One of the challenges of teaching science by distance learning is giving students immediate feedback. It’s pretty easy to teach content and vocabulary by distance ed, but teaching thinking skills requires a bit more effort than a multiple choice quiz or a digital worksheet. One of my favorite tools is interactive models from PHET and the Concord Consortium, but I struggle with how to make these really deep data analysis activities.
I use of Nearpod to walk them through how to use an individual data collection tool. Nearpod gives me a way to control their viewing and get interaction from them to make sure they are on the same page with me. It’s similar to creating a synchronous digital worksheet and getting immediate formative feedback. This is a good way to start. I can tell if the students are listening, participating, and understanding immediately. Nearpod also has self paced options but their is now way for me to leave feedback for students as they work.
My goal is to evolve to this next level. I want students to become more independent learners. It’s hard to cut them loose from synchronous and direct teaching. Especially when your are 400 miles away and you can’t look over their shoulders. Last year I attended a conference where I had a chance to hear Alice Keeler speak. Wow, was that good timing. I was so impressed with her energy, and strategies for giving immediate student feedback to students. I made so much sense for my next step. But it was hard to absorb all her tips and tricks at once.
I went back and did a lab with students where I created a Lab Report Template in Google Slides and grouped my students in small groups. It was a mess to get them to learn how to make a copy and share with each other. But we did it and I wondered if maybe I should bite the bullet and use Google Classroom to make the sharing more straight forward. It was really cool to watch my students add data and comment on their progress. I really felt like a coach and I was able to get better quality work from the student. I learned a lot about where they got stuck and I could prompt them to continue with comments and feedback in our live class session. In the past I would assign labs and get frustrated when they would get stuck and not ask questions until the next day when I asked them to turn in their work.
So this year, I want to refine my skills at using Google tools. I want to test the waters with adding Google Classroom to my already overflowing toolkit. I felt the need to get some expert advice and have signed up for Alice Keeler’s online class, Next Step with Google Classroom.
I was really nervous about diving into Google Classroom. I have always thought that Moodle was my LMS and adding Google Classroom would make things way too cumbersome and confusing. But, now that I am taking a class in Google Classroom and experimenting more, I am becoming convinced that it is the right direction for me. I also found a blog post by Alice Keeler that helped me with the question should I use Moodle or Google classroom?
This week I reworked a data assignment that I usually handout in a worksheet and have the students print and turn as a scanned document with screenshot of their graph. I assigned it in Google Classroom and made a copy for each student. This was a dream compared to having them copy my original and struggle with permissions as I had done before. It was also much easier to find their copies and start giving them feedback right away. It probably saved me a good 30 minutes over my old technique. I like the Done, Not done and Returned features. It makes grading very clear for me and my students. It is interesting that all of these features are available in Moodle, but not organized in a way that makes them as visible or easy to use. Commenting on students work is also much more streamlined.
Here’s My Assignment if you want to take a peak at it. I also recorded a short screencast of the directions for students who needed to listen to them a second time. This need became obvious as I see 15 students have not completed this activity after ample class work time. I left a comment for all students that this video was now available. I graded everyones assignment on the day we started it and returned assignments to students with their grades and comments. The next day I had 4 requests to regrade. Now I just have to work on the stragglers. But I do feel like I gave them every opportunity to get help and ask a personal question and they chose not to pursue this. It’s a tough topic. I also encouraged them to ask a classmate who had completed the assignment for help, another good, Alice Keeler tip.