Thursday, October 20, 2011

And the evolution continues....

I have written a lot about how I use googledocs to track my students in my flipped classroom. If this is your first time reading my deep thoughts, then here are a few of my earlier posts that lead up to this one:
the googledocs checklist, how it looks to the teacher, handling all the gorgeous data, parent reactions.

Well, now I'm using my beloved checklists as a two-way communications device.  I'm finding that just showing the kids the results of their updates is having a huge impact. At the very least, the ones who update everyday love to see how pretty it looks as a spreadsheet, AND, believe it or not, that seems to motivate the others to update more often, and hence be more organized, because they like to see all the pretty colours! And no one wants to see any red.

More importantly, though, showing them their own week-at-a-glance gives me a way to communicate with them in case I don't get to them in class. It also enriches our time in class in ways I hadn't even anticipated!

Here's the routine I've fallen into so that I can quickly assess their progress on the fly, give feedback, and more importantly, get feedback:

Every day:
     To handle the INCOMING info (from students to me): I:
  • check for their updates
  • colour updates with day of the week, using an abridged and pastelled version of roygbiv:  (Mon = orange, Tue = yellow, Wed = green, Thur = blue, Fri = pink, Sat/Sun = lilac, any day after that = deep purple)
  • check for items I can verify, ie if they say "I left a comment on voicethread" I go to voicethread and verify, or if they say "uploaded to dropbox" I check their dropbox
     OUTGOING info (from me to student): I:
  • insert comments aimed at the students (not just at me like before) as necessary "ie received" or "not rec'd" or "good comment" or "way to go" (to insert comment, right click on cell in spreadsheet)
  • flag, with bright orange, anything that doesn't check out - ie they say they handed something in but I don't see it, or the comment didn't appear at voicethread
  • check for any entries with "need help", then flag that with bright orange also
  • after all comments are in, and all flags shaded, rearrange in order by student (using data > sort)
      IT'S GO TIME: Now I'm ready for the dialogue! Next class I:
  • give them whatever feedback I have put in the comments
  • talk to them about anything that's flagged bright orange - ie if they say they did something but I can't see it, or if they said "need help", we talk about that (note that if I don't get to someone, I know that they will still see my comment, at least at the end of the week)
  • document that by inserting another comment, like "helped with #3" or "did the worksheet but forgot to upload"
At the end of the weekend:
      Summarize the week's communications, INCOMING, OUTGOING, whatever, as soon as the Sunday
      night deadline is up. I:
  • check each student's data  for missing items, and flag those items with red.
  • check for students that haven't checked anything all week and make a manual entry for them, which I then shade completely red.
  • go to "view list", "show colours", then display one child at a time
  • take a snapshot, and send it to them
  • if necessary, send their parents the snapshot
  • next day in class, process, discuss, suggest, encourage self-assessment
Interpreting their snapshots:
  • If it looks like this:

    I can safely assume they are at least checking in on a regular basis. Note at the bottom are my comments, in footnote form.
  • If it looks like this:

    they might be cramming everything in too short a time.
  • And how unappealing is this:

    This is someone who is either forgetting to update (in which case, they're missing out on a lot of connection potential with me, and I'm missing out on a lot of data about how they work), or they're not doing anything, in which case, intervention of some kind is needed, and easily set into motion with one look at all the red.
Other enrichment that's happening:
  • The things I discover during some talks: one student has been asking me for help before watching the videos! He was frank about it, and knew it couldn't go on. Another admitted she was simply copying her answers then handing it in like that. All I had to ask her was where is your work, and she caved like a tower of jello. I'm not saying I am the first teacher to discover this kind of thing, and I'm not really shocked, it's just that it seems to be their own consciences at work here, because we are talking one one on one.
  • Some kids will never ask for help in class, but they will via the checklist.
  • Whenever they have the chance to type an answer, rather than check off one from a list, it makes for interesting reading. I asked for their feelings about their test results, and here are some of the things they wrote:
Should have taken my time but I think my score was pretty good, but I should have done better
I hate the fact I made a silly mistake on a MULTIPLE CHOICE question.... But I'll survive. Loved the test, not too hard! :D
I had 100% already so i compared my solutions with my classmates to discover the different ways of solving the problems
I think i did very well considering how difficult it was for me to understand all the work. I studied hard and it paid off
  • Some kids won't ever ask for help, no matter what , so I want to more regularly question kids individually.
  • I still need to get them collaborating more. I had hoped it would happen organically, like they would group themselves according to what they were currently working on. Today, 4 kids actually asked to work together, which is a first, but for the most part, they don't.
  • I need to give them work that lends itself to collaboration. Malcolm Swan comes to mind.
  • Time to use those google accounts for self-correcting quizzes, a la Andy Schwen! I wrote my own set of instructions for this back in July, and now I'd better re-read those and hope my own post makes sense to me....
Now I just have to figure out a way to do all this and NOT spend every waking moment on the computer, so that my family won't disown me.....another post entirely. Maybe even another blog entirely.


  1. Wow you are organized! Many teachers could learn a lot from you. I love the way you are using the Google docs not just for your own information but for the students to be aware of themselves and as a way to help them reflect on their work habits and their progress. They become accountable to themselves.

  2. Thanks, Susan. What's weird is that I just wanted to keep track of their work, but all this other stuff just sort of happened!

  3. I love the reflection that is happening in the forms. It found it so interesting when you commented, "Some kids will never ask for help in class, but they will via the checklist." I think that one of the advantages of not being face to face is that not having to look someone in the eyes sometimes makes it easier for kids to admit that they are having problems.
    Try to take the weekend to enjoy yourself and your family.

  4. I found that incredible too, especially since in the class, they have the option of asking me privately! But for some, even that seems to be intimidating.