Using Google Docs to Create Digital Kits for Student Projects

One of the most valuable #edtech lessons that I ever learned came from Hall Davidson, who suggests that teachers interested in incorporating digital storytelling projects into their classrooms create digital kits that students can use as starting points for their efforts. 

Digital kits are nothing more than collections of content — still images, video clips, audio clips, passages of text — connected to the topic being studied that teachers assemble for their kids before a project even begins.  Then, students use the content in digital kits to assemble their final products.

What I love the best about using digital kits to structure student projects is that they speed up the process of creating influential visuals.  Instead of spending days searching for content, students using preassembled digital kits are freed to think about the topic of study immediately. 

That's important for those of us who want to make visual projects a part of the work that our kids do but feel pressure to get through massive curricula. 

Casey Rimmer — an instructional technology teacher in Union County, North Carolina — has taken the notion of digital kits a step further.  In a recent training, she had groups of teachers work together to assemble digital kits for upcoming units together.

That's a cool idea in and of itself, isn't it? 

Often, the most intimidating part of creating a digital kit is that it can take a ton of initial time to search for content that works.  When that task becomes collaborative — something Rimmer's teachers accomplished by using the presentation maker in Google Docs  — it automatically becomes easier.


Creating a digital kit in Google Docs has another advantage, too:  When the images that students are going to use in their final projects are stored in Google Docs, they can be made available for download on the web.  That means "giving students access to digital kits" means nothing more than sharing a link to the final product online. 


But my FAVORITE part of Rimmer's plan is something I didn't even know about until she commented on my recent post about copyright and the Creative Commons:  When you search for images directly in Docs, Google ONLY returns images that are licensed for reuse and modification.

Think about that for a minute:  Because Google Docs returns only images that are licensed for reuse and modification when you are creating presentations, teachers and students can start to act more responsibly when using digital content without even thinking about it.

That's HUGELY important — primarily because sustainable changes are changes that are actually doable.  Every teacher and student is interested in acting responsibly when it comes to digital content — but until recently, "acting responsibly" was pretty darn hard to do. That's not the case anymore.

Want to learn how to do this in Google Docs?  Here's a few quick directions.

After you've signed in to Google Docs and started a new presentation, select Image from under the Insert menu found at the top of your screen:

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Choose Google Image Search from the Insert image menu that appears:

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Type your search term into the Google Search bar that appears:

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Google will automatically return a collection of images that are available for reuse and modification:

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After clicking on the image you are interested in using, find the link to the original image online found at the bottom of the image collection that Google has returned:

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Follow that link to find (1). the title of the original image and (2). as much information about the original photographer as you can.  You'll need this information in order to provide attribution in your final product — a basic requirement of EVERY Creative Commons license:

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Click in the Notes section at the bottom of the new slide that you are creating to craft a citation. 

A citation should include the name of the original image, the name of the photographer — or the username that photographer has chosen to use — the type of Creative Commons license the original image was licensed under (if you can find it), and the date that you retrieved the original image.

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When you are finished creating your shared digital kit, select the Share button in the top-right hand corner of your screen to make the file publicly available on the web:

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Copy the link that Google generates for your digital kit and share it with your students on project handouts or in classroom websites:

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20 thoughts on “Using Google Docs to Create Digital Kits for Student Projects

  1. write my term paper

    Believe it or not I still know students. I find it hard to understand it myself, when we have so much resources to use, it’s a real loss not to take advantage and improve our training experience…

  2. Maria persson

    Love it, love it, love it! The most useful and exciting aspect is the collaboration and respect that this way of working encourages for both teachers and our students. Thanks for sharing this and will add this blog to my list of favorites!

  3. Stephen

    Just found this amazingly done video, which makes organizing data fun and easy.. Check this one out

  4. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Diane,
    A few thoughts: First, if your school/district pursues a partnership with Googles Apps for Education program, your kids can get Google accounts even if they are under 13:
    In my district, though, we dont have that as an option. As a result, my use of Google Docs is limited. For example, I can create a digital kit FOR my kids that they can access online and download, but they cant create their OWN digital kits. I can also create docs that can be edited BY my kids, but they cant create and save their own docs. I can create forms that let me gather information FROM my kids, but they cant create their own forms.
    It limits what is possible, but there are still a lot of uses that are worthwhile.
    Hope this helps,

  5. Diane

    I have a question about using Google Docs with middle school students – since students cannot create accounts if they are younger than 13, what do you suggest for grades 5-7?

  6. Kate Fail

    My name is Kate Fail and I am an Elementary Education major at The University of South Alabama in Mobile,AL. I am currently in a class, EDM 310, in which we are learning about the use of technology in the classroom. Our professor, Dr. John Strange, assigns us teacher’s blogs each week to read and comment on. I love this post about digital kits. I had never heard about them before and just took some time to research them further. What a great idea! I am currently working on making my own in Google Docs. As a future teacher, I love learning so many great ideas to use in my future classroom. Thanks for posting!

  7. Marsha

    You’ve done it again Bill….this is a terrific idea.
    Wondering how you use it in a lesson….say for example erosion or weathering. Would you gather a set of pic and then have students explain how the pictures represented that process or use those pics to explain how the process worked?
    Are there other ways that you can imagine than doing something like this?
    It’s a great idea and I’m anxious to hear more about it. I’m also curious if you have students create kits for each other…maybe to explore their topics of expertise with each other?

  8. Nina Levine

    Thanks for the idea and directions. I do think that it’s important to strike a balance between time issues and guiding students in becoming independent learners. By creating a Diigo ‘group’ where all students contribute, share and collate a class collection of web resources, students practice searching, reading content (identifying main ideas, etc.), labeling and organizing content, engage in vocabulary development as well as evaluating info and sources. That’s value added learning.

  9. Jessica

    Do you have some additional examples created by teachers that you can share?

  10. Joey Barker

    @Chris Miraglia, to have the option to insert images from Google Image Search, Picasa, and stock photos, you need to have “New version of Google presentations” enabled. Go to your document settings, click the editing tab, and check the box beside “new version of Google presentations.” The option should appear in all new presentations you create.

  11. Jamsheda

    Undoubtedly Google docs is an great tool for student’s projects. I think as a teacher each one of us use these tools for student’s as it would make projects easy and creative for student’s. I also came across some new tools which can be very handy during students projects its CollateBox , which talks about maintaining and sharing databases, spreadsheets etc. Have a look at this and please share can we use this one in any other perspective??

  12. Monster

    This is a exciting source of knowledge, Im glad I read this article. I am going to be back again soon to see more that you have.

  13. Lisa noble

    This is such a great idea, particularly for younger students, for whom navigating through creative commons can be a challenge. Wow!

  14. Teacherjim

    This is a great tip to start students building their own media tool kit and portfolio. With Google Doc students can save images, documents, audio files, etc. As Rob mentions Diigo will allow students and teachers to share annotated documents and websites.
    Imagine the portfolio and media kit a student could assemble over 8 years.

  15. Rob Reynolds

    Another great tool for creating this kind of guided exploration for students, and colleagues is Diiigo teacher account. It allows sharing annotated versions of websites with your class, and also gives a place for additional group discussion to happen right within the Diiigo site. I

  16. Chris Miraglia

    Thanks for the post. What if you are not able to see the Google images or Picasa option when accessing the insert image? Mine only shows browse computer an url option.

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