Sunday, March 30, 2014

What's a Google Form Good For? (Part 3) Assessment

Formative or summative, Google Forms give me lots of way to see how my students are doing.
  1. I can use a form to ask how a project is going
  2. If we are reading a novel I can use forms to give a comprehension quiz for accountability. 
  3. When students give presentations the rest of the class can contribute to the evaluation with the presentation rubric
  4. When my students are reading a text I can ask them to share their thinking with me
  5. I can even have students create a shared resource as I shared in this previous post. 
  6. And when students have finished their essay they can self grade on a rubric
If you are using a form for assessment and it is all (or mostly) multiple choice you can have your form grade it for you using Flubaroo. Learn more about Flubaroo.

Tips For Short Answer Questions
First, it is much easier to read student answers if you widen the columns. Just hover over the line at the top of the column and when your cursor becomes a line with an arrow at each end you can click and drag the line to widen the column.  It also helps to limit yourself to just 2-3 short answers per form.

Second, it can be easier, especially at first to print out the sheet for grading. Before you print, change the color of your sheet. To do that click in the box above row 1 and to the left of column A. The whole sheet should turn light blue. Now click on the paint can icon and switch to white. You'll save a lot of ink not printing the grey background and your sheet will be easier to read.  To grade a printed sheet I work on one question at a time. Working vertically is faster than grading each student one by one horizontally.

What's A Google Form Good For (Part 1)
What's A Google Form Good For (Part 2)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

What's a Google Form Good For? (Part 2) Collecting Data and Assignments

Student Data Form
Last week someone asked me this great question and I am still working out new ways to answer it.

Collect Data
One way I have used a form every year since 2009 is to collect information from students at the beginning of the year when I am getting to know them.  I can use this to collect email addresses, ask about favorite books, interests, and even learn what kinds of digital tools they already use.  I keep a link to this data form on my class blog and whenever I get a new student (quite often) I can have them fill it out right away too.  See my student data form. 

Google forms save me a lot of time because I can make a form as fast as I can make a paper questionnaire, faster if you count time not spent in the copy room. Then my students enter their information right onto the form and I get the results in a spreadsheet. Once I have the data I can sort it, review it and even grade it much faster than I can with paper.  (More on assessment in part three of this series.)

Collect Assignments
Another kind of data that I know many teachers use forms to collect is assignment links.  We are coming to a place in time where more and more student work is done online and often the product of that work is best found through a URL (web address).

For example, my students write book reviews on Goodreads, a networking site about books. When their review is complete they get a link to it. I use a form for them to turn in their links to me. They fill out the form with the names of the books they read and include links to their reviews.  Their submissions end up in my spreadsheet as clickable links and I can click my way to their work easily. This is much faster than my old method of finding each of them one by one on Goodreads.
Spreadsheet of book review links

The screenshot has their names and emails hidden, but you'll notice the time stamp on the left tells me exactly when they turned in their work. Also I've added multiple tabs across the bottom. Each grading period I add a new tab and copy/paste their submissions over to the tab for that month. The new entries keep coming in on sheet 1, but I've essentially archived the older submissions by moving them to the other tabs and then deleting them from sheet 1. Occasionally having the old submissions comes in handy. You can view the form students use to submit their book review links here. 

Using a form to collect links to student work will come in handy if your students are doing video projects, using Docs Story Builder, creating websites or blogs or any other online work.  See also: What's a Google Form Good For (Part 1) 
And What's a Google Form Good For (Part 3)

Need help getting started with forms? Check out this great tutorial from my friend Joe Wood.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What's a Google Form Good For? (Part 1) Student Work

I love it when people ask me awesome questions.

Google forms are my secret weapon as a teacher. This is part one of ways I use Google Forms with my students because there are too many options to fit into one post.

My students and I have been working on a unit about stereotypes. For those of you in California, this is a module for 9th grade from the Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC). I went to the four day training about the course this year and I really like the materials, except that they are not built to leverage the technology in my classroom. So, I adapt.

I've used Google Forms several times in this unit so far.  The first was last week as part of a sub plan when I was attending the CUE Conference. While I was gone, my students worked in pairs to complete a SOAPSTone protocol about the article they had been reading.  Way better than paper.

Then yesterday students interviewed two peers, one in our class and one not in our class, about their reactions to stereotypes on our campus. The unit plan called for students to discuss their findings with groups and make some categories for their data and then write an essay about stereotypes at our school. But, in the analog version it would be hard for students to access more data than their group could collect.

Today my students brought in their interview notes and added them to a Google Form. By having each student contribute (hopefully) two interviews we got our collective interview count up over 160. Then we use the "show summary of responses" option to view the data as bar graphs.

From the summary of responses we wrote statements about the data. "Fifty-nine percent of our study participants were male." "Seventy-nine percent of the people we interviewed were in 9th grade and the remaining participants were evenly spread between 10th, 11th and 12th grades." I verbally modeled how students could phrase their description of the data.  So far we are only reporting the objective data. After spring break we will drill down in to the ways different subgroups described the stereotypes they felt were applied to themselves. While writing one student commented, "I feel so scientific, like this is the way a scientist would write about their experiment." She liked it.

Writing from their own collected data was pretty engaging for my students. They were curious about what the graphs would show and they are already asking questions about why some results turned out the way they did.  I'm looking forward to the more detailed analysis they will do with the data in April.
Writing from their own data.

Want a copy of a form?
Google forms are a bit different than other Google Docs. I can't just make them available for anyone to view and make a copy of. If you would like a copy of a form you'll have to request it from me directly. I'll need your gmail to give you access.

See Also
What's a Google Form Good For (Part 2)
What's a Google Form Good For (Part 3)
How to Add a Password to a Google Form

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Expert Project

Expert Project Questions
Last year, the teachers I worked with were inspired by Jim Burke to create an "Expert Project" as part of our American Lit course. This is the abridged version of that project.

August: We met and created the assignment sheet, still posted here. I had thoughts dancing in my head about "genius hour" and "20% projects." We envisioned a system whereby every Friday students would have the period to work on the research topics of their choice.

September: We introduced the project and students spent several day identifying topics, writing appropriate research questions (not too broad and not to narrow), and starting blogs to document their process.

By October we were deep into the "normal" curriculum, specifically The Crucible, which was a great unit, but we found that it got challenging to stop the momentum of the normal curriculum and give a day to the expert project. It was just too tempting to finish Act 3 or something else we were on a roll with.

Expert Project Blogs
When we did give a day to the expert project, I would try to teach a research skill briefly, and then students would spend most of the rest of the period trying to use it, and/or remember what they had been working on when they last had an expert project day. It was frustrating. They were not making much progress, and when they did find something there was little time to blog about it before the period ended.

Rethinking: At the semester break I paused to reconsider what we were doing with the expert project. I knew one day a week was not working. In one of those lightbulb moments it occurred to me that students needed to spend a week at a time on their expert projects in between our other units. That would still give them roughly the same number of days, but by lumping them together students could make more progress.

My colleagues agreed and we adjusted our pacing to give a week to the project in between our remaining units. Now I could teach students a research skill on Monday, (say, how to use the Google News Archive,) and let them use it for several days. By Thursday and Friday they had found useful content and were blogging about their findings.

There were benefits for teachers too. The end of any unit comes with a pretty heavy load of work to grade, and the beginning of a new unit is also an intense period of preparation of upcoming material. With an expert project week in between we could finish up our grading and get ready for the next unit with less pressure to do both at once.

With a week at a time students became more enmeshed in their topics. They found details online and made connections with other experts. We learned about interview techniques. I asked them to pause and consider which perspectives they had not brought into their topic yet. They had to refine their search terms and try new angles.

Then came the day Jose searched for his topic and found his own blog in the results. He was stunned. It sunk in that other people would find his work and possibly use it in their own research. I knew it was probably the filter bubble that had Google helping him find a blog he was already associated with, but his reaction to seeing his work in the results made me bite my tongue and encourage him to make his content even richer. Other students also began to notice more visitors to their blogs. It sank in that they had an audience, usually a niche audience who were very interested in the same subject.

By the end of the year we realized that the traditional research paper originally described for this project was not going to work at all. We recast the paper into a feature article and did a short genre study of contemporary feature articles, using two from Wired magazine as mentor texts. Here is our feature article prompt and project requirements.

Students struggled with integrating narrative and expository text, but they were invested in communicating about their topics. We worked on integrating graphics and text features like we found in magazines and online. Students pushed the limits of what could be done with formatting in Google Docs at the time. We published, presented, created and celebrated.

One student, who joined our class mid year, created a pamphlet about self harm and cutting, an issue for far too many students. For some students the expert project was just another school assignment, they enjoyed it, but it didn't make a difference in their lives overall. For a few it made a huge difference, and in at least once case, it may have been a life saver.

The common core exhorts us to make sure our students engage in short and long term research projects. Expert projects are a great way to do that, and putting the time in a week at a time between other units worked great with high school students. If you are planning for next year I hope this encourages you to give it a try.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Docs Story Builder, a great classroom web tool

Docs Story Builder is a fun tool for making short videos that appear to be a Google Doc with multiple editors.  When you create one, you choose your characters and then add the text they type, (or modify) as they take turns editing the document.

There are several fun ways to use this in the classroom. Below is an example I made to show my students about punctuating dialog.

Here is an example from Alyssa Navapanich @MsNsChem. She created this one to show how different scientists have changed their understanding of the atom over time. 
A few tips: 
  1. Plan your story before you start. You can't go back and edit what a character says easily.  Here you can find a Docs Story Planning Doc. (Use File/Make a copy to get your own.)
  2. You can change the color for each character. You can also change the speed of typing for each segment and the length of the pause between characters. 
  3. It's fun to have a character edit or add to what the pervious character said.  Don't erase the grey text of the character that came before. 
  4. You can choose the music, but it's limited.
  5. When you finish your story you get a link to share. SAVE that link. Since you don't login there is no other way to get back to your creation. 
Note: Docs Stories are not YouTube videos. (The examples I have here are on YouTube because I screencasted them.) Not being on YouTube means they are not likely to be blocked by school filters. And because there is no login required to create them, even students without Google accounts can make Docs Stories. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Cool Timer Trick: Add a link to a timer to anything

You may know that you can type [set timer 5 minutes] in to a Google search and you will get a timer. It looks like this, and it's a great way to set a timer for your students.

The cool trick is what you can do with the crazy long URL that comes up when you do the search.  It looks like this, and no one wants to see that. But, you can do some interesting things with it.
You can make is a nice looking link like,  FIVE MINUTE TIMER
You could put that kind of link into a presentation. I tried it and it works. 

Try it yourself:
  1. Type [set a timer for 20 minutes] into Google.
  2. When your timer comes up copy the long URL from the address bar.
  3. Type "20 Minute Timer" on to a webpage, presentation etc and make it a link to that long URL you just copied. 
  4. Slam! 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Group Creator: Group Students Fast, but Not Random

I want to have my students work in groups and with partners as often as possible, but the process of making their groups or choosing their partners took me a long time.  I kept looking for a digital solution that would speed up the process for me, but I could never find one with the features I wanted. Then I figured out how to make a group creator that works for me and I'm also sharing it with you.

My Group Creator runs in a Google Spreadsheet. (Don't panic, it comes with directions.) After you add your class roster and sort by a score you put in, you can click on the different tabs across the bottom to see the different groups students should be in.  The tabs include both homogeneous and heterogeneous groups of six, groups of four, and partners.

Directions Page 
Click this image or any other to see it larger. 
Roster Page 
On the roster tab replace the sample names with your own students. Then add a score that you can use to rank your students, a recent quiz grade or test score works fine, or just give each student a number based on your assessment of their proficiency.

Hover over the B above the score column. That will bring up a small grey down arrow. Click the arrow and you will get a menu of options including "Sort Z-A"

Once you have students sorted highest to lowest (or the other way around) you are ready to see their groups.  Click on any of the other tabs at the bottom to see the groups you have created.  If you do not like the group a student is in, go back to the roster, change their score and re-sort the roster page.

Homogeneous Groups

Using the tabs at the bottom of the sheet you can switch easily between the different groupings.

If you right click on any tab you can rename it. For my students I call them letter groups and number groups, but you could use colors, or anything else you like.

Heterogeneous Groups

Note: This link takes you to a VIEW ONLY copy of the Group Creator.  You get your own editable version by going to File/Make a Copy. If you teach more than one group of students, make a copy of the Group Creator for each class you see. 

Video Version
Thanks to the awesome Holly Clark and Tanya Avrith you can now watch an Edu Slam video version where I explain how it works as a demo.
Wondering how to adapt the Group Creator if you have less than 36 students? Watch this.