Monday, September 26, 2011

Parent reactions to googledocs checklists

Since I am a parent, and I would love for any of my own kids' teachers to do the kind of tracking I talked about in my last post, I decided to contact a few parents. I started with the kids who needed a little, um, friendly boost to get them working. For example, I sent this snapshot of one student's summary to one parent, and cc'd the principal:

Remember, red is not good. The principal wrote me an email the next day to say that this snapshot had resulted in the parent coming to the school and meeting with a counselor, all for the purpose of getting her child on track. Apparently, this has been somewhat of a theme for this child. In short, this colorful snapshot had the impact that no other previous conversation had had in this particular household. The next snapshot looked much better:

Just another note about this particular student....notice the timestamp on the left in the last line.....this kid was doing math at midnight on a Friday night! I don't know what this says about me as a person, but that makes me feel....I don't I have been given superpowers. Googlepowers! I am Thor! But I will not use these powers for evil.....

I want to empower my students, not just to tattle on them to their parents. If this doesn't result in anything positive for them, I'll just become a nag and it'll be more work that I make for myself and them. It HAS to result in growth.

But that's not to say that telling parents is a negative. Two other parents were very impressed and grateful for the information I sent them. In both cases, the outcome was positive and helpful for the kids involved. As it turned out, one was reluctant to ask for help with the math, and the other didn't even know where to find the checklists, but was too embarrassed to ask. He knows now, and so does his mom, and she was thrilled to have access to it!

Thoughts for the next phase of using these gdocs:
  • How do I make this practice of updating checklists empowering for them?
  • How truthful are they being? Some things I can check on directly, like things that are handed in, but not everything on the list is handed in. And shouldn't I find a way for them to value being honest other than just checking up on them?
  • Should I give a mark for these checklists? They get marks for some of the items on the list, of course, but not all. A mark for keeping the list updated would be one sure way to get kids to do it. But I want their motivation to be deeper than that.
  • Time to get some feedback from the kids - is this just another chore for you to get over with, or does it help? Have you learned anything about yourself as a result of doing this? Maybe I should send their own snapshots to them. I showed one girl hers, because it was a thing of beauty, as you can see:

    In fact, there's math here - when you check something everyday, you get a straight line, sort of....and she seemed to think it was pretty cool too. So before I ask for feedback, I should show them their own weekly snapshot maybe. Sigh. More work.
At any rate, a few cliches come to mind: A picture is worth a thousand words. To thine own self be true. But most of all, power corrupts! I am Thor!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Googledocs will you marry me?

First of all, a word about posting. I am not going to apologize for not posting in so long. The simple fact is that I haven't felt inspired to post until today. Yes, yes, I have been busy and tired etc but let's face it, that just doesn't cut it. The fact is that last year, I was always exhausted and busy but found the time to post anyway. I needed to. When you gotta write, you gotta write, am I right? And today, for the first time in a while, I feel that way again. I think it's because I have learned something, who knew? So here goes.

My ongoing affair with googledocs:

It is just unbelievable how much info I can keep track of with googledocs. And I did NOT have to get any training or spend huge amounts of time in order to get the payoff. I just follow the help instructions that come with a google account, that's it! My googledocs checklists make it possible for me to know, on any given day, who is behind, who needs help, who is ahead, who wants to redo a gizmo....and the quantitiy and quality of info they generate just keeps evolving. Here's the stage I'm at now:

The evolution of the quantity of info: It's in layers now!
  1. Layer one: At the beginning of each week, I create a checklist for each class, using googledocs "create new form" feature. Just in case you're wondering how long that takes, not long. To demonstrate, I plan to do a video post about this soon - WITH MY FABULOUS NEW CAMTASIA STUDIO! (see later in this post!)
  2. I share it with each class, and remind them to check things off as the week goes on.
  3. I check the lists once a day for latest updates. Looks like this at first: (if you need to zoom in, click on the pic)
  4. Layer two: Next I shade all entries for that day the same colour, so that I can quickly see the different days. Here's how it looks after three days: yellow day, green day, and orange day:
  5. Layer three: Just by using the data > sort feature, I can now sort all the entries by name, so I can see each individual student's progress during the week:
  6. Layer four: Scan entries for anything that needs my attention (like "need help" or "not happy with my results, please reset") or just the complete absence of an entry, and shade it red:
  7. Layer five: Insert comments as needed, like "gizmo has been reset". This is also just a right-click feature on the googledoc. The comment pops up when your cursor hovers over it:
  8. Next class, go through one kid at a time and discuss. Like "Wow you're burning through this stuff, let's check that you're really getting it." or "If you find this too easy, then check this out" or "You needed help with this, let's go over it".
  9. Repeat from step 4 the next day. More colours get woven into the spreadsheet as the week goes on. It gets really pretty!

    I just want to emphasize that I AM NOT THE ONE FILLING THIS OUT! That's a HUGE time saver! That's been my major mistake all these years, keeping lists, checking things off, and I inevitably couldn't keep up. Now they do that part, which is good for them too, because it makes them take ownership of their own work ethic. But it's the combo of their entries, plus my layering of colours and comments, that provides the background I need to give them what they need. Truly, this is huge. And that's why I got so inspired to blog!
The evolution of the quality of info: It's about feelings now!

Another thing that has evolved is the choices I give them for each item. Last year, it usually looked like this:

Their only choices for response were kind of digital in nature - yes or no. Now it's more like this: (I made it extra big to make it easier to read white-on-black):

Now I want them to tell me not only what they did, but how they felt about it. The beginnings of self-evaluation, and I'm hoping self-awareness.

And now for my new love: Camtasia!

I don't know what is more exciting, that I have Camtasia now, or that it is SO FUN, or that it proves to me how flipping is really a more human way to teach and to learn. When I first tried to record, I found that I had to listen to the videos at techsmith first. Then I found I had to listen to a few of them more than once to really get it. I was thinking that if I were learning this in a class where everyone had to learn at the same pace, I would have gotten lost really fast. So it really is nice, in fact, perfect, to be able to control the speed of the lesson. Hmmm sounds familiar...... now where have I heard that before?

And now for the Camtasia. OMG IT IS SO AWESOME! I don't know how to do much yet, but I can just imagine the possibilities. Captions, sound effects, who knows what else.So excited to learn how to use this.

I made my first recording, but to embed it here, I apparently have to first upload it at either screencast or youtube, but then people there will see it, and it's just not good enough for that! I think I might become the Rebecca Black of teacher tube.....and I don't mean that as a put down of that poor girl, only of the reaction to her first video! Soon, though, I will have something to embed here, probably the googledocs demo.

 Man, learning is so good for you!