I keep tossing around in my head a conversation I had with @jreulbach on Twitter regarding the best possible way to give assessments online. I’ve played around with Google Forms a little bit, and while that’s easy to create and share, I don’t like that I can’t see students’ work that goes with their answers. (To me, that’s the most important part of anything that students produce). I thought about using Google Docs (which I still might do in the future), but I need to take the time to set all my students up with gmail accounts–but prior to that, getting parent permission to do so. And then there’s the training I would need to do in using Google Docs. Just the thought of all that overwhelmed me. I may do that at the beginning of the year next school year.
I needed something that is easy and that I can get students trained in doing RIGHT NOW. (I’m out on leave for surgery in a couple of days, and I am too much of a control freak to leave grading of assessments to a sub). My most pressing issue is finding a way to see their work, but not having a stack of papers to carry around with me in my bag (I tend to make messes with stacks of paper–I’m a bit clumsy and spill things from time to time). I also need a way to collect assessments without going into school. It dawned on me: have the students take a picture of their assignment and email it to me! This kills so many birds with one stone that I can’t count them! 1) I can see my student’s work and provide immediate, individual feedback much more quickly than with traditional grading. 2) Because I type much faster than I write by hand, I can give more and more specific feedback because my hand doesn’t get tired from writing (and my thoughts can exit my brain faster with typing). 3) Students can take the quiz at their speed (can you say “differentiation”?) and feel less pressured to finish by the bell. (I allow them to take it home to finish and send the pic from there if they didn’t finish in class). 4) While it’s not as fancy as Google Docs or Forms, it allows for use of technology in the classroom setting, which is totally Common Core! 5) Because some students don’t have email of their own, they use their parents’ email. Or, if parents are doing what they should in terms of monitoring their child’s internet usage, they have visibility to their child’s email. I like that parents can see their work and my feedback (instead of a returned assignment shoved to the bottom of the black hole that they call a backpack and that may never see the light of day again).
Potential issues: 1) Pictures can be blurry or dark. I encourage my students to take 2-3 pics and choose the best one to email. 2) Cheating. I have to let this one go and trust that students will behave with integrity. If they are truly interested in learning and getting feedback on THEIR learning, they won’t cheat. We discuss this ALL. THE. TIME. Growth mindset is a constant topic of conversation in my classes. 3) My email inbox gets cluttered. Well, I need to get on top of all that feedback, now don’t I? I also created a separate folder for student emails that I transfer completed feedback to. I plan to keep all emails until the end of each quarter in case there are issues.
Here are some examples of student work and the feedback I sent back to them via email: