Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Amazing Race comes to Education!

I just concluded a unit on "Weather and Climate" using a number of tools from the Google Apps suite and the theme of the TV show, "The Amazing Race". This was an idea first shared by Wesley Przybylski and further developed in conjunction with our IT integrationist, Richard Poth. I had never used a collection so integrated and seamless and work flow was a breeze. If you're not familiar with the amazing race, teams travel around the world to find clues to take them to another and another until they finish one leg of the race.

As gamification increasingly comes into education, I thought this would be a nice way of combining learning, geography and individual and team competition in a way that is fun and exciting. As I'm a science teacher, students would start the race, conduct and experiment along the way. At the end of the lesson, they would "finish" but submitting an assignment or completing a formative assessment in the form of an exit interview that was non-graded, but gave them feedback to help them reflect on their learning.

The Starting Line-Google Forms and Autocrat
Good instructional practices always start with articulating learning objectives. The start was a Google Form that when filled out, would generate an automated email with a document that had the key vocabulary and learning objectives. To see how it works, try filling out your own form here. Below is a document with merge tags shown by << and >>. When responses trickle in, autocrat can send out a personalized document (in this case below, I only had the name). To help manage my workflow, I created folders in GDrive and just made copies for new forms and new investigations.

The document with merge tags that each student receives to start their race. 

Enter Google Maps for Content
As you can see from the document below, there is a Map Link. Google maps have great versatility for a number of projects, but since my unit was so based on Geography, having maps for students to explore and learn about content was key. I could use place markers for students to click on to take them to places and learn along the way. Students usually spent about 15 minutes reading and taking notes on their maps prior to labs and inquiry based investigations in science.

Labs: Getting Googely With Doctopus and Google Classroom
Google classroom is a great file management system that's only a couple years old and Doctopus is a grading app that allows teachers to systematically give feedback on assignments. Although Google classroom is replacing SOME aspects of Doctopus, I still like Doctopus for group labs in science. If you share out assignments with Google classroom, Doctopus can "Ingest" an assignment for rubriced assessment. Here is Oliver Trussel giving a demo on how to do so. (On a side note, Oliver Trussel developed the add on "Super Quiz" which you should check out when you have the chance.)

The Finish Line-Flubroo Grading in Real Time
Students submitted lab through Google classroom or doctopus, but we also finished with exit tickets. Flubaroo has a feature that allows students to do a exit questionnaire and get results sent to their gmail box for feedback in real time.
After installing flubaroo, go to advanced features and "enable autograde". 

Data Amalgamation and Automation
As the race covered a number of investigations that were on different forms or spreadsheets, it was essential to have them all on one master spreadsheet for adding up points and analysis. Responses on one spreadsheet can be pushed into another spreadsheet and I created tabs from each investigation. The final tab at the bottom, "all data" compiled point values from each tab or spreadsheet into one master spreadsheet that could easily be added up and a final report (see this autocrat example) was sent out at the end as a certificate of completion.

The index function and match would push data and match scores from one sheet to another. 

Point values from each investigation. Notice the tabs at the bottom from each investigation. 

The "Import Range" function could take spreadsheet data from one sheet and push it to another. 

Putting this Into Practice
Although there was a lot of automation for this project, this did not replace good teaching. For instance, there was a lot of resources on the map, but unless students read the clues carefully, they could get "off topic". Because of this, I had to meet with some students to help them focus and also use warm ups to reteach and debrief misconceptions that were shown in exit interviews. Many college level classes and MOOCs are built on automation such as the amazing race, but I think it lends itself better to older students that are better at self monitoring.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Gamification Chronicles: Combine Assessment, Review and Gaming with "Quizizz"

One of the favorite parts of my job is piloting new assessment tools with my students. My students, (like many others world wide) love to play games and compete with their peers. Gamification is a "buzzword" in education lately as we try to appeal to the competitive nature of students and tap into their learning modalities and interests. And who doesn't like to play games?

The quizizz game room enter porthole 
What makes quizizz so fun is that it has great applications as a formative assessment tool. Create an account here and then direct your students to the game room sign in to join. When you are in the admin console, you can create quizzes, but I like to browse public quizzes which many people use. You can duplicate these quizzes to add or take out questions.

Quizziz in Action!
When you start a game, you'll see who has entered your "room" and when everyone is there, you can start the game. Students get points on the correct answer, but you can also indicate if you want extra points given for the "speediness" of answers. Personally, I don't like this, as it causes students to rush through and not read carefully. If they get a question correct, they get points which is also followed by a funny meme. Answers populate into the teacher dashboard in real time and you'll see a breakdown of each question and whether it was a high frequency miss or not. 

In real time, each participant has a bar of completion with correct and incorrect answers.

After ending the game, you will see a list of frequently missed questions. Here, question #8 was frequently missed.

Comparing Quizizz and Kahoot!
Most people have heard of "Kahoot" instead of "Quizizz", so I'll compare the two. Kahoot is a teacher paced assessment tool, meaning that the students will answer one question at at time and the teacher will see the results after each question. I think this is much more effective as a study and review tool, because if you see the majority of the class missed a question, you can stop and re-teach. 

Quizizz is student paced and gives more options whether or not you want answers to be shown, memes and can be sent out as a link or assigned as homework. I think Quizizz has better as a lesson review or a multi-lesson review tool, and Kahot is better for diagnostic assessment and re-teaching. 

Related Posts

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The Hank Moody Effect-Is Online Communication Evolving or Devolving?

In a faculty meeting last week, we made a list of tech and organizational skills that we felt students should have in our first, second and third week of school starting next fall. We generated some great ideas and prioritized them based on what was "essential" early on and what could be shelved for later.

A student writes me a chat message in the hangouts window.

One of the topics that came up was "How to write a letter to your teacher". Whereas generally, my students do have good letter writing skills, when students chat with me via gmail I occasionally get these emoji encrusted letters with cute faces and an incoherent message as seen above. Somehow, this made me think of the current US presidential election and all of the online vitriol flung back and forth between candidate supporters and decreased civility and openness to different opinions. It also made me think of Hank Moody.

The Hank Moody Effect
Hank Moody is a charachter played by David Duchovny in "Californication"and in a recent scene, Henry Rollins interviews Hank Moody's character and asks what he's interested in thinking or writing about. Hank had this great appraisal:

"The fact that people seem to be getting dumber and dumber.  People, they don't write any more, they blog. Instead of talking, they text. No punctuation, no grammar. It's LOL this and LMFAO that. It just seems to me like a bunch of stupid people pseudo communicating with a bunch of other stupid people in a protolanguage that resembles more of what cavemen used to speak rather than the king's English." 

Was it always like this? Or is this a step forward from not being able to talk with random strangers at all? Sherry Turkle was an early pioneer in this emerging field of technology and her TED talk: "Connected, but alone" is a interesting by slightly dystopian vision of how accessibility to the world has created small "sips" of text or conversation that has given everyone a voice, although many young adults don't know how to pivot on cues in real time. 

I think there's hope for my students and the future. They just have to be taught how to do it; so that's what I'm going to do now.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

The Power of Pear Deck

My new favorite assessment tool is "Pear Deck". Pear deck is a presentation platform that allows a teacher to give lectures with videos, content, but also intersperse formative assessment questions to engage students so they're not sitting passively.

The Pear Deck Dashboard
Pear Deck is free but the premium account allows teachers to see student responses during a presentation. There are times when I've used "Pear Deck" and I don't want my student to see another student's response in which I'll toggle in an out of presentation mode.

The Pear Deck dashboard. Lessons are boxed together for editing. 
Getting Started
Strangely, the best way to get started with Pear Deck is to create an account in "Google Drive" as teachers will have the ability to send responses to a students Google drive account, and for this, Pear Deck needs to be enabled. Go to "Google Drive", hit the red button that says "new" and go down to "connect more apps" and search for pear deck and install.

Once students have done this, direct them to the Pear Deck website and select "student login". DO NOT select "Sign in with Google" as this will sign them into Pear Deck as an administrator.

Pear Deck in Action
For this lesson below on how nutrition affects the body, I asked students for some background knowledge using an long, open ended response. On the left window, I can see students and their responses, but in the center, they can publicly see what each other wrote. You can select the green eye below if you want (or don't want) students to see each other responses before submitting, so Pear deck does have applications as a community learning tool, but also for summative assessment. Another fun feature is the "lock" button which will shut out students ability to respond after a designated time.

Presentation Mode
Below you will see the format for videos. A video inserted will not play as a session dashboard, but as a teacher you can go back and forth between projector view and session dashboard.

Running Records
As you insert questions with the question icon, all information from users is collected and put into a spreadsheet that can be emailed and send with "another email merge" or "autocrat" for reference.
A spreadsheet of responses. 

A Final Word
I had to practice Pear Deck once with my advisory students before I felt competent enough to manage pear deck with a lesson. The different presenting modes, inserting question types were all a little daunting for a first time. However, after using my 11 students as guinea pigs for an advisory lesson, I got a handle on things and was ready to go!

Related Posts
Creating personalized quiz reports with Autocrat and Sheets
Google Forms never looks so good with "Superquiz". 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Give Students an Audience with "Write About"

I've always advocated that students write across all subjects. I've loved developing integrated writing tasks across the science over my years as a teacher and I've seen my student's ability to write across a variety of genres and topics skyrocket.

Sometimes though, I want to give my students an authentic prompt to write and explore at the beginning of class that has curricular ties, has controversy, or allows them to think critically. Also, being able to assess and monitor such minor "warm ups" has been a problem as there was nothing more than a quick check for assessment or small group shares.

Write About
Recently, I learned about "Write About" and have used it for a number of writing topics in science and my MS Sustainability course. The dashboard allows you to create or search for writing prompts. Once created, these can be shared to sites via links, to Google Classroom, or via a link.

The Write About Dashboard. 

Once in the dashboard, you can search for existing writing prompts and create your own. My first prompt was to address the problem of being able to grow food to feed a growing population. Although scientists seem to downplay the dangers of genetically modified crops, there is a huge camp of citizens that are vehemently opposed to "frankenfoods", many of them with large families ironically.

The Write About Prompt which can be searched for or shared to a group via sharing links above. 
Some of my students accidentally signed in before "registering" and got signed into a teacher account, but Brad from Write About helped my students get sorted.

Once choosing a topic and sending student the link, they can choose that their post is public or private. Users can comment on public posts and create a community of readers and writers.

Related Posts
Supporting Reading Across any Subject with NewsELA and Diigo
Academic Literacies Part 2: Argumentative Literacies
How to Foster Collaborative Discussion (and the tools to do it!)

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Grading Open-Ended Responses with Flubaroo

The flubaroo grading app now lets you grade open-ended responses with Google Forms which can show more in depth understanding than your typical multiple choice/select response assessment. Here is a tutorial to get your started!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Randomly Pick Kids with "Kidpicker"

"So, do you have a schedule for when students participate? How do you pick kids randomly that isn't biased or unfair? Some teachers know that certain students don't like to talk in groups so how to get them to participate?" 

I heard this a lot from teachers. Strategies or systems have ranged from drawing names out of a hat to having Popsicle sticks with names. Personally, I like "kidpicker" which randomizes drawing of student names for discussion tasks, or group work.

The kidpicker app that you can bookmark. Periods or class appear in the drop down menu

Kid Picker
Kidpicker is a google apps script developed by Andrew Stillman and you can see the link here. Upon visiting, you can install the script in your Google Account which sets up a spreadsheet in your Google Drive that you can populate with names if you have multiple classes or want to randomize from smaller pools of students.