Amplify Student Voice With These Two Google Docs Features

Google Docs - Amplify Student Voice

Google Docs has introduced many new features since the announcement of Smart Canvas in May 2021. Smart Canvas, with features such as pageless docs and Smart Chips, acknowledges that most users interact with Google Docs on device screens, not on the printed page. Teachers can use two new features to amplify student voice: Emoji reactions and dropdown menus.

Collaborative Student Voice – Emoji Reactions

Emoji reactions are perfect for having students express themselves in collaborative documents. Use “students can edit” in Google Classroom to facilitate collaborative documents. Be careful – Google Docs is not ideal for whole-class collaboration. Instead, use the differentiation feature to share a collaborative Google Doc with a small group of students. Then use Reuse post to replicate the assignment for other small groups.

There is now an emoji reaction button with the comment and suggestion buttons. Click on any text or image to bring up these buttons.

Google Docs collaboration buttons:
- The blue comment button.
- The yellow smiley face emoji reaction button.
- The green suggestion button.
The Emoji creation button is between the comment and suggestion buttons.

Clicking the button brings up emojis and a search field.

Emoji options in Google Docs. There is a search field to find emojis.
Search for the perfect emoji reaction.

When a collaborator adds an emoji reaction to text or an image, clicking that text or image brings up the emoji, not the three buttons. Right-click to add a comment or suggestion. To agree with an emoji, click on that emoji. The number next to it goes up by one. To add a different emoji reaction, click the emoji icon to add a reaction.

Click the emoji smiley face icon to add more emoji reactions.
Add more emoji reactions.

Hover over any emoji reaction to see which collaborators used it. This is a nice accountability feature.

The OK emoji reaction in a Google Doc. 2 collaborators have used this emoji reaction. Hover the mouse over the emoji to see the names of collaborators who have used the emoji reaction.
Hover over to see who used the emoji reaction.

Teachers can use emoji reactions to amplify student voice. Here are some suggestions:

  • Emoji reactions to different options a group is considering.
  • Have a group of students annotate an opinion piece with emoji reactions.
  • Have students brainstorm in a Google Doc and give each other feedback with emoji reactions.
  • Incorporate emoji reactions into peer feedback.
  • Use emoji reactions as a vote counter.

Please note that emoji reactions include poop (💩) and cursing (🤬). Think about how to approach this with students. If students can handle using those emojis maturely, this may be an opportunity to practice digital citizenship. Sharing Docs with small groups instead of the whole class makes it less likely students will make poor choices.

Individual Student Voice – Dropdowns

Dropdowns allow any Google Doc editor to create a dropdown menu in a Doc. There are two preset dropdowns: Project status and review status. These are very helpful for project management. There is also a “+ New dropdown” button that teachers can use to get creative.

While the “@” key works to add a dropdown, the easiest way to do so is by clicking Insert and Dropdown.

Click "Insert" and "Dropdown" to insert a dropdown menu in a Google Doc.
Clicking the Insert menu is the fastest way to insert a dropdown menu.
Google Docs Document Dropdowns. Options include:
- New dropdown
- Project status
- Review status
Dropdown options.

Use the new dropdown option to amplify student voice in individual student assignments such as those created using “Make a copy for each student” in Google Classroom. Use “+ New dropdown” to add and remove options and customize each option’s color scheme.

Google Docs Dropdown options including:
- Template name
- Options 1 through 4
- The "+ New option" button
- A button next to each option to edit its color.
- Cancel and Save buttons
Dropdown options.

Pay attention to each option’s color. There are sixteen preset color schemes. Users can also click “Customize” to pick an option’s background and text colors.

Click the color button next to a dropdown option to access one of 16 colors or click "Customize."
Use one of the preset colors or customize the dropdown option.

Click “Customize” to adjust text and background colors. Pay attention to color contrast. Use the color hex codes and a contrast checker such as the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker to ensure color contrast between the text and background colors.

The customize button color dialogue box in Google Docs. Options include:
- Customize Text
- Customize Background
- The Hex color code
- Hue slider
- Cancel and OK buttons
Adjust the text and background colors.

Copy and paste dropdowns to have more than one of the same. This is especially useful for building rubrics in Google Docs.

Here are some suggestions for using dropdowns to amplify student voice in individual assignments:

  • Give students a choice of activities in a Google Doc. Place a dropdown next to each choice to help students sort which options they like, dislike, and are undecided about.
  • Use dropdowns at the end of an assignment to have students give feedback about it.
  • Have a dropdown at the end of an assignment where students rate their understanding of the material. This helps identify which students need extra support.
  • There is a “+ Add / Edit Options” button for every dropdown. If the options don’t capture how a student feels, they can use that button to add their feelings.
A Google Docs dropdown menu. The two options are "Rocco's just a rock!" (selected) and "🍪 for Rocco!" Below those options is a "+ Add/Edit Options" button.
Users can always add their own option.

Please watch these videos and listen to this podcast to learn more about these Google Docs features.

What do you think? How will you use these features to amplify student voice? Please comment below or tweet me, @TomEMullaney.

Does your school need professional development that supports innovative ways to use Google Docs and educational technology? Check out some of my offerings and connect with me on Twitter.

Photo by Anthony on Pexels.


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