When Google released their newest feature for Slides, "Presenter View with Audience Q&A", I was ecstatic. No, really. I think my exact reaction was freaking out with excitement to one of my fellow special ed teachers who shares a room with me. It made up for the fact that my LA7 lesson had flopped the period before. I think I looked something like this:
Now, not only did I have an awesome addition for my conference presentations (and with my GAFE summit just around the corner!), I also had something great to add to my classes!
I'm one of those people that doesn't like too much direct instruction. After spending countless years in high school and college with instructors who talked at you with bland, over-worded PowerPoint slides in the background, I resented the concept. But, unfortunately, I found that minimal direct instruction in the resource room was necessary, whether I was reviewing theme for the third time that week or introducing a new topic entirely. There were instances that I had some Google Slide presentations behind me- whether for reference, to provide images, or something else.
And that's why I was so excited about Slides' Q&A feature. I couldn't wait to try it out and immediately revised my plans to include it. I had to review and reteach symbolism as we read The Outsiders and had an interactive presentation to help the students. When they came in the following day, I had the presentation set up on the board. It was preset with the "Presenter View," so the students were greeted with the initial title slide and the words "Ask a Question" followed by the URL in a gray box at the top of the page.
Most of my students were confused, but followed our normal routine and signed into their laptops and then into their Google accounts. Then they typed in the unique URL for our presentation. They were greeted with a screen that looked like this:
I explained to the students that this was a platform to ask me questions throughout the presentation. After each slide, I'd consult the list and answer any questions that were posted. I gave them a chance to test out the Q&A feature so they could see what it looked like from their screen and from mine (and to get the silliness out of the way). I forewarned them about the anonymous feature, stating that questions could be asked anonymously if the student did not feel comfortable attaching their name. In my resource room I have a variety of personalities; some students have no problem asking questions in front of their peers and others would rather fail in silence than open their mouth in front of others. The anonymity feature was something I considered to be absolutely perfect for my quiet students. It would allow them to participate in the discussions without feeling anxious about speaking or asking.
Then there's the thumb up/thumb down feature. When students see the live stream of the questions, they have the option to click "thumbs up" or "thumbs down". I encourage my students to use only the "up" option, which would indicate that multiple students have the same question. That would show me that it was a question of high importance. Then, on the presenter end, I can choose to "present" a certain question. By clicking that button, the question gets projected onto the main screen. The student's name appears alongside the question, unless they are anonymous.
By the end of my presentation, I had expanded the Q&A to have the students make comments. I'd post a color or object and ask the students what it represented, with no repetitive answers. Some chose to go old-school and answer aloud, while others indulged in the new Slides feature. I found that some of my quietest students were excited to participate via their keyboard. Then I projected some great answers onto the screen, which provided positive reinforcement for my shy population.
Turns out, my students were just as excited about the new feature as I was. It really helps me to reach out to my quiet students and allow them to have the opportunity to feel comfortable asking their questions in class. One of my students who barely makes a peep in class was frantically tapping at the keys, relishing the chance to have her questions heard. Now they're upset if I don't use this feature with any reteaching/introducing a topic in a Slides presentation.
So, even though I was psyched about the capabilities of Q&A for my PD presentations, this feature also has pretty awesome benefits in the classroom. If you have any great ideas on how else to use this feature in class, feel free to share in the comments below!
Google Forms and teachers have a love-hate relationship. For every five teachers you meet who absolutely love using the feature in their classroom, there are five more who can't stand it (and it's not just that they hate the new format).
I'm someone who tends to use Forms for the majority of my language arts assessments (with the exception of full length essays and papers). No matter how much we hate it, the shift is moving toward computer-based assessments. And I'm not just talking about PARCC. In college, most of my tests were taken on the computer, including all my PRAXIS certifications. While sitting in the testing center, I came to realize just how many digital tests there were: MCATs, business and and accounting tests, and even mechanic tests. There's even talk of the SATs being held on the computer (Would've loved that 6 years ago. I'm looking at you, writing section.) No matter how you slice it, computer tests are becoming increasingly more popular.
Although Forms seems pretty plain, I always try to "dress it up" with different fonts, colors, and themes to make it a little more interesting for the students, which is still way more intriguing than a white-papered multiple choice test. Here's an example of one of my GIF headers on an assessment for 7th grade:
Besides the fancy fonts and pictures, Forms actually has strong potential for being vital in assessment differentiation. Even within my resource room I have huge differences in the levels of my students. I wanted a way to give them each exactly what they needed on a test without the obvious "here's-your-modified-test". And that's when I found "Go to Section Based on Answer."
This feature is basically an "if this then that" scenario. In a multiple choice assignment, teachers can link the students to different sections of an assessment based on their answer choice. For example, a student who selects the correct answer moves on to the second question. Then there's the student who chooses the answer that is so far off from the real answer that you're kind of wondering what test they're even taking. That's where this feature comes in handy. For that student, submitting that answer would bring them to a completely different page, whether it's a helpful tip, video reference, or picture/diagram. Students who responded with other answer choices would never see this page. It would only be for students who choose a particular answer.
Many people wonder how this is actually "fair." I have students who will select the wrong answer, even if I tell them the answer is D. This modification is for those students. Based on informal assessments, I know what students are severely struggling. For them, I provide the extra reinforcement. It's like me kneeling next to their desk and helping me talk through the problem. Does it always work? No. Sometimes you have your savvy students who realize they'll just click any answer until they move on to the next question. That's why I suggest only linking answers that are so far off that they'll need the extra assistance to even get into the same ballpark as anyone else. I'm thinking about students who select the choice 10,000 when the answer is really 4.
Another option would be to assign tests A and B (not totally different than the paper anti-cheating strategies). Post both on Google Classroom (or share to their Gmail) and tell them which letter they are to take. Sure, they always have the temptation to look at the other test, but I always make the first page of the Form the "Last Name, First Name" question so it doesn't look any different. Plus, I always tell my students that I'll "know" when they are in the wrong test and I consider it cheating. Then some students get the standard assessment while the others get the modifications they need.
Other than that, there are other differentiation capabilities with Google Forms that fall beyond the realm of assessment. I use the "Go to Section Based on Answer" for projects. I'm a choice-board advocate and love giving my students the chance to feel like they have a say in their learning. So, I upload the choice board to the front page of the assessment, then have the students select what project they want from the multiple choice list. Submitting that answer will send them to a page with different directions, requirements, and resources for that project only, so they will not have to see everyone else's. I also use it for selecting which open-ended question the students would like to answer, that way they're directed to a page with just their question. It just makes it a little easier to focus on the question.
I feel like there are so many different possibilities with using the "Go to Section Based on Answer" function on Forms and it adds a whole new level to student assessment. If you have any ways that you use/think would be good to use in the classroom, tell us below!
Here's the link to the step-by-step presentation I did for the staff at my school to help them create their own assessments using "Go to Section". I generalized it, but the process is the same. If you have any questions, ask away!
First off, I'm doing this for my kids.
Last year, I graduated from college with a job teaching language arts to middle school students in both the resource and in-class support settings. Throughout my entire first year of teaching, I have struggled to find the balance between providing students with their necessary modifications and preserving their self-esteem. Standing out in a crowd is always difficult, but being the target of everyone's eyes in middle school is a nightmare. I heard stories about students rejecting their modifications that they needed for success (particularly in ICS classes) just to assimilate into the general education population. And that's when I began redirecting my approach.
I had been a fan of technology my whole life. Granted, I've never been up-to-date on the latest phones (mostly because I never wanted to pay the high price for them) but being current on the trends and newest programs was always interesting to me. So, when my district moved towards introducing GAFE, I was fully on board. No one in my school was certified, so I decided to take the two exams to become a Level Two Google Certified Educator.
In receiving all that training and information, I began fascinated with how easy it was to modify assignments for my students using GAFE. Integrating differentiation techniques and apps and extensions to meet the needs of my students suddenly made receiving modifications a lot less stressful for them. They were just like anyone else, seated behind a computer screen. And with that growing confidence, their success began to soar.
After presenting at several conferences for my differentiation techniques and technology use in my classroom, I decided I wanted to reach out to more people. I wanted to share my ideas with the world- both the good and not so good.
Plus, I had told my 7th grade ELA Resource class that I would do this. This marking period they've been hard at work with their 20-time projects. Even though they're excited and passionate about what they're working on, they decided it "wasn't fair" that I wasn't doing something I wanted. (And telling them that teaching is what I wanted didn't go over very well). So, here I am. I'll be posting about all the technology I'm using and how I'm using it. Maybe you'll find something that inspires you or helps one of your own students.
Hope you enjoy reading and get something out of this. (And to my seventh graders, I hope this meets your standards as an appropriate 20-time project. Even though your projects far exceed my own).
Sincerely, K. Nieves