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.