Guest Blog by Andrew from Match Next
Question for all teachers out there: how much time do you spend creating and grading assignments or assessments?
Most of you can probably sympathize with this mess:
Back in 2012, the Gates Foundation surveyed over 10,000 teachers about how they spent their time. Here’s a breakdown of a 7.5 hour school day. Check out the time spent grading student work:
Remember, this is only for the ‘required’ 7.5 hour day. I wonder how much of the time beyond that 7.5 hours a typical teachers spends on planning and grading. When I taught 1st grade down in Washington, DC, most of my grading and planning happened after-hours (unless the Redskins were on).
So here’s our puzzle for today: How can you cut down on that grading time?
If you read this blog regularly you know that trying out ed-tech is what I spend my days doing with Match Next, our blended-learning school design that we’re piloting this year with 50 4th graders. Our ELA guru, Debby, has been giving out small reading quizzes and asked if we could find a tech solution to streamline the process. So I tried making short reading quizzes using some Google software called Google Forms.
I give Google Forms a 7/10. Overall I like it, but it took a few test runs to iron out the kinks and it has some limitations.
What is it?
If you use Google beyond searching and email, you’ve probably used some of their word processing and spreadsheet products (Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets). Google Forms is another product in that same family. It’s a basic survey application - you create questions and send them to whomever you want to answer them.
Many of the Corps Directors (managers of tutors at our various schools), and our Teacher Residency, have been using Google Forms for a while now to survey their people. So we thought we’d try using it to quiz kids.
We use a very simple, scaled down template. Here’s a screenshot of what a student sees:
How do you use it?
There are 4 basic steps:
1. Create. It’s easy, you write in a question, then select what type of answer-choice you want (multiple choice, open response, list, etc.). Looks like this:
2. Format. Lots of options here: page breaks between each question or sets of questions? Fancy designs around the edges? Require an answer or leave it optional? Or you can have the form ask different questions depending on the person’s previous answer.
3. Distribute. Pretty easy, you can send people a link.
4. Collect. All the responses get aggregated into a Google Spreadsheet. Students are listed in the rows, questions are listed in the columns. Looks like this:
How it went for us.
Our students accessed the assessment through their Gmail accounts, which we made for each of them to log into the 50 Chromebooks we purchased. You can read about how we use Chromebooks here.
For most of our 4th graders we’ve found it’s been best to have a tutor pull up the quiz for them in advance, so all they do is open their computer and start taking it. We don’t let them use their email on their own. A few seem to know how email works, but most of them aren’t able to navigate it without direct help. Actually, I was surprised the other day when I was asking some of our students about email and they didn’t even really know what it was.
2 Things We Love:
1. Workflow simplification.
a. Old way to give a quiz: type up the questions, print out the sheet, make photocopies, pass them out, collect them, grade them, enter the data into a spreadsheet then analyze the data.
b. New Google Forms method: type up the questions, email the quiz, look at the results.
2. No paper problems. No stacks of paper to be hauled around. No packets to try and keep organized. No lost student work. No paper cuts. Fewer dead trees. Less time mastering the art of unjamming the copy machine.
2 Things We Didn’t Love
1. Formatting the forms the way you want can get pretty cumbersome. It took multiple attempts to learn how to get it just right. Here’s a few things I discovered:
● We wanted the quiz to show one question per page so students could focus on one question at a time. To do this, I had to insert ‘page breaks,’ title each page, then add the question. That’s a lot of steps just to add another page.
● We realized kids were skipping questions. You can ‘require’ each question and prevent them from moving forward by clicking a box, but you have to do for each question.
● Sometimes we wanted to reorder the questions. You can drag a question around the document, but it can be really hard to put it right where you want.
● Multiple people can’t easily edit the same form simultaneously. If you try, any additions or subtractions made will adjust the viewing frame for the other people trying to edit the form.
*Random formatting note: it would be great for Google Forms to add a feature to upload multiple choice questions via a spreadsheet.
2. Analyzing the data isn’t terribly convenient. The responses are all dumped into a Google Spreadsheet, but you’re left to deal with the data on your own. You end up with a list of kid names and all their answers, but not which ones are right or wrong.
We’ve had to go through and either grade them manually or type in some fancy spreadsheet formulas to crunch the numbers for us. There are some apps out there that help with this - we’re testing one out now called Flubaroo, which automates the grading and performs the data analysis. We’ll let you know how that goes.
All in all, I really like Google Forms. We now use Google Forms almost daily in our ELA classes as a delivery method for quizzes. I’d estimate it’s reduced our grading load by 1-2 hours every week.
Side Note: Typing
Our kids can’t type. Well, they can hunt-and-peck for individual keys, but they’re insanely slow at it. Our medium-term goal is to get them on a typing program. Maybe next year (we’ll give their little 4th hands some time to grow).
Once we get that piece in place we’ll be able to do all our assessments on the computer. Right now we just do multiple choice stuff. We still generate tree-killing stacks of hand-written essays. Eg, with some open response questions, we make a note in the form and have our students write their answers on a piece of paper, which we grade by hand.