Saturday, August 30, 2014

Anecdotal Voice Comments with Google Forms and Mobile Devices

One of the biggest challenges for me as a classroom teacher was keeping track of my observations and anecdotal comments.  My normal solution was to carry a clipboard around the classroom, with some line paper or a checklist for making observations, and then file those in a somewhat haphazard manner, to be accessed when it was time to write reports.  I don't think it was a great solution and it didn't serve me, or my students the best.

Last year, I was working with a primary teacher, and she wanted to know what she might be able to do with her smartphone to make use of it in her classroom.  She didn't really see herself using Google Apps for Education with her students, but wondered if there might be a way take advantage of the phone and GAFE for some kind of assessment purposes.

After a few minutes of brainstorming, I thought about combining the power of the voice to text engine in the phone, with the simplicity of a Google Form and the power of Google Spreadsheets to organize and review data that has been captured.  Put them together, and you have a very simple way to record and organize the observations and comments you make about the students in your classroom.

The video below will take you through the complete process of setting up a Google Form, getting it to your smartphone (or other mobile device with a voice to text engine), and organizing the data to make it easy to use for reporting and conferencing.  It supplements the tip sheet that I prepared for Ontario GAFE Summit in the spring of 2014.

Since demonstrating this with several teachers and administrators and helping them set up their own forms, we've come up with a variety of uses and considerations that I'll list below.
  • You don't have to use the voice-to-text.  If you have an observation that you wouldn't like others to overhear, simply type it out the way you normally would.
  • You can still use the form from your laptop computer if you'd like to make observations there
  • In the demo, I used a simple field (Subject) to categorize the data.  You could choose to use specific curriculum expectations to organize your observations.  In this case, you might want to make a different form for each subject/class that you are planning on using this tool in.
  • If you try getting specific (as described in the point above), you don't need to put ALL of the curriculum expectations for a subject in at once.  You can simply put in the observations that you are currently working on, and change them on a weekly (or other timeframe) basis.
  • Administrators can use this tool to record observations from walk-throughs (though again, they may find it more useful to type confidential information).
  • Students with mobile devices could adapt this to record their own reflections on their work
  • You could add a second paragraph text item to allow students to add their own response to your comments/observations during conferencing.
  • For more ideas check out Molly Schroeder's "Innovative Uses of Google Forms" page.  Many of those ideas could be adapted to take advantage of the voice-to-text engines build into various devices.
In terms of the security of your anecdotal comments and observations, Google Drive is a very secure platform, but you should pay attention to your school board's policies about what information can be stored in the cloud.  You should also be aware that your GAFE administrator could access your account (if necessary), and should be comfortable explaining any comments/observations to students/parents/administrators, etc.