Thank you to Melinda Knapp, Senior Instructor in the MAT program for sharing her thoughts and expertise this week!

The purpose of this blog is to share my use of Google Slides and Jamboard to engage students with one another and with the content of the course. These tools are user friendly and all OSU faculty and students have free access.

My first reaction was shock when the COVID-19 crisis hit and we learned Spring term would be taught remotely. Almost overnight the technology community stepped in to offer free trials, webinars, and tutorials for the online tools they were offering—so many choices! There were help sessions for Zoom, Kaltura, and the like. Colleagues said, “pre-record your lectures, have online discussion boards, and voice-over your PowerPoint slides.” Some said we should teach asynchronously and others said teach synchronously. I was paralyzed by the number of choices. I struggled to conceptualize a way to recreate my face-to-face courses in this new online environment.

My orientation to teaching and learning centers on situated learning theory (Lave & Wenger, 1991) and embraces a sociocultural view of learning. I see knowledge as being defined and agreed upon by a society or community. Sociocultural theorists believe that learning happens as a result of social interactions and takes place within a specific cultural environment (Bates, 2019; Leonard, 2002; Nagel, 2012). Instead of simply dealing with abstract concepts, situated learning involves a community of learners navigating authentic learning experiences together. My pedagogical stance necessitates situating learning in context and giving students opportunities to rely on each other and see one another as valuable resources in the learning process. Because of this my classes tend to:

  • focus on authentic situations
  • involve more doing and are highly interactive
  • be problem and project-based
  • require conversation, collaboration, and social negotiation
  • connect learners with practitioners in the field and experiences beyond the classroom
  • are messy, allowing multiple approaches to solving problems or answering questions
  • embrace the philosophy that concepts are always “under construction.”

As a result of this conceptual dilemma, those first few weeks in quarantine were a blur of reimagining and preparing my courses using technology tools I was only vaguely familiar with. As a teacher educator I knew this is was not the ideal way to prepare for teaching. But, as I often tell my MAT students, we need to be flexible, adaptable, and use research-based teaching methods in our daily work. Just like I would ask of my students I took an inquiry stance for this professional challenge:

How can I plan and enact emergency remote teaching while staying true to my pedagogical stance?

I don’t claim to have a solution that will work for everyone, but what follows is working for me. I assume it will work for me until it doesn’t and then I’ll adapt again. This incremental way of “learning from teaching” is how we continually improve teaching practice. Teaching should constantly adjust to the needs of students, the content you are teaching, and from daily reflections on teaching.

What’s Working in Synchronous Instruction?

Google Slides. What’s currently working well for me is using Google Slides as an interactive tool rather than as a stagnant presentation of words, pictures, or ideas. Google Slides (like all of the Google apps) allow for multiple users to be in the same document simultaneously. This functionality allows me and my students to see the same thing at the same time AND type directly onto slides. The interactivity is key. This allows co-construction of thinking within the Google Slide space.

Imagine asking a question to your class and having everyone type their individual responses into a pre-made text box on a single slide. As an instructor you can see all of the responses populating the slides in real time (formative assessment) and every student has the opportunity to participate (student engagement). We all see what everyone has written. This is a perfect launching off point for further discussion, to see trends in student thinking, or to see where we started when concepts get more fully developed.

Because I am mainly teaching synchronously, my classes utilize Zoom. I use breakout rooms multiple times during each class session so students can build and deepen understanding of concepts and to discuss questions related to content students have explored asynchronously (text readings, videos, written reflections, etc.) I facilitate and guide their work when going in and out of the breakout rooms during structured conversations. I can see what each group is recording on their Google Slides in real time, thus, allowing me to follow conversations even if I’m not in a particular room listening. These slides also become co-constructed artifacts that students can return to in reviewing course content.

Example from Week 5 of MTH390 (Undergraduate math course for future elementary teachers). This week also incorporated a Jamboard that shows group’s math work.

Example from Week 4 of ED515 (Graduate course in the MAT program related to Equity in Education).

Jamboard. Student interactions are the core pedagogy in of all my classes. While Google Slides has been a powerful tool for students to interact through talking and discourse, I still struggled in my mathematics course to have students work together to solve math problems that required more than interacting through talking. In math classes, students need to write equations, draw sketches, and create visual representations of their mathematical thinking. Students did learn through their discussions, but capturing representations of abstract thinking had been more elusive. The Google Jamboard app has allowed such interactions.

Jamboard is an interactive white board that students can draw on (without needing an iPad), upload hand written work, bring in photos, and write sticky note feedback to each other. Because all of this happens in real time during our synchronous class I can facilitate whole group conversations based on what I have seen and heard during each of the group’s Jamboard sessions.

Examples of Jamboards from MTH390:

While I know that Zoom has an interactive white board and other applications have similar features, I want the student to be in charge of recording their thinking rather than me modeling how I would solve something. For me, Google Slides combined with Jamboard gives students the authority to author and share their ideas in class. I also appreciate that Jamboard is shareable and free just like all of the Google applications. Both Google Slides and Jamboard can be accessed from our OSU Google Drive.

The last 6 weeks have been mentally challenging and extremely time consuming in order to “re-plan” classes at the same time I’m learning to utilize new online tools.  Even so, I also have felt a sense of satisfaction in figuring out a way to stay true to my pedagogical stance and continue to have classes full of discussion, debate, and problem solving. Feedback from students has been positive. In particular, they have most appreciated the use of Google slides and Jamboard during class because it helps keep them engaged during class, provides a platform for them to share ideas, ask questions, and learn from their classmates.

I need to note that I learned a lot about the potential of Google Slides from Mathematics Teacher Educator Dr. Theresa Wills (@theresawills) at George Mason University who has been online synchronous teaching for many years.






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One thought on “Google Slides and Jamboard as Synchronous Tools To Engage Students

  1. Good stuff, I’ll be using JamBoard as an online replacement for my usual collaborative topic recap / reflection prior to final exams.


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