Friday, August 26, 2011

Moodle, Commercial or Google Forms

I have been doing some reflecting over the summer. I want to make sure I'm continuing to use Google Forms for an assessment tool because it is the best option for my classroom and not just because I've invested a lot of time into it.

Pro's: Can display data by class, allows randomized questions and item banks, purely electronic
Con's: Time intensive, requires tech-savvy to make it look nice
First on the subject of moodle, my main reason for not liking it is I don't like how it looks and comes across for the end-user. I know there are ways of customizing it to look cleaner and less busy. The trouble is I simply don't have time to simplify the appearance of something when there are simpler appearing products out there. Moodle has some benefits though--if all students have joined a class you can see a gradebook view once they have completed it that will give stats like how long they spent on the assessment. You can randomize questions and pull from an item bank to build multiple versions of an assessment. That said, I tried building an assessment in Moodle this summer and the number of checkboxes and menu options for each assessment item was overwhelming to say the least. It was too time intensive. I realize there are shared item banks out there and once the work is done, it's done but I already have working tests that have gone through revision processes and I am not interested in starting from scratch or in importing the test items into moodle.

Commercial Product:
Pro's: Allows for scores by learning target, easy to compare data with other teachers in collaboration
Con's: Difficult method for individualized learning plans, still uses paper for the most part, not able to do short answer which is nice for math solutions.
Currently in our district we have a product that gathers student test data. The main collection process is by printing bubble sheets and then later scanning them in (nothing really all that new to education). The test items can be scored by learning target as long as the targets are a state or national standard already preloaded into the system. I'm told there will be an online component as well that would let students enter the assessment through classroom clickers or a website. It seems it would be difficult to use this option if students were not all in the same place at the same time (something I'm trying to move away from in a more individual learner approach). I don't like the idea of students needing to wait until the next day to get their results, and moreover needing to print yet another sheet of paper that would give them their results. On a positive note, this product would allow me to use my current course tests although most answers submitted would need to be fixed choice of some kind (T/F, multiple choice, gridded-response).

Google Forms
Pro's: It's Google, simple appearance to end-user, easy to link to externally, template created saves time on item customization, works well for individualized classroom pacing, graphs and visual data displayed for teacher quickly to assess class/individual data, scores by teacher custom learning targets, ability to collect and correct text/short answer items.
Con's: To customize the reports beyond the template some knowledge of spreadsheet formulas is necessary, initial setup is quick but can be confusing for a first time user
In using Google Forms, I have been able to move to a more self-paced classroom. I have worked with smaller gifted math classroom formats where that was the common practice but this has allowed me to adapt those same instructional strategies for my larger (30+) classes. Students now move on at their own pace after demonstrating mastery. The student knows, without my need to tell them, an estimate of their understanding by the automatic feedback upon completing an assessment (also possible in Moodle). As a math teacher it is also nice to have the option to request numerical answers from students (rounded if necessary to a specific place value)--this is also possible in Moodle I believe. I get quick snapshots of students and classes simply by opening an assessment and these graphs can also be easily displayed on a class website for the public. The assessments are embedded in Google Docs along with links to the electronic text and instructional videos. It was important for me that these were all in the same place for my students.

After reflecting on these three options, I have decided to continue on in using Google Forms as a tool in the classroom. The decision can mostly be the attributed to the ease of implementation in a learner-centered classroom,  that I had the option to really customize it to gather and report the type of information that was relevant to me as a teacher and to be able to access it in a quick, visual manner.

1 comment:

  1. Well then, so will I! I'm a week away from starting a new year, this time with your fabulous templates, and I'm not about to consider ANYTHING else now anyway, but I'm glad you took the time to weigh other options, and to share it with us. Have a great week!