Sunday, February 19, 2012

“Class, put your pencils away”

Use Google Forms for Online Quizzes

As a computer teacher, I see students for a very short period of time, about 30 minutes a week per class. I have to get alot done, talk really fast and hope that the students understand what I am saying and teaching them. Since technology tools is one of my areas of instruction, a large chunk of my lesson plans include a wide variety of Google Apps for middle school students and sometimes 5th grade. They received school Gmail accounts (younger grades don’t have them yet) and are familiar with the Gmail system. My goal as a computer teacher is not only to expose the students to 21st century skills and tools but also to make sure that they know basic core computer skills, for example, word processing, presentations and spreadsheets. Regardless of my love of Google docs, I value and teach Microsoft Office applications including Word, PowerPoint and Excel. They are not as glamorous as some of the web tools that have comparable features but nonetheless, I think there is great value in them for instruction purposes. The downfall is that sometimes my students tune me out! They say “Mrs. Shekhter, I use Microsoft all the time, I know this already!” “True, you do know how to use it in general,” I say to them, “But do you know how to create a header and footer in Word, how to create and manipulate formulas in Excel and how to embed movies and animate in PowerPoint?” That’s when I hear “Huh?”. So in order to liven things up, after I show them how to use a specialized feature in these “boring” applications, I like to liven things up (and make sure they are listening!) with an online quiz using Google Forms!

Google Forms is a component of Google Docs, which is a free, web-based suite of tools for managing various kinds of files including text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. With Google Forms, you can create a set of questions and invite students to respond to those questions, either through e-mail or on a web page. Google forms support various types of questions: text, paragraph, multiple-choice, lists, check boxes, scale, and grid. It’s just a matter inputting your questions and determining if the student should give a free response or select from choices that you offer them. You can use Google Forms in class to have students answer questions alone or in small working groups, to facilitate in-class discussion of the answers clearing up an confusion, and also to increase interactivity among the students and engage all students even the shy, quiet ones.

A Google form can be emailed to students via Gmail as a quiz/test or embedded on the class web site. All the while the responses are collected and fed into a spreadsheet, which can then be used to manipulate the data and also used as a Gradebook. Google Forms give instructors the ability to assess how well students understand learning materials and to uncover student misconceptions, which helps instructors steer students to higher-level understanding. It’s so easy to generate a quiz and even easier for students to take them online, that you won’t want to see another hand-written quiz again!

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