste it into your Google Slide as you would any other link.
Link to Another Slide in a Presentation
In addition to linking to web pages, you can link between slides in your presentation. This can be very helpful in creating a guided lesson.
To do so, simply highlight the text you want to use as your link, then right click and choose “Link”, and then, instead of typing or pasting a URL into the Link box, click “Slides from this Presentation” and choose the slide you want.
This can be helpful for creating a table of contents for a longer presentation (you can even have just one slide presentation that you use for lecturing the whole semester long if you think it would be easier for students to find and reference).
Stop-Motion Animated Diagrams to Demonstrate a Process
When we teach in person, we sometimes “animate” diagrams we draw on the board by adding to them, erasing parts of them, drawing arrows, labelling, circling to emphasize, etc. This “animation” helps our students to understand the various steps of a process or the way something changes over time.
Google Slides can fulfill the same function in a flex-hybrid classroom, with the added bonus that your explanation will be available for students to review later if they need to.
Here’s how to create a stop-motion animated diagram in Slides:
- Create a new presentation with an initial slide with the diagram you want to animate.
- Duplicate that initial slide (Slide>Duplicate slide) and move/add/erase/change the parts of the diagram as needed. (The shape, image, text box, and line icons in the top menu are very helpful – if you don’t see them, you can also access these features by clicking “Insert”.)
- Repeat this process as many times as necessary. (Tip: Make sure the movements and changes in your diagram are small enough that when you play the “animation”, it isn’t too jerky.)
- Click “File” and then select “Publish to the Web”. (Tip: Yes, you have to publish to the web to make the animation play. Because of this, it’s not a bad idea to add a copyright to the footer to protect your IP.)
- You will be taken to a screen on which you can choose the rate at which your slides will auto-advance. You can also select the option to have the slideshow begin automatically and to restart automatically after the last slide (looping). Choose the settings that will work best for you.
- Click “Publish”. If a confirmation box appears, click “OK”.
- After you click Publish, a new link will appear in the window. You need to use this link instead of clicking “Present”. (Clicking “Present” will show the slides, but without auto-advance or looping.)
- If you want to edit your content after you publish it, go back and repeat this process and copy the new link.
The quickest auto-advance setting you can use is one slide per second, so this technique is not suitable for creating exciting content, but it’s a wonderful tool for those of us who want to make a simple animation without having to go through a steep learning curve.
Don’t feel like making an animation yourself? Have your students create animated diagrams instead to demonstrate their understanding of a concept you’ve just explained. (Sneaky version: use your students’ animations next year – with their permission, of course.)
Add Polls and Assessment Questions to Slides to Increase Student Engagement During Lectures
Student engagement improves when you use “active learning” techniques such as polls, clicker questions, and so on.
You can incorporate interactive questions and assessments into a Slides presentation.
For quick polls to spark engagement and assess comprehension in real time, you can use PollEverywhere, which allows students to respond to survey questions using their mobile phones.
You’ll need to sign up for a free account (be sure to use the higher education plan, which gives you more features than the free business and non-profit plan) and then download the PollEverywhere Google Slides Add-On.
Here’s how you use the PollEverywhere Google Slides Add-On once you’ve downloaded it.
You can likewise link to a Google Form from the text of a slide (you simply set up a link like any other, but to the Google Form). Obviously, to make this work, you will need to ask your students to have your presentation open on their laptops or smartphones so that they can click on the link from their screens.
To see and and show Google Forms survey results in real time, click on the link on your own screen. This will automatically take you out of “presentation” mode and show you the Form as one of your browser tabs. Click on the appropriate tab to go to the Form, and then, at the top of the form, click “Responses” and then “Summary” to show the results to your class.
(If you want to get fancy, you can download the responses to your Google Forms surveys and turn them into polished content that can be exported into Docs and Slides and presented to your class next time. Form Publisher and Form Director are a couple of the add-ons that do this.)
You should only use Google Forms for quick surveys, not for graded quizzes, because you’ll have to manually transfer the quiz grades into Canvas later, which is tedious.
If you want to give your students an actual graded quiz during a Google Slides presentation, set up a quiz in Canvas, post it to the appropriate Module so that students can access it later as well, and then add the URL of the quiz into the text of a Google slide. (To do this, simply right-click on the name of the quiz in the Module, copy the link, and then paste it into the text of the slide.) As with Google Forms, students will need to have the presentation open on their laptops or smartphones so that they can click on the link. They will then need to sign into Canvas to take the quiz.
Digital Poster Sessions and “Gallery Walks”
For classes that include poster sessions, Slides is a great tool for designing posters – it has the same “aspect ratio” (i.e. ratio of horizontal to vertical) as typical 4×3 horizontal posters.
Displaying Artwork in a “Digital Gallery”
Students can “mount” a digital image on a single slide like they’d mount a physical piece of art on a wall.
They can also mount multimedia content on a Slide, too – particularly other forms of media from G-Suite.
How to Do Digital Poster Sessions or “Gallery Walks”
Until we can do in-person poster sessions and gallery shows, Google Slides can offer a handy stand-in. Students can share their posters or works of art with the class for comment/critique using one of the following techniques:
Combine all the poster/artwork slides into a single presentation that you share with your students. If you show the poster presentation in a synchronous session, you can use “Chat” as a way for students to respond to what they see in real time. You can also use Google Forms or PollEverywhere to collect feedback from students to help others improve their work.
Set up a Canvas discussion board to which students should post their Slides. Students would then “circulate around the room” by going to other students’ posts, opening the links and viewing/playing the presentation and responding to other posts.
Use Slides to have students create graphic novels and present them to the class. They can even draw the panels of the graphic novel, photograph them with their phone, and then paste the images. Students can advance the slides automatically (see above) or they can advance them manually as part of a presentation to the class.
A fun idea from ShakeUpLearning: students can even add audio to their graphic novels.
Add Slides to Google Sites Pages and Blog Posts
This is another great idea from our primary school colleagues that will work well at any educational level.
At the college level, you can assign your class to collaborate on creating a Wiki about a shared topic – and a Slides presentation can be one option for students to contribute.
Idea Collection and Brainstorming
Sticky Note Board
If you like to use sticky notes on a whiteboard in an in-person class, you can use Google Slides to replicate this technique in a flex-hybrid classroom. Bonus: When the brainstorming session is over, everyone’s ideas will be recorded in a presentation you can share and archive for your students.
You can share the Slides with everyone in the class for group brainstorming, keep it just to yourself and control the sticky notes more tightly, or designate a few students as note-takers to manage the sticky notes.
If it’s only you or all the students, present your own screen in Meet (and project it on the screen in the classroom, too, if there is an in-person component to the class); if you have designated note-takers, have one of them present their screen instead while you moderate the brainstorming session.
This can even be done asynchronously if you prefer, or you can start the brainstorming in class and then assign students to continue it after class is over.
What’s nice about this is that unlike with physical sticky notes, your brainstorming session gets saved. At a certain point, you can even change students’ editing permissions to view-only so that no more brainstorming can happen.
This is similar to “sticky notes”, but handy if you’re trying to collect ideas on a number of different topics.
You can also do a multi-slide “interactive notebook” to which students can add content as they need to. The slides can be in sticky-note format or anything else that seems appropriate to you.
(The difference between doing this in slides and docs is that Docs will automatically add pages as students add content, while Slides will not – which might help keep things organized. Students will have to edit content so that it all fits on one page. You might want to designate students who will do this.)
Lock the Background of a Slide
Lock the Background of a Slide to Create a Drag-and-Drop Assessment
This is a very interesting idea that might be especially good for science courses.
On Google Slides, you can create a slide background and then lock it so that others can’t change it. (Here’s how to do that.)
This background could be an image, a diagram, or anything else you want your students to show that they understand. You can then add moveable elements to the Slide that can be dragged around by anyone with editing privileges. These elements can be images, arrows, text boxes with labels for things depicted in the background – whatever you wish.
As a learning activity or even an assessment, you can challenge your students to drag the movable elements around the slide and position them to demonstrate their understanding of a concept.
You can even have students start with the original slide and then create their own animation to show that they understand a process.
You can require students to create and submit to Canvas a PDF of their changes to the Slides presentation to “freeze” their answer so that you can assess it.
Alternatively, you can ask students to record and add audio to explain their answers (you can also add audio to the presentation to record your feedback).
Lock the Background of a Slide to Let Students Mark Up a Text Passage (or Solve a Math Problem)
You can do this either as an assignment or as a group exercise in real time. You set the text or the initial problem as a locked background and students can annotate it using text boxes and drawing tools, especially the “Line” menu, which includes a “scribble” option that lets you move the cursor freely to draw and write (awkwardly, but it does work).
You can set up a presentation made up of identical slides, assign each slide to a different group of students and then show all the slides at the end in front of the class to compare the ways the different groups approached the annotation.
(Or, you can start out with individual slides for each group and then combine them into a single presentation, just as you would to make a poster session or digital gallery. Note: This is not something you can do in real time – it takes about 5-10 minutes to do. You’d need to do it for the next class.)
If you like, you can ask the students to record their discussion as they mark up the text and add it to the presentation as audio so that you can hear their thought process. Different students can even add audio at different times as a way to communicate with each other while completing the exercise asynchronously.
Here’s a video that demonstrates this technique – it shows a primary school example, but this technique lends itself to work at any level.
Lock the Background to Play with Magnetic Poetry
Create a “Virtual Office” in Slides and Embed It into Your Canvas Front Page
We’re all being encouraged to use the Canvas Template and put a fun, personal image on the homepage of our courses. What could be more personal than your own “virtual classroom”, “virtual office”, or any other virtual scene that you like, made in Slides?
This is cool and super-fancy and fun to do (thanks to Deborah Bloom in OIE for turning us on to this one) – and it introduces your students to you before they even meet you on the first day. It can also be used to help students do the most important things you want them to do – contact you, set up appointments, read your Canvas bio – whatever you think is important that you want to emphasize in this fun way.
To make a virtual office, you use simple graphic design features in Slides (inserting shapes, cutting and pasting images found on the web, etc), text, and hyperlinks to create an office scene (or really, a scene of anything you like). The idea is that the links take you to various useful things you want students to know – for example, one link could be to a Google Appointments page to sign up for office hours, another could go to an electronic version of the textbook, and another could go to your welcome video.
Virtual offices, like real offices, don’t have to be static. You can update them regularly with new announcements, links to the module you’re working on this week, a quick video summary of what’s going on in the course this week – whatever you like.
Many K-12 teachers add Bitmoji images of themselves inside their virtual classrooms. You make these using a Smartphone app, which you can find links to at https://www.bitmoji.com/.
This is lots of fun and definitely would add a nice element of warmth to your homepage – but may not be a fit for all teaching personas. Obviously, the goal is to reflect your personality and give your students a sense of who you are, so do what seems right for you.
To show some fun things you can do with this “genre”, here’s another virtual office – which is not an office at all, but a favorite cafe.
How to Make a Virtual Office
The quickest way to learn the technique for creating a virtual scene in Slides is to watch or read a couple of tutorials. Once you get the idea, you’ll be off and running quickly. (Warning! Making a virtual office is addictive – you’ll likely spend more time on it than you intended because it’s so much fun to do.)
Elin Melchior and the team in the Office of International Education have put together these instructions for making a virtual office, which contain a quick written how-to as well as links to some videos.
Two additional tutorials are linked here (the first is written, and the second is on YouTube).
One important thing to know: the Bitmoji Chrome extension helps itself liberally to information typed into your computer – which might even include credit card numbers. If you use it to make a Bitmoji for your office, it’s probably a good idea to install it, do what you need to do with it, and uninstall it again right away before you make any online purchases or type any sensitive emails.
How to Embed Your Virtual Office in Your Canvas Homepage
- Go to your virtual office in Slides.
- Choose File>Publish to the web.
- When the “Publish” window opens, click “Embed” and copy and paste the code that appears in the box.
- Go to your homepage in Canvas and make you’ve got the layout set to show the “front page” as the homepage.
- Once you’ve done that, click “Edit” to edit the front page and add your virtual office.
- On above the top right of the editing window, click the blue link that says “HTML Editor”.
- Paste the embed link into the HTML code.
- Click “Save”.
You should see your virtual office on your Canvas homepage!
(If you don’t see it, check that you’ve designated the appropriate page as the course homepage and front page.)
Start Class in an Interesting Way
Put a quotation, question, image, or sticky notes/magnetic poetry on a Slide, and present your screen (or share the slide if it’s interactive) for students to respond to or play with during the “soft start” to your class.
You can even include audio to add some fun background music.
Create Images for Use in Other Applications
You can use Google slides to create images such as flowcharts, Venn diagrams, etc. that you can then save as an image file and use in other applications.
To save a slide as an image, go to File > Download as > JPEG image or PNG image. Save your image to your device.
Tip: If you change your background to “transparent” your image will have no background in JPEG/PNG format and can be pasted nicely into other things. To do this, click on File > Change background, then choose Transparent. (Thanks to TheEduBlogger.com for this idea.)