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Posts Tagged ‘GoogleDocs’

digital-notebook3Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been connecting with a bunch of teachers out there who are also experimenting with going paperless and starting digital notebooks. It’s exciting to see the growing number of educators who are trailblazing a new path for education in our digital world, so I started a new page for collecting my ideas on digital notebooks, and I also decided to go “open source” with my digital notebook resources this year.

For those of you who are curious what a digital notebook in action looks like, I’ve created an example notebook that will mirror my actual students notebooks and be updated throughout the year. You’ll be able to see how we digitize classwork, homework, and assessments, and also how we use the digital notebooks to track progress with learning logs. Hopefully this example notebook will inspire those of you starting up digital notebooks in your own classrooms and encourage those of you who are thinking of giving it a try. I’d love to hear from you if you have questions or your own experiences to share! (more…)

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do-it-yourselfA problem I’ve been kicking around for a while is how to give my students clearer feedback on their learning progress. In a standards-based system this can be a challenge, because feedback is more detailed than a single percentage grade; a single assignment often covers more than one learning goal and therefore is given multiple grades. This detail can be very useful to the student for guiding their learning, but only if they are able to take it all in and manage the feedback in a positive way.

Unfortunately, most grade books out there haven’t mastered standards-based grading, making it difficult for both teachers to enter grades and students to access and understand them. I know this from first-hand experience: the past two years my middle school has been struggling to use Perason’s PowerTeacher Gradebook for our standards-based grading (and to think they claim it’s the “next level in classroom technology”- ha!). There may be some helpful updates on the way at some point- I haven’t fired up this year’s version up yet- but instead of waiting around for Pearson to solve your problems, how about taking matters into your own hands? (more…)

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digital notebook2In this third and final (at least for now!) tutorial about digital notebooks I explain the steps your students will need to follow to create and maintain their notebooks. You’ll need to have already created a template on Google Sites of the digital notebook, which I explained in the last tutorial. As you’ll see in this video, setting up and maintaining a digital notebook is super easy for students to do, and most of the organization is automatic. Since I teach Middle School students, this is a huge selling point!

 

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digital notebook2Last school year I used digital notebooks with my 6th grade science students in place of traditional science notebooks, and I’ve received a lot of interest and questions from teachers out there who want to know more about how to set them up. I posted last summer about the basics of setting up digital notebooks, but one of my readers (thanks Belinda!) made a great suggestion to create some videos that could walk people through the process. So my new summer project is making a series of short tutorials that will explain both the nitty gritty details of setting them up and also show off some of the advantages over paper notebooks. Hopefully this will enable anyone out there- tech savvy or not- to give digital notebooks a try!

The first video in the series focuses on the “pages” of a digital notebook, which create using Google Docs. For those unfamiliar with Google Drive and Google Docs I explain some of the advantages, and then I demonstrate how you can use them to replace paper notebooks and paper handouts in your classroom.

If there’s anyone else out there using digital notebooks or considering going paperless, please join in the conversation! Despite the fact that our students are now “digital natives” and the technology available is more than capable of replacing paper, I have found very few resources out there about digital notebooks, and I would love to hear new ideas.

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Another goal of mine with digital notebooks was to enable new forms of collaboration in my classroom. Because digital documents like GoogleDocs allow multiple people to access and edit the same document online at any time, it opens the door to new possibilities for both students and teachers:

1. Colaborating like scientists

Lab work in my classroom is almost always collaborative. Even before going digital my students would work in teams to plan and perform experiments, which encourages scientific communication and cooperation which are authentic science (and life) skills. Using digital science notebooks can take this collaboration a step further, because instead of individually recording in their own paper notebooks, with a digital notebook students can share the same document so that each of them can edit and view each others changes on their own screen. This is wonderful for typically collaborative tasks such as planning a procedure or collecting data. I’ll often have lab teams start with a collaborative document for an experiment so they each have the same document in front of them:

Saturation Puzzle doc

An added benefit of doing this type of group collaboration is that with a digital projector you can quickly turn it into whole class collaboration. Have a group that’s stuck? Display their document for the whole class on the projector and see if anyone has a solution. Have a group that’s doing stellar work? Share it with the whole class as an exemplar.

When it comes time for a more individual task (like writing a conclusion to an experiment) they can copy and paste the group work into their own document, and then finish on their own:

Saturation Puzzle individual

2. Researching as a team

Another collaborative task that is enhanced by technology is researching a subject as a team. This is similar to the classic jigsaw learning approach, except that all the students on a team are editing the same collaborative document. Depending on goal of the learning activity, you can either assign different students specific sub-topics to be responsible for and become an “expert” on them for their team, or you can let the team decide how to divide and conquer the research. Here’s an example of this from my 6th grade earth science unit:

collaborative research

I adapted this first learning activity from a fantastic inquiry-based lesson called Discovering Plate Boundaries developed at Rice University. The multi-part lesson engages students with real maps of relevant plate tectonic information (volcanology, seismology, geography, and geochronology) and challenges them to discover patterns at the boundaries of plates and then classify them. Each student on the team becomes an expert on one of the 4 maps, and then they use their combined understanding to classify all of the major plate boundaries in the world on a collaborative document (I still have them label the map on paper though- it’s just much more efficient for coloring!)

3. Giving feedback to peers

This is something I’ve only scratched the surface of this year, but with more modelling and practice I think it could be a game changer in the classroom. The power of peer feedback is particularly obvious with the Middle School students I work with, and digital notebooks make the process much easier and more flexible. Students can leave comments on each others documents in real-time, even while a student is still working on them. Multiple peers can comment simultaneously on a single document, and the commenting doesn’t need to be done in person- for example it could be assigned for homework. What’s more, students can reply directly to comments, opening up the door for a back-and-forth conversation. I haven’t done enough of this yet in my own classroom, but if you’re interested check out Oliver Quinlan’s post for more details on how to do it well. What I have done a lot of is teacher-student feedback using Google Docs comments, which works extremely well. If students are making edits to a piece of work, I suggest having them make any corrections in a different font color rather than deleting anything. This way students have a nice record of their learning in their notebook and better learn from their mistakes. Here’s an example:

feedback

4.What about plagiarism?

This was another one of my main concerns going digital last year: with most student work online, would the temptation for copy-and-paste plagiarism make it a problem I would have to constantly police? Yes and no. On the front end, for any digital work discussing plagiarism and making expectations clear to students is a must. We did this at the school level and I also reinforced it within my classes. Even so, instances of plagiarism popped up, but in my opinion no more than normally. Digital notebook may make plagiarism easier to do, but it also makes it easier for a teacher to identify. GoogleDocs shows the last editor of a document right in the Drive view and tracks all editors in the revision history. So if a student is editing a document they shouldn’t be (like doing someone else’s homework), it’s plain for the teacher to see. Checking for plagiarized work is easy too- if I’m ever suspicious on a research project I can just Google a sentence of a students work to see if it’s original or not. Same goes in Google Drive- you can search for text within documents, so seeing if a student is using someone else’s words is only a click away. So yes, digital notebooking does make plagiarism more of an issues, but it’s a issue that I think needs to be taught, and digital notbooking allows students to start practicing habits of a good digital citizen.

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A few weeks ago I started playing with video assessments as an engaging and efficient way to do assessments with multiple classes (as a coordinator I work with 7 classes per grade- so efficiency is key!). Initially I was planning on using this method merely for pre and post-unit assessments, but since then it’s grown into something much bigger.

The bolt of inspiration came from John’s post (and Kelly O’Shea’s idea) to give short weekly assessments each Friday, as a way of students (and teachers) knowing where their learning stands on a regular basis. This reminded me of the holy grail of formative assessments: those wonderful feedback-oriented assessments for learning that everyone at my school always talks about doing but rarely does. I know there are plenty of good ideas out there for how to work quick formative assessments into your teaching, but in the whirlwind of a segregated 40-minute period school day, there never seems to be enough time. Why not turn homework into a formative assessment opportunity?

So, for the past couple of weeks, my 2nd and 3rd grade students have piloted a online experiment with formative assessments, called Show What You Know! Each weekend, I create a simple assessment with something engaging (video clips, funny pictures, an online simulation activity) and a series of questions on our school’s science website. I use GoogleDocs Forms to create the assessment questions, which is simple (and free) to use and collects students’ responses for me neatly in a spreadsheet. Then with a little conditional formatting magic (setting correct answers to be highlighted green and incorrect answers to be highlighted red), the responses look something like this:

Quickly scanning the spreadsheet I can find out which students are getting it, which ones need some review, and which concepts in general need some work for the whole class. From my coordinator’s perspective, I spend less than an hour of work and I have formative assessment data for 120 students without the hassle of grading. Pretty nifty. Most of all, less time spent assessing means more time left over for the most important part of formative assessment: giving students feedback and letting the results reflect your future teaching.

One key to remember is that these formative assessments are ungraded. The value of formative assessments evaporates if they aren’t a true reflection of what a student understands. So cramming, googling, and parent assisting need to be completely discouraged, and that means not tempting fate by attaching a grade to it. Since we’re still early in the year, it remains to be seen how accurate the formative assessments will be, and whether good-intentioned “homework helpers” will skew the data, but I can say from the first few weeks that it’s already been a very good indicator for several students who are struggling.

Here’s a few examples of our Show What You Knows to check out:

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Over my years of teaching I’ve probably used Google image search about 10,000 times. I like to create a lot of my assessments and worksheets from scratch, so I’m constantly searching for that perfect photo or piece of clip art to illustrate something. But as others in the bloggossphere like Dan Meyer have pointed out, using hokey clip art in this age of giga-pixelated multimedia is inexcusable. Using videos in the place of clip art leverages the engaging and real-world qualities of a video clip, and encourages students to see the science in real life. So, this year I’m going to experiment with video assessments. The idea behind a video assessment is that students will watch a video and then explain it demonstrating their scientific understanding (as a side note- videos could also be used to great effect for introducing a new concept, or could even be made by  students themselves to demonstrate understanding- but this is for another post!).

The inspiration for this came from Greg Schwanbeck and his post on dy/dan a couple weeks ago. In the comment thread one of the teachers asked about the logistics of doing a video assessment in the classroom, and it is a little tricky. After all, you want students to be able to watch the video at their own leisure, and go back to a certain part if they want. Anyway, I gave this some thought, and I’ll share with you my prototype Video Assessment 1.0 for your critique: click here to check it out.

The assessment is admittedly simple- I’m just reworking a pre-assessment that I give to my second graders at the beginning of their unit on Forces and Motion. What I’m looking for as a teacher is to see whether they can identify the kinds of pushes and pulls acting in each video, and whether they are familiar with their scientific names (friction, gravity, etc), and any misconceptions they hold. I would also like to include a clip with magnetic force, but try as I might I couldn’t find a good one, so I’ll probably just have to film one myself.

The webpage for the assessment was made using GoogleSites, which allowed me to embed the questions from a GoogleForm that I created (both of these Google tools are free, and I highly recommend using GoogleDocs if you aren’t already). There is an option to embed videos from YouTube directly, but because I wanted to resize the videos to make them fit together tightly on the page, I first ripped them from YouTube using this website and then uploaded them to GoogleDocs in the GoogleVideo format, which lets you resize them.

The cool thing about using GoogleForms for an assessment like this is that when students click “Submit”, their responses are automatically collected in a spreadsheet for you. I work with seven 2nd grade classes at my school, so this is a very seamless way to collect a lot of data. All I’ll need to do is simply send the link of the assessment webpage to teachers so they can share with their students. By using laptop carts and headphones, each student will get their own laptop so they can do the assessment on their own and watch the videos as many times as they need.

One design issue I have is that I would prefer to place each video directly next to the question, but GoogleForms doesn’t allow for embedding videos. So students will have to do a lot of scrolling up and down between watching videos and answering questions. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes down- but in the meantime I would appreciate any constructive criticism you have.

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