Review by Jennifer Sitkin, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2018

Google Doodles

Nifty, daily-updated info with some ethical concerns

Subjects & skills
  • Arts
  • Social Studies

  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Huge daily archive offers tons of bell ringers.

Cons: Info is pretty shallow, and there's some ethical concerns given the whole focus of this product is the Google logo.

Bottom Line: The doodles offer a bottomless well of topical introductions, and the Doodle 4 Google challenge could be a good creative activity.

There's no doubt most students will have seen Google doodles; however, they probably haven't explored many of the doodles and learned about the events and people they represent. Teachers may want to use Google doodles as bell ringers to get the students talking, thinking, drawing, or writing, or they may want to integrate them into a lesson plan on a relevant topic. For example, a doodle commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday could spur a quick-write or be used within a presentation representing some of MLK's accomplishments. As a class or individually, students can explore the background information provided about the doodle to add depth to their understanding of an event or person. In addition, artistic students may want to participate in the annual Doodle 4 Google contest that can earn winners scholarships and money toward their school. There are teacher guides available to help facilitate this experience.

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Google doodles famously appear in place of the Google logo at the top of the home page. They're Google's creative version of This Day in History, representing significants moments, people, and accomplishments through an artistic re-creation of the Google logo. The site itself has an archive of more than 2,000 doodles that can be easily searched by date or topic. Click on a doodle to read information about the event, moment, or person; some doodles also show sketches of previous versions of the doodle. At the bottom of the page, there are links to other doodles that are related or happened on the same date. Each doodle page also includes a map that shows where in the world the doodle appeared. Students can click on those regions and see other doodles popular in that part of the world. Beyond the company-created doodles, Google sponsors an annual contest that students can enter by creating a doodle responding to a theme. Entries are organized by grade level and state, and the national winner earns a $30,000 college scholarship and a $50,000 school technology grant. Contest rules and a FAQ are provided on the site, along with teacher guides that can be used for the national contest or just for a fun classroom contest.

Google doodles can be a fun, creative way to introduce content in the classroom. There's just something compelling about seeing the image and then finding out what it represents and how it connects to today's date. Simply showing students that there's more to the doodles than just the image should spark a curiosity, and will likely lead to students digging into the doodles on their own time. Encouraging students to doodle themselves, setting up a structured lesson that incorporates doodles, or actually taking time in the curriculum to participate in the Doodle 4 Google contest (whether it's the annual national contest or one you hold yourself) are all valuable educational uses. Just take note that the information provided with each doodle is the tip of the iceberg, and you'll need to do some extra work to make it a substantive learning opportunity. However, if you're using it as a daily bell ringer, Google doodles provide just about all you need.

With that said, teachers should consider the ethical concerns of using a product like this that's basically a marketing tool for Google. One the one hand, the Google search engine is a ubiquitous part of our lives and getting students to dig deeper into the doodles can spark daily interest in historical figures and events they're unfamiliar with. On the other hand, getting students to draw creative interpretations of the Google logo, or just fostering a fascination with Google's logo, could cross a line into commercialism for many teachers.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Students will likely already know about, and enjoy, Google doodles. They'll enjoy getting more context in class and creating their own doodles.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Doodles offer an accessible if slightly shallow window into history and different cultures. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Doodle 4 Google has nicely made but thin teacher guides, but that's where the classroom support ends. Each doodle has background information, and some include examples of how the doodle was created. 

Common Sense Reviewer
Jennifer Sitkin Classroom teacher

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