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Technology in the Classroom: Google Slide Add-ons

Jordan Catapano

When you’re working on your Google Slideshow, there is a little tab at the top of the screen called “Add Ons.” What is this for?

An “Add-on” is a somewhat new feature for Google apps. Think of them as specially designed technology in the classroom tools to supplement how you use one of your Google applications, such as Docs or Slides. Just like Google Chrome extensions provide special features at the click of a button, so too can you now enhance how you use apps with the same simple click on the add-ons you download.

Google Slides already makes a great way for teachers to provide information to students, craft presentations, and help students organize and present information. But you can take your work even further by installing these three recommended add-ons to increase the quality of your instruction.

Since add-ons are still relatively new features for technology in the classroom apps like Google Slides, there aren’t hundreds to sift through and choose from. However, there are three unique add-ons that teachers have found useful that you too may benefit from!

Pear Deck Technology in the Classroom

While this has nothing to do with pears or with decks, Pear Deck is a highly creative and interactive technology in the classroom add-on for your slideshows. Instead of just presenting information while students passively observe you, now students can literally join in on the presentation information by interacting on the slides themselves.

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The developers of Pear Deck did not just build a creative slideshow interactivity tool – they literally built it specifically for Google Slides with teachers and students in mind. Pear Deck is “100 percent web-based and device agnostic -- no downloads or updates required. Teachers and students log into Pear Deck with their Gmail address, files are auto-saved in Drive, and everything is integrated with Google Classroom.” If your school uses the Google suite of apps, then Pear Deck is the one add-on tool you’ve been missing out on for making your presentations even more powerful.

When you present a Google Slideshow using Pear Deck, you are creating a live online session that students can join using a simple code. All they need is a device, the Google Slides app and Google account, and the session login, and they will join the online presentation. Then, as you’re presenting from the slide deck, students will see on their own screen opportunities to share responses and join in the presentation. For example, you can ask students to place a dot on a map, draw an image, construct a graph, type an answer, select a multiple-choice response, and much more. Teachers can view individual student answers, displays answers to the class, and overlay responses to see how the overall class has responded.

What we especially like about this add-on is that it not only offers the opportunity for students to interact within a presentation, but it enhances a teacher’s ability to formatively assess how much their students are understanding along the way. Whether you’re looking to add a touch of fun or to create presentations that foster engagement and feedback, Pear Deck’s expanding set of features will fit your needs.

Lucidchart Diagrams

The “Death by PowerPoint” phenomenon is the term used to describe the boredom experienced by listeners – possibly your students – when subjected to a poorly constructed slideshow presentation. Google Slides can be a powerful way of sharing information with others, but it can also be a frustrating experience if you forget the one key factor of all slideshow presentations: Slideshows are visual supplements to a spoken presentation.

That being said, you’re not using Google Slides appropriately if you rely too heavily on text or have poor design qualities that make looking at your slide deck as difficult as squinting through the wrong end of binoculars. On the other hand, you are making a much more impactful and lucid experience for students when you have professionally designed images that clearly display the information you’re trying to share.

That’s where the Lucidchart Diagrams add-on comes in. LucidChart Diagrams is an add-on designed to help presenters enhance the visual diagrams they use in their slides. Once you open the add-on, you’ll be presented with a score of template options for what sort of images you’d like to include, such as flowcharts, Venn diagrams, organizational charts, and mindmaps. While such visuals can be complex in nature, Lucidcharts helps you to simplify and customize these images to fit seamlessly into your presentation.

You can tell Lucidcharts is made just for you because it literally asks you to identify what role best describes you – and “Teacher” is one of the options. Templates and suggestions arise depending on what you select. From there, you have dozens of customizable options for how you design your images, from what shapes to use to how they are colored and oriented. Lucidcharts Diagrams then imports your visual into your Google Slideshow, and even connects directly to Google Classroom or makes individual images shareable with students.

If you’re looking for an easy way to enhance the images you include in your presentations so they are clear and professional, then look no further than the Lucidcharts Diagrams add on!

Sorc’d for Slides

That’s a savvy way of spelling “Sourced,” and emphasizes the purpose of this crafty add-on: To help you easily import content you find on the web into your presentations, with appropriate citations. Let’s say you’re reading an awesome article (like this one!) and find a quotation that you want to include at some presentation in the near future. Instead of opening up a fresh slideshow and copying and pasting (and possibly plagiarizing) the web content, you can just use your Sorc’d add-on.

First, Sorc’d works as an extension for Google Chrome or Firefox, which you’ll need to download first; you’ll also need to create an account (which can be your Google account) where the extension can save your web clippings. Then as you’re reading a selection of text, you can simply highlight, right-click, and select “Sorc’d.” The text will be saved in your Sorc’d file.

Then how does the text that you’ve saved get into your presentation? Sorc’d makes it simple: Just open up the add-on and your saved web clips will magically appear in the sidebar. One more click and the selected clip is imported onto your slide along with a citation of where it came from at the bottom. It doesn’t matter if you build the slideshow days, weeks, or months later -- the text you save is there to stay until you need it.

Why Stop At One?

But why stop at using one of these add-ons? Why not try all three? Between the tools Google Slides already provides you and the power of these add-ons to make more impactful presentations, you will doubtlessly have the opportunity to engage your students and clarify information using the slide deck platform in ways you haven’t been able to before.

But of course, the obvious recommendation is that you don’t just keep all these tools to yourself. We should likewise be encouraging our students to do the creating and presenting, which means that you can demonstrate to your students how to leverage all of these cool tools to make powerful, professional presentations of their own!

What do you think about these technology in the classroom add-ons? What other tools or add-ons for Google Slides do you recommend for others? 


Jordan Catapano taught English for 12 years in a Chicago suburban high school, where he is now an assistant principal. In addition to being National Board Certificated and head of his school’s instructional development committee, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish.