Google Drive Lab Report Workflow

This year I've rolled out using Google Drive for all Physics lab reports. Several people have asked me what this looks like, so I thought I'd share. Feel free to suggest a better/easier methodology- this is something that's come together based on how I know how to use Google Drive, and I certainly don't know all the ways to use Google Drive.

A big debt is owed to Katrina Kennett, whose posts and EdCamp Boston sessions on using Google Drive for paperless grading inspired my use, and for Frank Noschese, whose lab rubric I borrowed from heavily.

The setup

1- Creating shared folders. As soon as I get a finalized class list and my students' email addresses, I set up shared assignment folders in Google Drive for each student in my Physics class. This is a folder that is only shared between the individual student and myself, so anything I put into the folder they can see and vice versa.

Here's what it looks like for me in Google Drive:

Shared Assignment Folders in Google Drive

It can be a tedious process to individually create individual folders for each student. Fortunately, you don't have to- there's a Google Script called gClassFolders, that will automatically create folders for all of your students from a spreadsheet with your students' information. I won't go into detail here about how to setup gClassFolders, as the official site does an excellent job walking you through the process.

2- Share the rubric. I created the lab report rubric in a Google Spreadsheet, then I make a copy of the rubric for each student, and share with them, and place the rubric in their individual folders. Again, this could be a tedious process. Fortunately it isn't, thanks to Doctopus. Doctopus will make copies of the rubric for each student, share it with that student, and put it into their GDrive assignment folder. Super easy.

To use Doctopus, you'll just need a spreadsheet with students' names and email addresses (which you probably already have from using gClassFolders in step 1), and then it'll walk you through your sharing and naming options. Again, I'll forgo the lengthy explanation of using Doctopus, because the official site has you covered.

At this point, when each student signs into GDrive, they'll see their shared folder, with a spreadsheet titled, "Josh- Lab Report Rubrics," for example.

A student's view of the assignment folder

Now we're ready for some student lab reports.

Google Drive in Action

3- Students write lab reports. In lab, students record their data in lab notebooks, graph their data using LinReg, and discuss their results in a post-lab Whiteboard Meeting.  For their formal lab report, they create a Google Doc and type up their lab report. For graphs, they take screenshots of the graphs, and add them to the lab report as an image.

When they have finished the lab report, they drop it into their Physics Assignment folders, where I can then see it and have permissions to edit the lab report.

4- Scoring. Since I am able to edit their lab reports, I leave comments directly on their lab report, as shown below.

Comments on a Google Doc lab report.

A nice feature of Google Docs is that students receive notifications when I leave a comment, so they know right away when I've commented on their lab report.

At the same time I'm commenting on a student's lab report , I'm filling out the Lab Report Rubric & Checklist for their lab report. An important note: For each student, I'm filling out the lab checklist on my copy of the lab report rubric, and not the copy that I've already individually shared with students. This may seem odd, but in the end it means that students will have one spreadsheet that contains the rubrics for every lab that they've done. Below I'll explain how to make that happen.

5- Copying the rubric to students. After I've finished filling out the lab report rubric and checklist for a student's lab report, I select the "Copy to..." option on the tab of the spreadsheet:

The "Copy to..." location

A window then pops up asking me what Google Spreadsheet I'd like to copy it to. Since I've already created a lab report rubric spreadsheet for every student (in step 2), I just search for the student's first name, and select their lab report rubric spreadsheet:

Searching for student lab report spreadsheets

Once selected, the sheet is copied to that student's spreadsheet, where they can see it. On a student's spreadsheet, it'll show up as "Copy of [tab name]," as shown below:

Copied tab- Student view

Voila! Each student has one document that will contain every lab report rubric we do all year. This makes it easier for students to look back at previous lab reports and see where they made mistakes or needed more depth. It will hopefully also easily document their their growth over time.

Once I've copied a lab report rubric to the student's spreadsheet, I revert my copy of the rubric back to its original state so it's ready for me to start on the next lab report.

6- Rewrites. When a student turns in a less-than-stellar lab report, they're required to do a rewrite. A nice (and new) feature of Google Drive is the Activity Pane, which shows all the changes that are being made to documents in a specific Google Drive folder. As students work on their rewrites, I can check the activity pane for the folder with the students' shared folders and quickly see who has been updating their documents (and who hasn't).

Activity view in GDrive

Wrap Up

This is the first year I've used such a system, and it's definitely a work in progress. So far I've been quite happy with how the process has worked, and being able to create one document that contains the rubric for every lab report we do all year is a major plus.

Again, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for improvement, let me know. I'd definitely be open for suggestions that make the process even more streamlined.

Exams: SBG-style

The goal of any exam, ideally, is to assess how much students have learned over the course of a semester or school year. I changed the focus of grading in my classes from counting points to counting progress towards specific learning goals, I knew my exams needed to reflect that change as well.

This summer I had initially thought I might design some sort of alternate, performance-based exam that would mesh well with the tenets of standards-based grading. However, this year all exams for the same class were required to be exactly the same regardless of teacher. Since I'm currently one of four teachers who teach the 9th grade Integrated Science course and the only one using standards-based grading, I knew I had to take our common exam and make the best of it.

So, the exams had to have the same questions, but they didn't need to be in the exact same order, right? I reordered all the questions on the exam based on the learning goal they assessed.

Multiple choice section, SBG exam

This process uncovered several questions which didn't address any of the learning goals, so these "others" were grouped together to make their own section.

Overall, I wasn't thrilled with the exam, but I think it was quite good given the requirements it had to meet.

Assessment

Breaking down the exam into its composite learning goals allowed me to assess each learning goal on the exam individually. It took decently longer to grade the exams in this way, but it also provided me and my students with a wealth of information about their learning throughout the first semester.

I created a Google Spreadsheet that automatically calculated the individual scores for each learning goal and the overall exam grade. Once the grading was done, I shared each student's spreadsheet with them through Google Docs.

Below is an example of a filled out scoresheet (and here's a blank calculation sheet if you're interested):

Example Exam Calculation Spreadsheet

Details

Overall grades. You may notice I calculated two "overall" grades. I told students their overall grade on the exam would be the average of their scores on each learning goal (giving each learning goal equal weight), but I wasn't sure if that might result in some odd effects on the overall grade due to some flaw I hadn't planned for. As a check, I also calculated the exam's score "traditionally," or simply by dividing the total points possible by the total points earned. Interestingly these two scores were almost always ridiculously close to each other (for most students it was <1%). I'm not sure exactly what that means, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Unfinished long answer questions. The exam had 6 long answer questions and students were required to complete at least 4 of them. I had a few students who either skipped the long answer questions entirely or did fewer than were required. It didn't make sense to penalize any one learning goal for not doing all the long answer questions (since, after all, simply not doing the long answer questions didn't necessarily mean they didn't understand the content of the learning goals). However, I felt that there should be some penalty for doing fewer than required1.  As a result, I calculated what percentage one long answer question was of the entire exam and divided that by 2- which gave me 1.84% in this case. For each required long answer question that was not completed, I took 1.84% off their overall exam grade.

Spreadsheet-fu. I honed some serious "if-then" formula skills in the process- an area of serious spreadsheet-fu weakness before this spreadsheet. Despite the time it took me to figure out how to make the spreadsheet do what I want, I'm still pretty sure using the spreadsheet instead of calculating everything by hand saved me several hours. Plus, now I have another formula type under my belt.

Final thoughts

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my predictions about what learning goals would be problematic for students on the exam were dead-on. They were the same learning goals that more students struggled with during the course of the semester. There really weren't any surprises on the mid-term.

What then, is the purpose of an exam in a SBG classroom? Exams are meant to assess how well students know the material that has been presented throughout the semester. However, if I am regularly assessing students' understanding of learning goals throughout the semester is there any benefit to a final, summative exam? Most students' exam grades were eerily close to their grades for the rest of the semester2.

If we're doing SBG well, it seems to me the final exam is unnecessary. We should already have a good understanding of exactly what students know, so why bother with a big test at the end of the semester?

Should the exam in an SBG classroom be something totally different than what we've traditionally come to think of exams as being? Or should they just be done away with?

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  1. At first I really balked at penalizing students for not completing the required long answer questions. However, after thinking about it for a bit, I came to the conclusion that to some degree the decision of a student to skip one or more of the long answer questions  was indicative of a lack of understanding of the content at least to some degree.     (back)
  2. On average, the exam grades were just a bit lower than grades for the rest of the semester. I can rationalize that in several ways: additional anxiety due to it being an exam, or a less than perfect exam design, etc.     (back)

The day swine flu came to town

Up until a week and a half ago, I had really good attendance in all my classes. Lately there's been about 10-15% of students out sick. While it's certainly not a swine flu epidemic it's a trend that seems to be pretty likely to increase over the next month or so. There are schools somewhat nearby1 who have shut down for a few days because over 40% of the students were out with the swine flu.

The problem

With our 10-15% absence rate, I've been receiving a lot more requests from parents for the work their kids are missing. I've been noticing that I'm spending a decent chunk of my planning time just getting together whatever classwork I can for the absentees. I greatly value my planning time for...well...planning. I don't like sacrificing it for non-planning related activities.

The solution

I have a class wiki where I post a weekly calendar. I also use it as a jump-off point for any online assignments or projects. I did not post every handout for several reasons: (a) it takes extra time, (b) it creates more clutter in an already hard to navigate Wikispaces file manager, (c) the vast majority of students don't use (or perhaps don't need to use) the additional resource.

However, a couple things have changed the last couple of weeks. As mentioned earlier, I've found myself spending a lot of time emailing parents of sick students and putting together handouts for them. Secondly, I've (perhaps a little belatedly) discovered the ease with which Google Docs lets you upload and share PDF documents.

The process

  1. Whenever I print a handout or prepare a slide deck for my classes, I also save it as a PDF.
  2. Upload the PDF to Google Docs

    Uploading a pdf

  3. Share the pdf document so anyone with a link can view it.Sharing Google Doc PDFs
  4. Copy & paste the document's URL & link to it from my class wiki.
  5. Relax as the email requests for class handouts can be answered with a quick, "The handouts you need are all available on the class wiki.2"
  6. Bask in the parents amazement at technology these days.

Here's an example of a handout and a slide deck uploaded to Google Docs as PDFs in case you'd like to see what they look like.

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  1. Holy cow. That article has more than a couple spelling/grammatical errors.     (back)
  2. Of course I give a little more instruction than that. Also, when parents request to pick up the handouts in person, I also oblige. I realize not everyone has the internets at home.     (back)

How do you use web 2.0 in the classroom?

I'm currently taking a Educational Media & Technology class in my master's program called Virtual Worlds and Social Networking in Education. A project for the class involves setting up a social network through some web 2.0 format and utilizing your network to try to accomplish a chosen goal.

eBoy FooBar CityI (of course) asked if I could utilize Twitter as the centerpiece of my network. I already had a quaint Twitter network, and had been thinking of expanding it. I have also been interested in how educators are effectively using blogs, wikis, social bookmarking tools, etc. in their classrooms.

As a result, I've actively been following new people in education on Twitter and finding that the vast majority of people I start following follow me back. As a result, my Twitter followers have expanded from 28 or so to 67 at the time of this writing (3/19, 10:03pm EDT). I've been amazed and thankful at the willingness of other educators to include me within their pre-existing networks. If you like what you see on this blog (or not), feel free to follow me (I'm WillyB). I'll follow you back. 🙂

To tap into the vast experience of that network (which if you're reading this includes you!), I've created a Google Form asking how educators are utilizing blogs, wikis, or social bookmarking in their classrooms. If you'd like to add your expertise, go here and add it! I thank you in advance (and greatly appreciate those that have already added their knowledge)!

The information provided will be summarized in a wiki I've recently created, and I'll also be sharing the results on this blog once I feel I've gotten a good number of responses. I've been wowed by the power of the network in the past, and I'm hoping I'll be blown away in this experience as well.

When I think back to when I wrote this post, I find it amazing that a few short months later I have a pretty vibrant personal learning network of my own. Nice!


Image credit: eBoy's FooBar Poster