Google Presentation Collaboration Interview

with Carrie Heeter

by LearnDAT :: October, 2012


Welcome to LearnDAT, everybody. My name is David Goodrich and I am an Instructional Designer here in Learning Design and Technology.

Today, I am joined with Dr. Carrie Heeter who is is a research advisor in the GEL Lab (Games for Entertainment and Learning (, co-founder of the serious games program at MSU ( and Creative Director for LearnDAT.

In her spare time, she is a professor in the department of telecommunication, information studies, and media at MSU. Heeter has been involved with LearnDAT and online learning for more than a decade. During that time she has designed and taught fully online, hybrid, and face to face courses in the TC department while participating in the development of tools for online learning and conducting research on faculty and student reactions to online learning.

Current areas of research include deliberative and news games, gender and games, game analytics, and teaching with twitter and other emerging social technologies. Her greatest passion is creating innovative learning experiences which elegantly integrate technology and contribute to the evolution of emerging media.

In fact, the reason we wanted to highlight Carrie today is because we just so happen to love pointing the spotlight on faculty who are doing pedagogically and technologically innovative things in their classrooms and especially when those practices are leveraging emerging technologies that cost users nothing other than the time it takes to plan and experiment with them.

Recently, we got wind that Carrie has been using Google Presentations in an innovative way that has been having some interesting affordances. In fact, we are also joined this morning by Keesa Muhammad who is another instructional designer here in LearnDAT and who is also participating in this class with Dr. Heeter.

So, We wanted to give her the stage to talk about what she has been doing so that others might benefit from using a similar strategy or to give us feedback if they already are and have other affordances they would like to contribute. Please don’t be shy in chiming in with comments to get this conversation going in an engaged and meaningful way for you in your own teaching and learning context going forward.

Well, without further adieu, Dr. Heeter, welcome and thank you for joining us this morning.


  1. What is this class that you teach where you are using Google Presentations in a unique way? Could you tell us a little about the class?

TC841, Understanding Users, is a graduate methods class about conducting design research as a core process for iterative design of games and interactive media products.  It is also one of three courses in our graduate certificate in serious game design.

  1. I understand that TC841 is a hybrid class, with an unusual approach to the in person configuration.

Yes, 2 hours “F2F” and 1 hour arranged. For FTF, the instructor is in SF and all or most of the students are together in a computer lab with one computer per student, and Google Hangout (with my window selected as the center, large one) projected onto a large screen.  (Students are welcome to attend remotely if they are traveling, sick, or simply prefer to, but most of the time they all come to the classroom.)

For the live 2 hours, we’ve been using Google Hangout and Google Doc Presentation.

For the online component, there is a WordPress site, Piazza for discussions, mini-lecture videos, guest interviews, instructor-authored PDFs, and various other links and materials.

  1. How does your use of Google Presentations in TC841 differ from a typical instructor PowerPoint presentation in a live class?

Typically, an instructor prepares slides for class in advance. Even though I never lecture during the live parts of my classes, I have typically prepared a PowerPoint presentation with the structure of the class (activities, agenda) to help me move the class from section to section of planned activities and discussion points.  Usually I would upload the powerpoint to Adobe Connect. In doing so, the system would translate it into a flash file.  In other words, by the time class began, the slides were fixed and unchangeable.

Typically also, the instructor controls which slide the class is seeing, projecting the slides onto a large screen. Everyone sees the same slide at the same time, and students do not have control over the slides.

So that is how I used to use slide shows in my live classes.

  1. What’s different from that model as far as how you are using Google Presentation?

I started using GP for the same functions, in place of Adobe Connect.  I was new to GP, so I stumbled into a new approach by accident. I didn’t realize there was a “presentation” mode where a presenter could control what everyone saw. So the first time I used GP in TC841, I prepared slides the way I would have, but the only difference was that each individual student could be looking at any slide they wanted.  I noticed it was cool that I could mouse-over the slide icons an see which students were looking at which slides.  I also edited a few typos and made a few additions on the fly during class.

I usually review student active learning assignments from the prior week, and grab screen captures and paste them into my slides for the week, for class discussion related to last week’s work. This takes a long time - I need to track down and open each student’s file, grab screen shots, and paste into the deck.

If occurred to me that if I assigned students to turn their assignment directly into the GP that would become that week’s LIVE class GP, that they would be in control and I would save a lot of steps. So the next week, they entered their weekly group assignment directly into the GP I had created (but not yet put in any of my content).

I noticed over the weekend that one of the groups seemed to be on the wrong track in a way that would make live discussion of their progress not very helpful. They really needed to revise their approach before class, so that my and their classmates guidance during LIVE class would meaningfully advance their project.  

I noticed smaller issues with two other groups’ preliminary submissions and communicated with them to guide them on revising their content before class.

I can give input while they are working on their assignment, instead of after they turn it in.

Shortly before class time, I added the agenda and my own content to the GP.

Class proceeded through the deck. Sometimes I called out a slide number for everyone to go to.  Sometimes students revised their slides while we were discussing a project earlier in the deck.

  1. Are you finding the groups are engaged with each other well answering questions collaboratively in the space? 

I am thinking of GP as a container for instructor and student input before and during live class.

There are several levels of collaboration happening. There is each group collaborating to create their slides. There is me collaborating with the groups before class to guide/improve their directions. And there is use of the slides in class discussion as I and the class critique and offer helpful suggestions for each team’s ideas.

  1. Are there a lot of conversations that happen through comments or through the synchronous chat feature that Google presentations provide?

We have many synchronous communication channels. We mostly rely on audio and video, since Google Hangout affords that. Some students also t type comments into the chat window in Google Hangout. And some students edit their slides during live class, either while we are looking at the slide, before we get to it, or after the fact.

  1. Tell me about your the other innovative approach you invented so far...

I wanted the class to do an exercise in ethnographic observation. I created 6 slides, each with a photo of the inside of study participants’ refrigerators.

  1. When did you start using this new method where students actually go into the course presentation before the class and contribute directly to it? 

Oct. 4

  1. How does this new process save you time and save headache on behalf of the learner? 

Saves me a lot of time preparing the live slides, and I have a more coherent and complete view, all collected in one place.

I can see and make suggestions to the student prior to class.

The assignment is fluid, not static. It can improve and change continuously.

It makes much more sense than them submitting somewhere else, me reviewing and grabbing pieces. They get to control what’s shared. It’s more complete. I miss less.

We don’t read every slide word for word. For example, some groups posted 6 or 8 slides, others only 2 slides.  We could all scan the slides and talk about overall content picking and choosing what to point out or talk about.

  1. How does this engage the learner more for your course?

This is so new, I haven’t had time to find out how they like it. Next week I go to campus, so I will find out what students think. I hope they are liking it, I don’t want to stop. Of course, we can improve on what we’re doing.

  1. What other unintended benefits came along with this new process? 

I’m having too much fun.
I post the URL for prior week’s slides, so students have easy access to everything we’ve done.
I’m just beginning to explore the potential.
Preparing for class is a new experience for me, imagining what can be done. Last week we did three individual and group exercises in support of the ethnographic research project students are working on: roughing out participant tables for the methods section, an exercise in converting qualitative tables to more quantitative data, and an exercise in searching for insights in data.  I am able to create and adapt on the fly.

  1. How do you keep students from "messing up the content?"

It’s our content, our class.  I don’t know what “messing up” would consist of.  I welcome their engagement and love the shared control.  I have been telling them to feel free to add slides or add comments and questions to existing slides. And to move things around. Live class is like a jazz improvisation.

  1. Has there been any other issues that have come up since trying this new method?

It’s a bit ugly.  I like Powerpoint’s formatting tools much better. But I will trade functionality for polish, especially for live.  With all of us editing the document at the same time, it can be slow and unresponsive.

  1. Why is it helpful to have students each individually be able to go through the slides without them being in presentation mode?

Presentation mode is a totally different approach.  It doesn’t suit how I teach.  I like shared control, flexibility, and a little chaos.


Fascinating. Well, folks, there you have it. Another informatively pedagogical use of an free and emerging technology from Google that could transform the constructivist approach to content delivery in your courses.

Dr. Heeter and Keesa, thank you for taking the time this morning to share with us what you have been doing and learning together. I am sure our listeners will greatly appreciate it in the same way that I have.

Stay tuned to the RSS feed for more faculty technology and pedagogical highlights such as this, and don’t forget to keep the conversation going via comments below. In fact, while you are at it, why don’t you also share this segment with your network of friends and colleagues so that the conversation can spread to others as well? We would be greatly appreciative as our goal is to help spread good ideas with as many people as possible.

To that end, thank you for tuning in and we will see you next time in the next segment of the LearnDAT podcast.

Have a great day and remember, as Seth Godin so articulately iterated:

“Revolutions destroy the perfect to enable the impossible.”