I recently introduced Google Slides (formerly known as Presentation) to a group of students at Aoyama Gakuin University. For most of the students it was their first time to use collaborative software of any kind. I decided to conduct a little study to investigate their reactions to the software and using it to work together collaboratively on a single presentation.
I like to let my students make their own choices as much as possible, and so after introducing them to Google Slides I let them choose their own technology for use during their group project. Five of the six groups adopted Google Slides. Their reasoning can be accurately represented by the following:
I thought it was really useful! Before, whenever I had a presentation in a group someone had to make the PowerPoint on their own for the group. But, if we use Google Slides all the group members can work together as a team.
The one group that didn’t use Google Slides instead used Microsoft PowerPoint. Left to their own, they huddled around a laptop owned by one of the group members. She had the Office 2013 version of PowerPoint, and the school only provided the 2007 version. As you can tell from the picture below, one student ended up doing a lot of the computer work; however, there was a fair amount of interaction between group members during class.
Other groups, however, shared the workload. They were also clearly observed splitting up various research tasks. During class time they sat together and were often in discussion as they worked. They each had their own console, and by using the collaborative capabilities of Google Slides, they could each contribute equally to building their slide show.
After their presentations, I gave them a survey to assess their feelings about working collaboratively.
Group that did not use Google Slides
What were the biggest challenges of the software you used? (n=4)
|S1:||Layout was challenging.|
|S2:||I didn’t have any “biggest challenges” of the software I used.|
|S3:||We cannot share the presentation, but our group finished creating our PowerPoint during class so it wasn’t a problem.|
|S4:||I would like to use the collaborative software, Google Slides, next time. We could only make our PowerPoint presentation during class.|
As you can see, only one student responded that there were no difficulties, one commented on technical issues, while two of the four members, 50%, said that it was difficult to share the workload using their groups method. Student 4, specifically mentions her desire to try collaborative software next time.
Groups that used Google Slides
What were the biggest challenges of using the collaborative software? (n=18)
|6||33%||Minor technical issues related to unfamiliarity with software|
|2||11%||Needed to meet in person once in a while|
I enjoyed being able to continue working together outside of class. (n=18)
As you can see, 72% of the Google Slides users responded that they enjoyed being able to continue working together outside of class. 55% responded that there were no challenges, while 33% responded with only minor commentary related to learning new software. However, 11% said that it was difficult to communicate with classmates outside of class and that they needed to get together in person once in a while.
Being that there were four classes allotted for group work on this project, there was adequate time for them to communicate in person. However, it should be noted that the necessary social interaction needed for Collaborative Learning is difficult to simulate in a virtual environment. In the future I may introduce Google Hangouts as a way to aid in this, however it is important that students are also able to get together in person to communicate about their project. Face-to-face social interaction is still important in maintaining a healthy group dynamic.
As a teacher it is always fun to see students excited about learning. Giving them new ways to interact with each other and the material is part of our teaching role. The next time you have your students working on a research presentation, you might consider turning it into a collaborative project using Google Slides.
By the way, it is only fair to note that Microsoft also offers a web app version of PowerPoint, for free, through Microsoft Office Online. It can also be collaboratively edited. While in the past I have not found it as fast or as reliable as Google Slides, it is an alternative for those who would prefer the familiarity of Microsoft and use of PowerPoint’s attractive themes. It also integrates with the desktop version of Office 2013.