We are familiar with the buzzwords about transforming the task, and there are real merits to those. However, if every task in every class was transformed, students would be too exhausted to learn anything. Sometimes there is a real benefit to something that is worked for years: a true formative quiz that leads to differentiated instruction. This is not a pursuit of the new and shiny. I’m not advocating silver bullets. We’re educating children, not killing werewolves. I want to introduce one Google Forms add-on that does the heavy lifting of differentiating instruction for teachers.
Just to establish some credentials, I learned more last year than I ever have about transforming the task through technology. I read Bold School, 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom, 50 Ways to Go Further With Google Classroom, The Google Infused Classroom, The Hyperdoc Handbook, listened to The Google Teacher Tribe, attended last year’s Google Summit, went to every (paid) professional development the Jeffco EdTech team offered last year and had 4 classes of willing sophomores each semester to experiment with. Inspired by a fellow teacher, I wrote a few grants, got my own cart, and I’ve tried a lot of the things. I’ve learned with mostly 10th-grade students, who ranged in abilities from Pre-AP classes to a higher-needs special education co-taught class. I’m not going to pretend they’re all successful. And my students were pretty familiar with telling me something was broken and having to fix it with a roomful of 15-year-olds staring at me. I’m not trying to brag, but I’ve learned to find what’s useful instead of what’s shiny.
When Best Practice Says, “Differentiate”, but that’s really difficult to do same-day. Enter AutoMastery for Google Forms!
I went on a job interview once, and one of the questions was: how would you teach AP Literature and 12th grade English in the same room at the same time. I thought the interviewers wanted to hear how many times I could say “differentiate” in a story. The joke was on me, they actually meant it.
This Google form add-on isn’t a silver bullet that teaches students for you, but it will help you send different students to different assignments based on their scores on a Google Forms Quiz. Here’s a video my students created
AutoMastery Google Forms add-ons that will send students an email with a hyperlink based on their score on a forms Quiz. It was designed by MaryEllen West, a technology coordinator in Georgia. I saw her demo it at the 2018 Google Summit at Boulder Valley High School, and used it about a week or so later after the “drinking from a firehose” feeling from the event wore off.
Imagine if you could instantly grade a quiz, and a few seconds later, hand students either a remediation assignment for all of the material, a refresher for just the stuff they missed, or an enrichment activity because they’ve mastered the material. That’s what AutoMastery does, but without needing a procedure for transition other than “Check your email”.
Here is the How-To:
Before using this add-on, there are a few prerequisite skills.
You need to have created a quiz in forms. Here’s a video walkthrough for how to do that.
You need to be able to install the add-on. Here’s a video walkthrough for how to install add-ons. You can also click this link to just install the add-on. By the way, this can become a gateway to all sorts of neat things. I like playing around with new add-ons. Last year, I tried to learn one new tool each week and use it meaningfully. It was really intense, especially with starting a new school, and it didn’t always work, but now I’m indispensable.
Then, Here’s MaryEllen West’s step-by-step guide to setting up and using the add-on if you’d rather read it with screenshots.
If you’d prefer a video walkthrough, here’s one.
You can make the hyperlinks that are emailed to students anything you want, but I have found a lot of success giving links to Google slides with directions on them. Here’s an example of the kind of thing I’ll send students to. However, if you take the link from a different slide, you’ll send them to a different slide. For example, here’s the “approaching mastery” slide from that same assignment. Here’s the “beginner” assignment. This way, I don’t have to set up three entirely different assignments for each. I can make 1 quick slideshow, give different directions on each slide, and students will know what to do. If students take the same quiz again and improve, it will send them to a different assignment.
Typically the extension activity: something that is higher on Bloom’s taxonomy but using the reviewed material as a base. I often attached it to an assignment in Google Classroom where students must provide evidence for each of the skills they’ve worked on in order to receive credit. They can do this with screenshots, memes, gifs, their writing, or a quick video they take from their Chromebook. For example, I’ll use online meme generators with my tenth-grade classes, but oftentimes those are not appropriate for younger ages. I’d recommend a template in Google Drawings like the template located here. The view I linked doesn’t show the images outside the canvas, so here’s a screenshot of what it actually looks like:
All students have to do is drag the image over, drag a corner to fit the canvas, and double-click the words to change the text. If they want to change the image, they can right click the image, choose “Replace image” and search the web.
This also hits one of the harder lesson-design teacher evaluation rubric indicators, but in a way where an evaluator doesn’t have to be in your classroom to see it. You can just email them, or make them a teacher in your Google Classroom or Schoology class and they’ll see whenever you do it. I like tricks that help me lock in a step increase.
Here are some of the examples students have created: as part of the narrative structure vocabulary quiz assignment linked above. You’ll notice they didn’t use the meme generator template I used, but they’re pretty solid.
I’ve tried this a few different ways, but my favorite use is with Quizlet, especially for vocabulary quizzes. I try to frontload unit vocabulary with a quiz like this so the assessment is truly formative in nature. The lesson will basically be a pretest to start, then students check their email for the activity they’ve been assigned, then a post-test to see if they improved. I take the highest of those two scores for the grade book if I’m grading it. Learning how to create a study set is pretty easy, but if you’d like a video tutorial, here’s one.
Some people talk about App Smashing, combining multiple apps in ways that create a curated experience for students. This is an easy way to do it without having to give explicit verbal directions. Just a heads up, you should make sure students know how to use the apps you assign them to use, but that will depend on the age group. Obviously, not all apps are appropriate for all ages.
I have read this far, what else do you have for me?
The main takeaway here is the time honored truth that new is not synonymous with useful. There are hundreds of apps, add-ons, scripts, games, or interactive educational interface delivery systems that promise to make teaching easier. The reality is that it isn’t. Teaching is difficult but worth it. The most useful professional development I’ve ever found is seeking it myself and discerning the wheat from the chaff. We’re really lucky in Jeffco that there’s a team of people dedicated to doing just that, who takes the attitude of “What do you want to do and how can we help?”
Thank-you for Lisa Summit and the rest of the EdTech team for the opportunity to write this post. Also, thanks to Golden High school for hiring me. This is truly the best job I’ve ever had.
***Andrew is an innovative teacher exploring new resources to use in his classroom. When a teacher finds new resources that have not been vetted by the district, they can submit them for district use and self-vet the tool to use at their site. You can also become a self-vetter! We offer a Schoology course called, "Choosing Tech with Data Privacy in Mind". Take this quick and easy Schoology course, so you can vet tools for you and your schools use. Use course code: BR24M-MZS4N. Automastery has been requested for vetting approval by Data Privacy and Security. If you have tools you would like to request, please visit the Data Privacy and Security Website.