Sunday, February 20, 2011

Daily Classroom Data: Instant, Visual and Free

I realize some elements to this blog could be classified as a concept car--cool but will never make it to mass production. I have taken that into consideration and tried to come up with a tool that can be used by at least the technologically savvy educators. And hopefully someday that will be all of us. My hope though, if nothing else, is to push us beyond what we've been taught to do as teachers: correct by hand, analyze our students by vague observations and be surprised by test scores every other week.

When I was in high school I really liked the idea of putting forms on websites. What I didn't like was the jumbled up email message you'd get every time someone submitted the form. Google has changed all of that and many of you may already know this. One of their products, Forms, allows a person to post a form online. The form gathers information and then organizes it into a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets can use formulas. Formulas can do work. We can sit back and view the data.

My first form with formulas took a long time to set up. I thought, "I can't do this on a regular basis. I don't have the time." But then I took that form and recreated it to be a template that I could just copy and reuse for each quiz or assessment I wanted to make. The formulas gather student entries, score them and then give me scores by class. I also get a graph by item number to know which questions we need to revisit the next day in class.

I have been doing this process all year and love not having to hand-grade assignments any longer. I also appreciate knowing which questions we need to go over in class before the students are even in front of me. The level of student accountability is unprecedented as well. Students are now receiving scores on homework and are not able to move on until they demonstrate an understanding of those skills. No one takes a test until those skills are mastered. Differentiation is finally becoming a classroom reality. (Original template is available in Google Docs Template Gallery by searching "andyschwen").

I've upgraded my template this past week and am excited about the wealth of information it will bring. My collaborative team and I separate our test scores into categories. Students are able to retake individual sections of the test once they demonstrate additional learning and complete review activities. The new template will give me scores for each standard (by all students, by class and individual students). I get a dashboard graph back for each student that shows their overall score and each standard score. A visual, quick representation of their test performance. This is instant, with no data entry on my part. Get the updated templates here.
I'm trying this out for the first time with a test this week. Students will have ipod touches and a paper copy of the test. Once the test is completed they will submit their answers. I will not have to stay after school for 3 hours grading tests and they will know immediately upon completing the test which questions they got wrong. I will not need to print any scan sheets on paper or spend time feeding them into a machine. I can pull up multiple graphs to assess individual student needs or what areas I need to refocus my instruction on.

I realize there are products out there that do similar things. But they cost money. They are not customizable for our needs in the classroom and they may only work with a specific textbook or website. My dream would be that I would have a class set of iPad or XOOM Each test would have a QR code on it and students could scan the code on the test to go directly to the submission form.
Potentially then students could work at their own pace when benchmarks have been completed they can move on. All the tests are ready because they are out there on the cloud. I don't have to fish out any answer keys from a binder because they're corrected as soon as the student is finished.
If you are a school already using Google products and sound interested in implementing some of these things I'd be happy to come work with a group in getting started.

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