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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