An eCoach’s Ed Tech Misstep

First, let me make clear that this is Kevin, not Lucas. Second, I believe in owning my mistakes and learning from them. So here I go, planting my flag in this doozy to stake my claim.

Last week, a very kind teacher asked me to help her with a test she was creating on Google Forms. She was excited about the possibility of using Forms for an exam and giving students their scores instantly. I was excited that she had embraced Forms and wished to use it for such an important task. The teacher emailed me and asked me to take a look at the Form. I went to her room, made a few changes (such as creating an initial section with a question asking student’s name–last, first–and shuffling the order of test questions found in section 2).

Only one period would take the test, so I decided to post the test as an assignment on the teacher’s Google Classroom. I scheduled the assignment so it wouldn’t appear before that particular class on that particular test day, and I made the due date the end of class. Because a couple students were helping out with a school project and weren’t in class that period, the teacher preferred students see only their scores when they submitted their test rather than viewing which questions they got right and wrong. I happily obliged and went on my way.

A couple hours later, the teacher forwarded me a Google Classroom notification stating a student had turned the assignment–a test–in late, and she asked me how that could happen. I thought for a moment that I had missed a setting in Classroom by which teachers can decide whether or not to accept late submissions for each assignment. I’ve worked with other learning management systems, such as Classroom, that do provide this setting. Classroom, however, does not offer this option. Students may turn any Google Classroom assignment in late, and the teacher receives a late work notification.

I advised the teacher to delete the assignment and assured her she’d still have the Form and its results, but the other absent student who had not taken the test would not be able to access the exam in Classroom. Shortly after issuing that advice and apologizing to the teacher for any hardship I’d created, I realized that other students in the class could provide the link to that student. Since I had been set as a collaborator on the Form, I quickly changed settings so it would not take submissions. With this setting in place, anyone attempting to access the Form would see only a generic message stating the Form wasn’t accepting responses; no test questions would appear.

This all happened on a Thursday afternoon immediately preceding a three-day weekend. As it happened, I was driving over an hour the next morning to prepare for a marathon. This gave me lots of time to reflect, and it even entered my mind a few times during the race. Below are my errors or potential errors and the lessons for instructional technology coaches and teachers.

  • Mistake 1: Placing test questions on a Google Form
  • Lesson Learned: As soon as I heard the teacher wanted to use Google Forms for a test, I should have cautioned her to instead create a bubble sheet/Scantron-type Form. Using Forms in this way helps prevent cheating because no test questions appear on the Form. Students in class cannot send a screen capture to absent classmates. Actually, they can send the screen capture but it will only have A, B, C, D as the answer to each question. The actual test questions appear on a printed sheet of paper. Credit to Media Specialist Joe Voris for recommending this at the beginning of the year, and I have passed this recommendation on many times.

  • Mistake 2: Forgetting students can submit all Google Classroom assignments late
  • Lesson Learned: The due date isn’t a cutoff. Students may submit assignments after the due date passes.

  • Mistake 3: Overlooking Google Classroom Notifications
  • Lesson Learned: While many students do shut off Google Classroom notifications, other students continue to receive them. Notifications are helpful tools after all. Teachers should realize though that all Google Classroom assignments, announcements, and questions generate an announcement. In the situation described at the beginning of this post, the student likely received an email message notifying him/her of the assignment. The student then followed the link and completed the Form. Should the student have stopped when it became clear the Form was a test–as it clearly stated? Perhaps, but the student might have thought it was just an assignment he/she was expected to complete.

  • Mistake 4: Assuming placing test questions on a Form is OK if only one class period takes the test
  • Lesson Learned: There’s really no difference between students supplying copies of test questions to students in later periods and students providing those test questions to absent classmates from the single class period that’s taking the exam. The ability to screen capture as described in mistake 1 remains an issue in this situation; therefore, using Google Forms in a Scantron-like manner is a good alternative.

  • Potential Error 1: Providing students in class with a password they must enter to access the test question section of the Form would prevent absent students from accessing the Form
  • Lesson Learned: It’s even easier to send absent classmates a password than it is to screen capture the test questions, and those absent students could be sitting at home using textbooks, the Internet, or other prohibited sources to help complete the Form.

  • Potential Error 2: Bypassing Google Classroom and writing the Form’s URL or shortened URL on the board so absent students can’t access the Form and take the test
  • Lesson Learned: Same problem as above. Students in class can easily send that URL to students who aren’t there or who have the class later. Once a Form is made, the creator can only restrict it to users within the domain. That means any student in the corporation could complete and submit the Form. So if a student has the URL, that student can take the test.

Ultimate Takeaways

1. I don’t mean to liken the role of an eCoach to a doctor, but there is one important similarity. We must listen carefully to those we are serving. In order to make a diagnosis and treatment plan, a doctor must ask questions, make observations, and pay attention to the details patients offer. eCoaches must also listen carefully to what teachers hope to achieve and help educators create a plan that best meets their needs. Getting too focused on any one aspect and losing the holistic view can create unexpected consequences.

2. Technology offers lots of opportunities, but it’s important to decide the best way to use that technology. Just because it’s possible to create a test in Google Forms, is it prudent to do so? A primary responsibility for an eCoach–and one that Lucas and I take very seriously–is to help teachers use instructional technology judiciously. In this instance, my desire to help the teacher carry out an Ed Tech task prevented me from seeing the bigger picture. I should have advised the teacher against posting test questions in a Google Form, and next time I will.

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