Power to the People: Google Classroom

This week, I experimented with creating an assessment (actually, assessments) in Google Classroom. As discussed last week, I was interested in exploring how Google’s free Learning Management System (LMS) compared to some of the more costly LMSs like Blackboard. I was particularly interested in how Google Classroom could be used to create assessments and how easily teachers could get rich data on their students’ performance on an assessment.

Ease of Creation

Google Classroom content can be linked directly from your Google Drive. So if a teacher is using google docs for anything in their are teaching, they can upload the content right to their classroom. This can really streamline the preparation process for teachers. Additionally, since the files are linked through the Google Drive, they are updated immediately, meaning that any changes the teacher makes to documents on their side will automatically update on the student side.

Rich Data

Assessments can be created with a variety of question types (multiple choice, short answer, essay, etc.). Different point values can be assigned to different questions and results can be released to the student immediately or held by the instructor. The teacher is provided with very rich data on the quiz, including which questions students missed and. where applicable, which answer the students gave.

Unexpected Awesome Features

One feature that I found interesting was the section feature. This allows you to create different sections in the assessment. Each section is presented in its own window. You can then direct the student through the test based on their answers. So for example, in the assessment on 3-digit subtraction, if a student is unable to select the correct vertical arrangement of a problem presented horizontally, there is little benefit in having them try to solve the problem and the assessment can move on to the next big concept. This allows teachers to create some-what adaptive assessments that can stretch their higher-performing students without stressing their lower-performing students.

Another interesting feature was the feedback. While I was disappointed to see that the teacher cannot provide unique feedback for each distractor, Google Classroom provides the opportunity for teachers to embed images, documents, and YouTube videos into the failure feedback. This is a very powerful tool that will allow for individualized instruction, as I demonstrate in the screencast below.

One of the things that I like about using Google Tools in the classroom is that there are a number of accessibility features in Google Applications and service providers and students tend to be aware of them. For example, Chromebooks have a quality, easy-to-use text to speech feature. Additionally, a plug-in like Texthelp Read&Write is compatible with documents created in Google.

The Assessment(s)

I created two types of assessment for the exploration. Both of them involving 3-digit subtraction. To start, I thought through the different skills needed to successfully perform 3-digit subtraction.

  1. Understanding place value
  2. Ability to separate 3 digit numbers into hundreds, tens, and ones/units
  3. Ability to correctly arrange numbers into vertical columns when presented horizontally
  4. Ability to subtract 2 – digit numbers without regrouping
  5. Ability to subtract 2 – digit numbers with regrouping
  6. Ability to subtract 3 – digit numbers without regrouping
  7. Ability to subtract 3 – digit numbers with regrouping
  8. Ability to deal with 0 in subtraction with regrouping situations

In creating the distractors, I purposely included common errors that will give the teacher information on students’ understanding and gaps in understanding. These include:

  • Assigning unit value to all of the digits in a 3-digit number (356 = 3 + 5 + 6)
  • Assigning highest value to all of the digits in a 3-digit number (356 = 300 + 500 + 600)
  • Not maintaining columns when subtracting
  • Subtracting the bottom number when it is larger than the top number
  • Regrouping without taking one from the neighboring column
  • Not regrouping when encountering a 0

The two assessments are as follows:

Subtraction Pre-Screen

This is an assessment for learning that can be given before the unit is taught. It presents questions that address the key concepts and misconceptions in the unit. It is presented in an adaptive way, so that students who have little pre-knowledge will be able to quickly move through the assessment without being demoralized. The assessment ends with a question that allows students to discuss a time when they use subtraction in their daily lives. The teacher can use students responses to this quick quiz to evaluate where students are and decide how to tailor their instruction for the upcoming unit. It also gives students a sense of the skills needed to successfully subtract 3-digit numbers and encourages them to make personal connections with the material that will be covered in the unit.

A link is provided here.

Place Value Quiz

This is an assessment as learning. In this short assessment on place value, I tried to develop a module that could be used in a hybrid or flipped-classroom scenario. The assessment begins with a video reviewing place value. Students check that they have watched the video and then are given a variety of questions dealing with issues specific to identifying place value. Upon submission, the quiz is immediately graded. Students are able to see what they got right and wrong, additionally, the teacher can link additional material or videos to specific questions so that students can target the concept that they missed. In the case of this example, I made a quick video called “dealing with zero” that appears in the feedback section if the student misses the question with a 0.

Let’s Check It with the List

In a previous post, I presented a formative assessment checklist. I went ahead and evaluated this mini unit of 3-digit subtraction against the criteria of that list. Here is what I found:

Does this assessment explicitly address the most relevant skills and big ideas in the topic of the assessment and the discipline being taught in the course?

Yes, I purposely included questions which would test the key threshold points in understanding the concepts: place value, vertical arrangement, regrouping, etc. and included distractors that consisted of the most commonly made errors.

Does this assessment provide the teacher with actionable information about the student’s background and expectations for the topic?

Yes. The pre-screening gives the teacher a great deal of information on where the students currently are on the topic, and both assessments give the teacher rich data on where students are, what they are getting, and what needs work. They also give the instructor some interesting avenues into exploring math in students’ everyday lives.

Does this assessment prime the student for learning within the discipline and promote student autonomy and accountability?

This is one area that can be improved. I could see where these assessments are part of a large learning path that students embark on. By mastering a topic they progress farther along the path.

Does this assessment provide the student with clear feedback that is informative and actionable?

I think this is certainly true of the second assessment. I really like having the feedback presented to the student and being able to link relevant documents and videos to the feedback.

Does this assessment address the primary skills being assessed and take into account the various learning styles, abilities, and disabilities of the students being assessed?

Yes, given the many accessibility tools that Google provides, this should serve students needing accommodations. The one thing I could see improving in this area is getting more into students individual, creative sides. This is why I think it would be great to pair this type of module with in-class problem-solving activities.

Power to the People

I was very pleased with the flexibility and ease-of-use with Google Classroom. It is not the most attractive user experience and currently there are few options available to customize the theme colors, etc. But the tools that teachers have in Google Classroom are quite powerful and they sync well with other Google tools like Google Documents and YouTube. While large institutions are able to pay for robust LMSs like Blackboard, Canvas, and D2L, Google Classroom appears to provide teachers at more modest institutions a very powerful LMS that is free and relatively easy to use.

For a quick run-down of the assessment I created and my thoughts on Google Classroom, check out the video below.

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