I’m a relative novice to Google Docs and never really personally saw the need for me to find out what they could do and how to use them. I had been aware from many articles on the internet written by people in the field of education that they were widely used. However, it was only when I received my class set of iPod Touches in May 2010 that I began to think about how Google Docs could be incorporated into the use of the iPod Touch in the classroom.
One area where I thought that Google Docs could be useful was that of assessment, especially for spelling and tables so I started to learn how Google Docs could be used with the iPod Touch in the classroom. To use Google Docs, you have to set up a Google account if you don’t already have one. When registered, you then just go into Google Docs and select “Create New >> Form”. You then just set up a form any way you wish. There are different ways of seeking responses from pupils. You can have a text box answer, a paragraph answer box, a scale 1-5 answer box etc. For our Spelling Test, I set up a form where there were four possible answers for each spelling that we had been learning during the week. There is a radio button beside each spelling and the pupils have to select the radio button beside the correct answer for each spelling. There is also a text box for pupils to fill in their names. There is also a paragraph answer box for the pupils to type in their dictation sentences. All questions were marked with an * to show that they were mandatory fields and had to be completed. If a pupil forgets to fill in a field they will not be able to submit a form and the omitted question will be highlighted for the pupil.
Google Docs also automatically creates a spreadsheet associated with the form that has been created. The spreadsheet gathers the information from the answers selected by the pupils. Because Google Docs is created online, pupils need to have online access. We have an Apple Airport router in the classroom which connects to the school broadband. The iPods have been set up to connect to the internet through this router.
When creating the form in Google Docs, an address for the location of the form is also generated and this can be seen at the bottom of the form. So I placed the URL of the Google Form as a text link on the School Blog, to which the pupils have already set up a shortcut on one of the homescreens of the iPod. The form can also be embedded into a blog post/page using the “iFrame” code. To do this, click on the “More Actions >> Embed” button on the top right of the form screen. The iFrame embed code will appear. This needs to be copied and pasted into the HTML view of your blog post, presuming your blogging platform allows this. It may be necessary to download and enable an iFrame plug-in in your blogging platform.
The pupils then open up the blog, click on the link to the Google Form which opens up for them. They then select what they think are the correct answers and fill in their dictations. When they have completed all sections of the form, they click “Submit” at the bottom. In the meantime, I have already opened up the associated spreadsheet on the whiteboard and the pupils are always amazed when their answers appear instantaneously on the screen. Each pupil’s answers appear on a single line of the spreadsheet. The teacher can also look down a column to see the class response to each spelling – it can be easily spotted if the class as a whole has had a problem learning a particular spelling.
As well as assessing how well the pupils have mastered their spellings, they are also developing technology skills when engaging in this teaching methodology: they have to learn how to enlarge the screen and navigate around it; they learn typing skills on a small finger keyboard; they learn how to complete different types of questions on a form – text box, filling in a paragraph, multiple choice radio buttons, checkboxes or choose from a list.
It is also possible to create a self-grading test in Google Docs. A more detailed explanation of this can be read in this article: http://planetoftheweb.com/components/promos.php?id=534 However, it is a little tricky and is certainly not for the faint-hearted!
I have done similar exercises with maths tables, litriú Ghaeilge and end of chapter tests. I have done this exercise with 1st Class, 2nd Class and 3rd Class (ages 7 – 9) and the response has been widely positive. Once the pupils got used to the idea, they found it quite easy to complete. As with all classroom work, some were finished quicker than others. However, it is fair to say that any methodology which enthuses pupils and makes them eager to do a spelling/tables test has to be lauded.
This has been my first tentative steps into using Google Docs with iPod Touches in the classroom. I’m sure that there are boundless possibilities as to how something similar can be used for assessment tools and pupil responses in other areas of the curriculum. Having recently demonstrated this methodology at the CESI conference in February, the response from many people was that this concept certainly does away with the need for expensive learner response systems in the classroom.