Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Using Google Slides For Interactive Card Sorts

Edit: Desmos to the rescue! Access the Desmos version of this card sort HERE.

Name something. There's an app for it, right? Evidently, I've discovered the one classroom need that no programmer has addressed. Card sorts. Lots of teachers have started using card sorts in classrooms, since they are a higher-level activity and require more intellectual might than a standard question/answer kind of practice.

I looked and looked and looked. I couldn't find an app that would allow me to design a card sort for my own content. I will, however, say that Quia has a
card match program but doesn't offer a true card sort. So, I decided to try and redesign the use of a pre-existing tech tool. I wanted this card sort to be collaborative between two partners, but I didn't want them to share a device. I wanted partners to have equal control of the sort - not the primary device user to dominate the activity. I also wanted to be able to label the left side of the "sort board" vertical angles and the right linear pairs.

Really, if Padlet would allow other users to move posts, it would probably be the best choice here. But, alas, it won't. I did tweet the Padlet folks to recommend this feature (get behind me here MTBoS)!

Anyway, I decided to use Google Slides. Technically, it ticks off all my specifications. Multiple students can access the sort; I can label the left and right sides of the sort board using a slide master; and students can drag images to the left and right to sort them. I designed the original file and made 12 or so copies of the file for each group I anticipated on having. Then, I took those links and converted them to links for ease of access. I made group tents with their group numbers and individual links.

Here is a picture of the first sort students completed. It was quick and I used it as a formative check that students had mastered/learned the highlights of the previous day's notes.

After students completed this sort, I had them raise their hand, and then I either physically went over and checked their sort or I did the same thing virtually (have I mentioned how much I LOVE Google?)

When students had this correct, they clicked on slide 3, which was really the heart of the activity. They needed to sort various examples of vertical angles and linear pairs into the two distinct piles. I actually uploaded my graphics into Padlet first (I forgot non-owners in Padlet can't move the posts). Then, I took screenshots of my cards from Padlet and pasted them into Google Slides. This was nice because I had automatic card numbers. These card numbers are how I always check card sorts. For instance, I knew that cards 2, 4, 10, 12, 13, and 15 (I think - going from memory) belonged under linear pairs - making my formative check really fast.

All in all, this activity accomplished exactly what I wanted - it just wasn't perfect.

Things I liked about making card sorts in Google Slides:

  • Students can easily collaborate using separate devices
  • Enabled me to make multiple card sorts within each document, and students could easily progress between them
  • Allowed students to freely move the cards from place to place
  • I could check the sorts pretty easily given I'd pre-recorded the appropriate cards for the vertical angle pile and the linear pair pile.

Things I disliked about making card sorts in Google Slides:

  • When kids move images in Google Slides, they often accidentally delete them, make them really tiny, and crop them 
  • Kids had to use the "undo" button a million times so I could reset the sort for the next class/group
  • If kids used two devices, it turns out that the undo feature only partially works. I think what happens is that kids can only undo the actions they have personally taken on their device, but I didn't have time to further investigate. I just had to go in and copy/paste the original pile back in. This was safer than just having kids move them back to the middle because they often "lost cards". See bullet point #1 above.
  • The usual beloved layering of images in presentation software became a problem. The cards would layer and students couldn't figure out how to display the card number so I could easily grade them. Sometimes I'd have to go in and manipulate the cards so I could do a quick formative check.

So... would I do it again? Yes... I think so. It is definitely not ideal, but it is better than cutting out 5,280 squares of paper. If you're reading this, and you know a programmer, get them on this. I would LOVE to chat with someone about the necessary specifications an app of this kind should have.


  1. I have been using google drawings for my card sorts. I shared a view only link to my students. They make a copy and share it back with me in their folder. Here is one I used in my geometry class:

    1. This is GREAT! Thanks so much for sharing! I'll try this next time and report back on the findings!