Monday, March 28, 2016

Using Google Drive to Manage Common Assessments

Common assessments are the "essential engine of continuous improvement" (Mike Schmoker). They provide achievement data about common curriculum used by teachers to discuss how to improve instruction.

google drive common assessments

Although they can be seen as teaching to a test, the practice can also be understood as a way to consistently assess a common curriculum from one classroom to another. This is crucial if teaching and learning are to be the focus of a culture of learning and perpetual self-improvement.

When it comes to the logistics of collaborating and sharing, management of files can take many forms. With cloud computing at the disposal of every educator, this process doesn't need to be so messy.

1. Convert exams to Google Docs.

Many teachers have exams in Microsoft Word format. These files can be converted to Google Docs format once they are uploaded to Drive. The only trouble I've experienced in this conversion process is with tabs, fonts, and other styles. Docs is getting better with this issue, but I still clear formatting on my Word docs before converting. If the stylizing is limited on the original document, don't worry about it. If the conversion is messy, you could also clear formatting in Docs.

Once the assessment is converted to Docs, it is ready to be shared with course partners and anyone else with a stake in the common assessment program. All you need to do is figure out how the documents will be shared and organized.

2. Share folders with editing rights.

I like to use folders to organize documents. The nice thing about using folders in Drive is the ability to set permissions for documents within the folder. This means whatever document goes into the folder will have the same permissions. In other words, the permissions don't have to be set every time a document is moved or created in a folder.

3. Edit exams in one place.

How many meetings have you conducted using Google Drive? You will find that there is little reliance on an overhead projector, tasks are completed in the moment, and, most importantly, team members can take on specific roles that best utilize their strengths. For example, if my strength is searching the Internet, I may be tasked with embedding links to resources in the team's documents.
It's not so efficient without online word processing.
The Word file is edited by one person, and it's emailed to course partners. The next year comes and there are two different versions of the file. This issue is compounded by the two new teachers in the department and old teachers assigned to new courses. It can become a mess. It can become a lot of work to make sure everyone deletes the old version and uploads the one.

This disconnected Microsoft Office approach may not sound bad in this description, so add the stress that educators carry from day to day as they complete hundreds of important tasks. Eliminate some of these potentially frustrating conditions by using online word processing and file sharing, and you'll experience more productivity -- teachers doing more for their students.

4. Make comments prior to meetings. 

The comment tool is one of the best time-savers. Let's say a teacher hands out an assessment and a student catches and error or has a question about the clarity of a question. How great would it be to make a comment on the Doc that can be reviewed during the next common planning meeting? I can't tell you how many times I've seen the same mistake come up with the next year (or semester) because the document (Word) was't fixed.

Perhaps a team member has an idea about something in related to the current topic of discussion. As the meeting is progressing through a topic, a quick comment can be made to make note of the idea. How often do good ideas get left behind in an effort to not get off topic? Use the comment tool to backchannel either before or during the meeting.

5. PDF the exam to be administered, and label it with a date.

When the team decides on a version of an assessment, making a PDF can help keep a record of the versions over the years. It also secures the changes and signifies that editing has ended, until next time. Although the document creation date will be included in the PDF meta data, it helps to label each document with the date.

6. Make a folder to share student work (and data).

The purpose of common assessments is to provide a basis of ongoing conversation about teaching and learning. They provide data that can be compared on a regular basis. Furthermore, common assessments create a culture of collaboration and exchange that makes schools better for kids via the strength of the faculty's teams.

Some of the items that may find their way into a folder in Drive include student work samples, spreadsheets of data from a computer response system, narratives of student achievement, or student self-evaluations, to name a few.

Why Drive?

I’m a proponent of Chromebooks because of the lack of maintenance needed and the speed and ease of use. This is not to say that full version laptops and desktops do not have a place in schools. I’m only suggesting that we all think about how many tasks we complete on software that can run online versus the software that requires a full system. Exceptions may include classes that do video or sound editing, computer-aided drafting and design (CADD), or use the Adobe suite. For the majority of students -- the majority of the time -- Chromebooks are sufficient to complete a school day’s tasks.

I suppose Microsoft OneDrive could do the job, but it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Google Drive and the Apps suite is faster and more reliable. If I transferred to a school that used Microsoft, however, I would accept OneDrive if there was no interest in Google Apps For Education. I like Google, but I ultimately like what online word processing and document sharing does for collaboration.

Thanks for reading.