Grade Short Answers in Google Forms

Grading has never been ____.

Yesterday Google quietly announced a new Forms feature that allows you to grade by question and allows for streamlined short answer grading.  Now you can create short answer/fill in the blank questions and grade them in Forms itself.  You provide an answer key (currently case sensitive) and if the student puts that exact answer, Forms grades it automatically.  All other answers can be graded quickly with clicks.

With this new update you can easily add short answer and fill in the blank questions to your Forms quizzes.

Feedback is best when it is ____.

The new forms update also allows for individual feedback for questions and even allows you to post a link and test in your feedback.  For example you could link to a video or screencast re-teaching the skill.  Alternately if the student showed mastery to a video that would challenge them to do more.


Five Tools to Be More Productive

I’m trying to get caught up on all my #edublogsclub prompts and number 22 is sharing productivity tools.  Productivity is my favorite category in all the app stores!  Ironically, I’ve spent hours looking at apps and extensions to help me get more done.  These are the ones I use the most.

  1.  Trello– I wrote about Trello before as one of my favorite tools.  Trello is my to-do list.  You make cards and to each card you can add attachments, files, colors, collaborators, due dates, a checklist and a whole bunch of other features I don’t use regularly.  You can add Google Docs directly to the cards so when you go to work on something you don’t have to search for it in your Drive.  What I particularly love about Trello is the flexibility.  Sometimes I want lists that are: Today, Tomorrow, Next week and I can move cards around to fit those and sometimes I want project based lists.  Before I left for summer I organized everything into project based lists which I can then move into into the Today list. Before I leave for the day I try to make sure that my to-do list is up to date so I can get to work right away (after I get my coffee of course.) I’ve seen teachers who have used Trello as an organization board for student work, but I’ve never used it for that.
  2. Buffer– Buffer is social media management for “marketers and agencies.”  I’m neither, but I do manage four other social media profiles and Buffer allows me to schedule posts and post to different profiles in one click.  I have the paid version.  It was worth it to me to sacrifice one Starbucks coffee a month to be able to sit down at one time and schedule all of my posts for the accounts I manage.  This way those accounts “post” several times during the day, but I don’t have to be there.  Powered with IFTTT it’s genius.
  3. Boomerang– Boomerang for gmail allows you to schedule emails to go out.  I send a lot of routine emails about time cards and attendance rosters.  On Friday afternoon, I write and schedule these to go out the following week.  My emails send no matter where I am!  It’s magical.  Boomerang also has a feature to “boomerang” email or basically have it show back up in your inbox on a certain day.  If you get that email that says “do x in three months” you can have it show back up in your inbox in three months.  With the free plan you get 10 scheduled emails.
  4. Time Out-When I went from teaching to a “desk job” I realized I was hardly moving during the day so I looked for something to remind me to get up.  Time Out is an app for Mac that tells you when to take a Time Out from your work.  Mine is set up for a 6 minute break every hour (just enough time to run to the restroom and do a lap around the building) and a couple of 15 second mini-breaks.  You can skip or postpone breaks if you’re in a grove and you can tell it to never interrupt you if you are using certain apps.
  5. Spotify– Last, but not least, you can’t be productive unless you have the proper playlist and sometimes you just want to listen to Ed Sheeran non-stop all day.  I have the paid version- largely because I was getting wildly inappropriate adds when I was at school.  (And only at school– never at home!)  I decided not having to deal with those adds inadvertently one day in class was worth the paid subscription.  Plus you can download songs so when you’re in the middle of Utah and there’s no radio or cell service you still have something to listen to.  One of the features I love about Spotify is its access to world music.  Often when I’m working on a unit I’ll type in some of the words from that unit and see what songs have them in them and then put that in a playlist to listen to while students are working.  I’ve discovered a lot of great new music that way.

What tools do you use to get more done?

Hacking Tech Support with EdPuzzle

Tech Support – How may I help?

If there’s one thing I dislike it’s taking up precious class time to do tech support and answer technology questions.  It my seem ironic, but for an Instructional Technology Coach and teacher in a paperless classroom, I’m pretty picky about what type of tech I use in class.  Don’t get me wrong- at the beginning we spend a ton of time making sure everyone is comfortable with the technology we’ll use every day.  If I’m going to sacrifice time in the TL then the technology better be worth it.

At the end of the semester this year in French 102 I decided to do a survey “project.”  Students created a survey using Google Forms and then were going to present the results as part of their final.  (I was trying to trick them into using the past tense because if you’re going to talk about what people chose, said, wrote, you have to use the past tense.  #sneaky) First, I had them create situations in Google Docs (using a template) and I read and gave feedback and then they were actually ready to create the form.  We had just finished the conditional so most of their surveys used that.  And they were funny.  Students had to take five classmates’ surveys and then get five other people to take theirs so they had a total of at least 10 results.

Google Forms sometimes acts weird on mobile devices if they’re created in a GSuite account and you don’t unrestricted it from the domain.  And by weird I mean it won’t let you access the form even if you’re signed into the correct account.  I just don’t bother restricting any Google Forms for my class anymore- not worth the hassle.

Because students would most likely be using a phone to access their forms, I knew that they would need to know how to do this and I didn’t want to spend any time going over it in class.  I also knew that if I just created a screencast they wouldn’t watch it and then I’d still have to answer questions which would make me not happy.

The Hack

I created a screencast showing them what they needed to do, put it in EdPuzzle and every time I wanted them to stop and do something I put a question with two choices:

photo of a screencast

And then I had a nice little data set of who had followed my directions and who didn’t and everyone’s surveys worked great.


#edublogsclub – A Book

I read a lot.  I used to read even more., but now if I finish a book a month I’m in heaven.  I listen to a lot of books as well and for some reason I only listen to non-fiction.  In 2013 I listened to Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and it was the perfect book at the perfect time and I think it’s a book every teacher should read.

On a personal level I always knew I was an introvert. I had always thought of it as explained in my first semester college class- Introverts get energy from being by themselves and extroverts from being with other people. This books explained so much more of my own behavior.  Why I like having parties at my house, but am hardly ever excited to go to parties elsewhere.  Possibly why I screamed bloody murder for months as a baby (according to my parents- surely those stories are exaggerated with time).  It was like with every “page” I thought, “oh my gosh, that’s me!”

The book also has some significant implications for the classroom and it came at the perfect time for me.  The book, among other things, suggests that maybe there is some significant value in students not doing everything in a group all of the time.  That maybe all of this group work and collaboration isn’t the most effective.   (I’m not going to summarize any more than that because you should read the book and also because I don’t have a copy to find direct quotes.)

This isn’t what was the most impactful for me.  It was “fate” or whatever you call it that I listened to this book in 2013 because that Fall my Advanced class, a group of 14 juniors and seniors was like none other I’d ever had.  First, for a 6th period class after lunch they weren’t chatty, or restless or all over the place.  They were….well…quiet.

I’d had a 6th period class that was quiet before but that was just occasional quietness.  It was a group of 35ish Freshmen- 6th period, after lunch, and that group, when I gave the work and they just worked without talking I stayed at the front of the room looking suspiciously at them and waiting for the aliens to pop out because there is nothing normal about that.

But this class in 2013…I spent about three weeks being significantly unsettled.  If I asked them a question or had them do an activity they were more than happy to answer in the TL, but as soon as I gave them something to do by themselves, they would do it without talking.  The quiet was driving me crazy.  What was I doing wrong?  Why weren’t they even talking at all?  Not in English.  Not in French.  Nothing.  I tried all manner of “strategies” to get them to be more “engaged.”  I thought I was failing to create a class culture.  I even started teasing them by calling them “La classe qui ne parle pas.”

And then I had an epiphany.  They weren’t not talking because of something that I was or wasn’t doing.  They were not talking because I had a class largely comprised of introverts and they were completely content to do their work quietly and answer questions when asked.  As soon as I put myself in their shoes, previous 5 periods of 40 students each of constant talking and interaction…they wanted to be quiet.  Their silence wasn’t a problem for them; it was my issue because I had this ridiculous standard in my head of what a productive and engaged class was supposed to look and more importantly, sound like based on 14 years of teaching and “best practices.”  So I did the only thing I could think of.

I stopped.

I stopped trying to create noise when there didn’t need to be any.  I stopped trying to create forced interactions.   I stopped asking if they needed help and let them come to me.  I let them be quiet.  And the silence created amazing.  That class, the one I fretted about for weeks at the beginning of the semester, thinking that I was never going to create a class culture, became the most cohesive group of students I’ve ever had.  In all of the Advanced classes I’ve had, it was my favorite.  One day one of the students told me that she like my class because it was a nice way to end the day because it was calm and quiet.

I wouldn’t have made that choice if I hadn’t listened to Quiet.  Perhaps if I hadn’t stopped they would have eventually become a cohesive group, but I don’t think it would have been the same.  I surely wouldn’t have met these students’ needs.  The book makes a compelling case that we don’t always have to be talking to be productive and I think, no I believe that when I stopped, that class felt able to be and work in an environment that worked best for them and because of that they became who they were.  As I got to know them better the more convinced I am that it was a class of introverts who craved some quiet time.

Quiet should definitely be considered for your list of summer reads.

#edublogsclub – Art

Using Art in the Classroom

I love art!  Love it!!  I can spend all day in a museum looking at everything. The back wall of my classroom is filled with art reproductions from students and posters that I’ve “borrowed” from the art teacher.  (Two art teachers ago, so I think they’re mine now.)   If I do get to Paris the only thing I insist on seeing is large format paintings in the Louvre.  When I did my master’s degree we had an amazing instructor who explained art to us and how to look at it and since then I have always incorporated art into my classes.  In French II we used to do a massive art unit (in French and English) where we looked at different art periods and artists and paintings and they chose a painting to explain in French.  It was extensive.  And I used overheads to do it all.  Overheads!!  You remember- back when we had to walk barefoot uphill both ways to school.  (This art unit was also the cause of what I now refer to as The Great Powerpoint Debacle of 2002 in which I swore I would never ever ever use Powerpoint again.  Ever.)

We are only a couple of hours from Los Angeles and I’ve taken students several times to the Getty Center as a culmination activity for the art unit.  One time went to the Huntington Library to view the Gutenberg Bible when we had studied the middle ages. Usually I had them find something that spoke to them and fill out an art critique form.  Recently, I’ve swapped out some homework choice assignments if students go to a museum.  I want them to get out and see what Los Angeles has to offer art wise, so I give them an overview of the different museums nearby-ish and encourage them to fill a car full of friends and take the day exploring.  At the very least they’ll learn that they don’t like art and museums.  They fill out the art critique form and turn it in in English.

There are other ways to use incorporate art in the classroom in a less formal manner and technology is what makes this possible and accessible to students on a daily basis.  Going from grainy overheads to having full color reproductions available to each student without expensive copying is revolutionary.

Three Activities Incorporating Art

Here are three examples of how I’ve incorporated art into my lessons.  (I’m saving my lessons with Google Arts and Culture for another post.)

  1.  La météo – A weather based description activity based on famous paintings.
  2. La Chambre de Van Gogh – Students describe Van Gogh’s room.  I’ve used this also as a speaking activity and had them compare their room to Van Gogh’s.  I’ve also had them describe what kind of person they think Van Gogh is based on his room.  What does what’s in your room say about you?
  3. Parau Api Paul Gauguin – Did you know Gauguin painted two different versions of this?  I stumbled upon this one day and I knew it would be perfect for talking about clothes and where people are.  When students look closely they notice that the women are actually in different places.  We do it as a partner activity where they first write about the image and then describe it to their partners to see what the differences are.  Go further and talk about how the colors influence the mood of the works.  What are they talking about?  What do the objects in the painting suggest the women might be doing? gauguin slides


Giving Textbook Activities a Purpose

Not every activity in a textbook is awful.  And sometimes, with just a small tweak, they can be pretty darn good.

The Tweak

So my friend Lewie (You know Lewie, right? Everyone knows Lewie!) Lewie has been talking a lot about giving a real purpose to student communication.  I took this idea and tweaked the “interview your partner” activities from the textbook.  First, at the beginning of a unit, students choose partners using stickies.  When I say “interview your partner” activity, I mean the ones where there are questions like Take turns answering and asking these questions –“What time do you get up?  Who does the cooking in your family? Are you nice or mean?  Do you prefer peas or carrots?” These are generally decent questions.  When I get to this type of activity (provided the questions are actually decent), I have students switch from their normal partners to one of the partners on their stickies.  Usually when I do this, I make them say, “Goodbye” and something goofy like “I’ll be back- don’t cry partner.”  It’s funny that’s why I do that.  I like funny.

Once they get to their temporary partner, I give them the purpose, “You are going to interview your partner, BUT you have to be prepared to tell your normal partner at least X number of things that you learned about your temporary partner.”  Then after 5-10 minutes of talking, they go back to their normal partner and tell him/her X number of things they learned about their temporary partner.

Tweaking It More

You could take this further by having students interview multiple partners and reporting back.  You could also have the normal partners compare answers about their partners and report back about that.  (Both our partners prefer peas.  Neither of our partners like carrots.  Our partners said, blah blah blah.)  I haven’t done that.  I’ve just asked them to share out about their temporary partners.  What I’ve found is that students listen more intently to their temporary partners when they know they are going to be held accountable for what they hear.

So simple and a students have a purpose for the conversation.