Collaborative Work, Digitally

My new favorite tool during Zoom classes in Google Slides in breakout rooms. If you have not tried this, I highly encourage you to give it a shot. It does take some prep, but it is worth it. I have used this for multiple topics and it works for me. Let me walk you through how I use it.

Before I get into details of setting it up, let me share how I have been using this technique. In Biology, I have different breakout rooms watch different, but similar, videos (less than 5 minutes) and then report out on the video in a Google Slide. I chose the videos in advance.

We also spent one class talking about the potential COVID-19 vaccines. I chose news articles in advance, and assigned each breakout room a different article to report out on.

In both my MH and HS classes, I have used this as a homework check, having students work on a Slide in a Breakout room to share information they were assigned to gather for homework.

I also used this to help my 8th grade students generate ideas for their inquiry investigations.

Here is the process I use:

  1. Decide on the topic I want the students to work in breakout rooms to understand.
  2. Find multiple resources. Each Google Slide needs a different resource (video, article, image, etc.).
  3. Design the text boxes in the Slide based on what information I want the students to share.
  4. Build the Slide. I create the text box sizes to reflect the relative amount of information I think should be in each box. However, I do not lock them. The students can alter the sizes of the boxes.
  5. Make a few extra Slides for students that are absent to complete.
  6. I require all of the typing be original to the student – no copy and paste!

Implementation ideas:

  1. Before you send the students to breakout rooms, show them a Slide and talk about expectations. I purposefully and repeatedly convey my expectation of “using your own words” on these Slides. I do not want them to copy and paste anything except an illustration when appropriate.
  2. Let the students know you will be able to see who added what content to each slide. I ask that each member of a breakout room contribute to the Slide. I have even shown students a screenshot of a “version history” screen so they can see how each student’s work can be seen (each student appears as a different color, and a list of student names with their color dot appears on the right side of the Google Slides).
  3. After our breakout rooms, I will ask one person from each group to report out to the class. I remind them of this BEFORE I send them to the breakout rooms. Sometimes, I enter the breakout rooms and tell them which member will be sharing out, other times I call on one student on the spot. Giving them a heads up seems more effective because they know I know if their microphones are working because I just talked to them in the breakout room 🙂
  4. While students are in breakout rooms, be in the Google Slides. This allows you to see what groups are making progress, as well as how many students are “active” in each Slide. I use this as an indicator as to which breakout room I need to jump into to guide.
  5. As they work in the Slides, make comments on the Slide. Using the comment function is a helpful tool in this process.

For one of these exercises, after the original breakout rooms completed their Slides, I had all students return to the entire Google Slides for a gallery walk. Here are the directions given:

The gallery walk strategy can be very helpful and productive. I use this strategy instead of a “report out” time at the end of the breakout room sessions. Both methods have value 🙂

I encourage you to give this a try in your class. If you have any questions, drop me a note 🙂

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