Saturday, September 21, 2013

Importance of Adjusting to Student Feedback - Week 2 reflections

This was a shortened week since we had our annual overnight grade trip. Even so, we managed to get an exploration activity completed and some tweaks to workflow. 

Hands down the highlight of the week was when a student encouraged me to patent this way of teaching. He sounded disappointed when I informed him that thousands of teachers flip their class. That is my #eduwin for the week!

A new student joined the 8th grade and it became obvious during the exploration activity that he already knew the content for the upcoming week. We agreed that he didn't need to watch the next video, take notes nor submit the associated Google Form. He'll skip to the problem set to demonstrate proficiency, and if successful, work on an alternative project or move on to the next learning cycle. In the traditional model, he would've suffered through one period of lecture, demonstration and sample problems. Flipping the class will allow this student to use class time much more effectively. 

After some anxiety about students understanding the content presented in the videos, I'm relieved to share high ratings regarding the helpfulness and clarity of the videos with average ratings of 2.7 out of 3. (The average would've been higher but I neglected to have a 3 rating as a choice and was made aware by students who wanted to use a rating of 3.) In addition, students answered the understanding level questions correctly on the Google form responses. A handful of negative reviews can be attributed to students assuming the video would give information about something that I opted to put into a different video or an upcoming activity. A few incorrect answers on the Google form appeared to be careless arithmetic errors. Two students mentioned that they preferred the old method and one wanted to a question answered in the moment. 

On a personal but related note, I'm becoming less concerned with perfecting videos; rather, I'm focusing on getting useful videos published in a timely manner. I can now appreciate Jon Bergman's joke, "do I need the video to be perfect or do I need it on Tuesday?" This new focus should reduce stress and anxiety. The hours I put into earlier videos created an unsustainable workflow. The encompassing theme of the Flip seems to be intentional use of time and energy for students and teachers alike. Think I've internalized that message, finally!

The FormEmailer Google Form script works marvelously. This script sends email responses to form entries directly from the spreadsheet, rather than necessitating the crafting of separate email messages to each student. One concern I had about the Flip is the inability to answer questions during video-viewing or shortly after. One way to alleviate the concern was the addition of a Google Form, where students can submit questions. Adding the FormEmailer script greatly decreased the turnaround time for a response to student questions or concerns. I typed my responses into the spreadsheet, clicked a button or two, and students got an email response. There's some setup required but it is well worth it. Some of my email messages were sent minutes after the students submitted their form. I plan to enhance this with other scripts that can indicate which students have not submitted a form response. 

Gradebook Pro (on the iPad) has proved useful as well. If you take the time to input or import student email messages and determine values for each assignment, you can send a grade report to students directly from the app. The report can inform the students which assignments they are missing, current grade and even notes that you recorded about assignments and/or conduct. After sending these periodic messages, my inbox shortly gets flooded with Google Drive share notifications, indicating students submitting their work. On one or two occasions, the message prompted a student to correct a mistake I made in record keeping. 

Since we're on the topic of Google Drive documents, I reminded students in class that I needed to see their video notes. Apparently, I must have mentioned printing the notes as a submission option. A student replied (and I'm paraphrasing), "it's better to share on Google Drive with Mr. Wilson because his best use of class time is working with us, not checking assignments." Wow...this student is really starting to internalize my daily message - think about YOUR best use of class time. 

After class, I informally chatted with two students and asked whether the new assignment sheet format (more info on that later) was an improvement. They both agreed, one more emphatically than the other. The one criticism was deadlines were missing from the assignment sheet. Before I responded, the other student said, "that's the point, you're working at your own pace." Sounds like more students are starting to buy into the philosophy here. I met with the student who desired due dates and helped him set daily deadlines. This doesn't have to be an "all or nothing" approach. It's about giving each student what they need to be successful. If some students work more effectively with deadlines, then I can make adjustments for that student without handcuffing the others.

I got some really helpful feedback about a video. A student mentioned on their Google form evaluation of the video that they would love more practice on the concept, while others felt they understood the concept just fine. Since there is always an application in class, I took this to mean that the student wanted just a bit more practice before coming to class. Typically in the form confirmation page, I share the answer key to the form questions, in order to give students instant feedback. Now, I'm adding a link to additional practice problems with answers. This way, students can choose whether they want the extra practice or not.  
The great thing here is that some students are submitting questions with answers in their Google form response. These questions can behave as formative assessment for the students who submitted them and extra practice for future students.

I'll need to add a table of contents to videos. On several occasions, I referred to a specific part of an instructional video. This will be helpful to allow students to pick parts of videos they need, instead of watching the entire video. 

On my tracking sheet, I have students input the date on a completed cell and change it from red to green. Even though this seems like a simple 2-step task, is it really necessary? It occurred to me that they can input the date and I can set up conditional formatting to automatically change cells with dates into green and set empty cells to red.

I also found a simple solution to the ridiculous issue in the mobile version of Google Drive Sheets, where students accidentally erase other entries because the entire row gets highlighted when a student edits a cell. 
   I switched the rows and columns so if a student edits a cell, they are only editing their row. I suspect they will be more careful and aware of their actions if their entire row can get ruined due to careless editing.

After a brief love affair with Mentormob playlists, I've opted to use an online assignment sheet with links to all resources. [I alluded to this change earlier in this blog post.]

Multiple Playlists vs...

One Assignment Sheet

Even though the playlists are aesthetically pleasing, it became clear that the extra step of navigating through a playlist was an unneeded obstacle. In addition, a student pointed out that a web page with multiple playlists takes quite a bit time to load. I should have expected this because last year's evaluation responses indicated students found the online assignment sheet with links to documents all on one page to be useful. I'm unsure how I got to this point; perhaps it's because I loved using Mentormob to learn about different topics. It's still a great tool but the online assignment sheet just works better for my students.