Friday, 31 May 2013

The Feedback Loop

One of the biggest roadblocks I have had thrown at me when I try to show people about being paperless and using online tools to mark and give feedback, is that they prefer writing their comments on paper or that they don't like the idea of marking online.  That is their personal preference, but I find that the richness of the comments online can create greater feedback, and should increase student achievement and understanding.

Let me explain.  Even before I used Google Apps, I would use the review: comment tool in MS Word when students handed in work. Other colleagues have used TurnItIn for commenting for both drafts and final work.  Using the comment tool worked for me as my slightly messy writing was made clear by typing, and I had much more space to write.  But it was still a one-sided feedback; I did not find out from students whether they had even read it.  And most teachers will tell you that we are not even sure if the feedback sinks in, especially when we see the same mistakes being made.

So why use the same comment tool in Google Apps?  Because the students can respond/resolve the comment.

Example (the student's Action Plan on helping reduce Poverty): 

Heather Leatham
11:32 AM May 24
Selected text:
I am not clear on this inclusion of this charity. It seems to be more for renters than people who are hungry.
Whoops your right i'll change it right away
9:18 AM Today
Student Alright i changed it
9:41 AM Today

What I explained to my class is that we are now going to be creating a feedback loop: I comment, they reply and 'resolve'.  This would tell me that they have read the comment and acted upon it.  I am happy to say that I even saw some students' heads nod in understanding!

So far this seems to be working, though I have had to remind the students to go into the document and respond/resolve the comments.  I am getting my feedback that they have read the comment, and can see the changes taking place in the document.

Monday, 27 May 2013

An issue with Google Apps

Most of my students are new to Google, especially docs/drive.  When I started the project, I asked how many had a gmail account and/or had used docs.  More than half the class put up their hand.  I thought this was great! The learning curve will not be as high.  But I think that it actually went against me because those knowledgeable students have become an ongoing issue.

Let me explain: I find that the students who were previously familiar with Google, keep asking that I share the forms for class with their personal gmail account.  It seems that even though I have explained a few times why we are only using their gapps account in class (security, continuity, ease), each time I ask the students to complete a form, I get an email asking me to share it with their personal gmail.  Each time I write back 'no', please use your gapps account. It is becoming frustrating!

When I asked other teachers who are have been using gapps already, they have the same issue and they have responded in the same way as me.  Does anyone have some different advice? Or has had a better response when asked the same?

Thursday, 9 May 2013


In the Ontario curriculum, teachers are to assess students' learning skills (responsibility, organization, initiative, etc.).  Google Apps will definitely be helpful in this regard!  I decided as one of my assessment tools, I will use Calendars as a means of assessing the student's organization.  I asked them to plan out the next 2 months for the project, because they need to work outside of our 20% time in order to complete their action.

So by the end of the first week, the students were asked to share their calendars with me.  This is what my calendar now looks like for the month of May.  Some of my students are really busy on their actions! Another learning skill done as I can see some great initiative here!

I told the class I will be using their calendars on Fridays (our 20% day) to "check in" with them and see if what they have on their calendar is what they are working on.  The next part of this is integrating what is on their calendars with a self-assessment Google Form.  More on that in the next week, once they have completed it.

Week 2- Forms and Search

For our second week, I enlisted the help of the Head Teacher-Librarian for a search strategy lesson.  The students were asked to fill out a form (new page here with all the forms being used) which would then direct the lesson.  This did not work out that well; only 7 of 25 students filled in the form before class :/   We used what information we had to help the students narrow down their search.

First we used Wiki Mind Map (always use the information appears) to demonstrate subtopics they could explore.  I showed them our Google Search Posters, especially the one with qualifiers ("", OR, -, etc).

Then we touched upon Works Cited.  The students had already been shown the research tool in Documents, but we had noticed that it did not quite match up with the current MLA handbook.  For example, images are 'cited' with just a web link, not the MLA standard.  The students were reminded to double check the entries against the MLA sheet the Library posted on their Moodle site.

I am happy to say that students are being proactive and sharing their research notes with me, without being asked!  And using the correct document entitling (last name, P1 title).  One student last week had shared her topics but had the wrong title for the document.  I reminded her in class, but she had caught the mistake herself and fixed it! Initiative!

The rest of class today was using the information in the forms for a teacher-student conference, the students completing the form, researching and creating their calendars (due Tuesday).  I returned to my office with multiple invitations for sharing calendars with me.