Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to experiment and implement several handheld assessments, including ones for appraisals of teachers and walkthroughs of teachers’ classrooms. While I’ve been generally pleased with the solutions offered, the cost has always presented an implementation problem. It didn’t matter if a solution was plain awesome–such as Media-X’s eWalk or PDAS assessment tools built to order–or mediocre (no, I won’t mention the vendor’s name), the fact remains that walkthroughs are critical.
In my own work, there is a clear concern to develop walkthroughs to gather data on how learning is progressing in classrooms across the school district. This data-collection is valuable to the District as a whole, but also to classroom teachers because it’s not about appraisal but about reflecting on practice and how instruction is managed in the District. Speaking generally, if more C&I folks saw how their curriculum scope-n-sequences were being implemented in schools, there might be greater purposeful revision…or not.
That said, companies that make a lot of money for walkthrough software–as much as $200 per handheld device per site, which adds up quickly–may find themselves sweating at Chris Lehmann’s approach of using GoogleApps for Education, and an iPad (but you really could use anything, right? a netbook would eliminate the technical issues Chris mentions in his “It’s not perfect” summation). What we have to consider is that Chris’ cobbled together solution doesn’t have to be as good as the super-expensive solutions alluded to in this blog post. In fact, the definition of disruptive innovations is that new technologies don’t try to replace the high-end solutions offered by long-time providers of those solutions…they just have to be good enough.
Imagine a GoogleApps workbook that would allow a form per worksheet. Now, imagine that such a workbook contained worksheets–with accompanying forms–from every principal in a school district, or for every teacher in a school. Since the data was already in one workbook, it would be a simple matter of aggregating results, running summaries with pretty graphs of the data that would represent District needs.
Is such functionality in GoogleApps’ future? I don’t doubt it. After all, every time I hear a principal share how much they love GoogleApps for Education, they always mention how they use it for data collection.
One of the mandates for high school principals in the School District of Philadelphia is to give more frequent written feedback to teachers based on the teaching and learning we see on a daily basis on our walk-throughs. It is one of those mandates that is pretty much indefensible in theory, but the devil, as always, is in the details. For me, the trick is to create a way to give teachers feedback that is useful, as observational and non-judgemental as possible, easy to manage, both for teachers and me, and something that can be more than just sheets of paper that are put into a binder and then forgotten about.
So I am going to be using my iPad and a GoogleForm (and Spreadsheet) to get feedback to teachers quickly and (hopefully) wisely and well.
The technical side of things:
* Each teacher has their own spreadsheet that is shared only with me.
* I asked every teacher to set the notifications on the spreadsheet so that they get an email every time a new entry is added.
* I created a GoogleSites page for myself with links to all the teachers at SLA so I can get to the forms easily and quickly.
* I can do it without my bluetooth keyboard, although it’s faster with the keyboard. The problem with the keyboard is that carrying the iPad and the keyboard is definitely clunkier.
So, overall, I like how it works so far. I don’t think it’s perfect. The lack of real integration of GoogleDocs on the iPad has been a pain, and while the form ameliorates that somewhat, it still is a bummer not to be able to easily pull up the actual spreadsheet after filling out the form. I think it creates a more authentic tool that teachers can look back on over time and get feedback.
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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure