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10 ways I use Google Forms in my tablet classroom

Google Drive in education

Image courtesy of TBR.

Mohamed El-Ashiry takes a look at ways of using Google Forms in the classroom.

I am one of Google Forms‘ biggest fans! I have many reasons to love the service, and I use it in many different ways.

While there have been many other advantages, the biggest advantage of using Google Forms in my classroom is being able to give students immediate feedback. I often connect my tablet to the projector, and hide the column displaying the names of students submitting their responses (whether they are responding to a test, or self-assessment or peer-assessment, etc.). The students like to see the spreadsheet being populated by all their submissions. We use this as an evaluation and feedback exercise after a test or quiz, for example: we look at each question and together agree on the most accurate and well-written responses. This is also a very useful literacy-building exercise because we look at the way the best answers are structured.

In my classroom, students have had tablets (iPads) for two years now. I started using Google Forms about 18 months ago, and I keep finding new ways of using it all the time. Here are ten ways I use Google Forms in my tablet classroom (including hyperlinks to examples of each):

1. Student self-assessment

Student self-assessment is a very powerful tool in any classroom. Tablets have also made that easier, since students can ask a classmate to record a video of them presenting something. After the presentation, the students watch themselves on video and then fill in a simple self-assessment checklist that I’ve prepared on Google Forms. In this situation, the biggest advantage of Google Forms is being able to see a summary of responses in a visual format (bar graphs). This gives me an indication of which specific skills I may need to focus on a bit more in the following classes. Sharing that visual summary of responses with the students also shows the things they may have in common in terms of which skills/techniques they need to develop further or improve upon.

2. Peer assessment

Peer-assessment also plays a critical role in any classroom. Students watch their assigned peer’s presentation while using a peer-assessment checklist that I’ve prepared on Google Forms. The visual ‘summary of responses’ can also be very useful in these situations. Students then conference with each other to share their feedback. Sometimes, I ask the students to take screenshots of the peer assessment checklist before they submit it, and email that screenshot to their peer.

3. Rubrics

In my classes, whenever I assign the students a major assessment task, I show them them the rubric that will be used to assess their work. I use Google Forms to create these rubrics, and while I am marking/grading the students’ work, I just tick the relevant boxes on the rubric. All student grades would then be compiled by Google Forms in a spreadsheet. A great idea I got from my PLN is to print the whole spreadsheet and cut it into strips, then just give each student the strip that shows their marks/grades.

4. Classroom management logs

Google Forms has been a great way of documenting student merit points and rewards for positive behaviour. At the beginning of the year, I created a ‘merit points log’ and a ‘behavior management log’ on Google Forms. Then I QR-coded the links to both forms, and stuck them right next to my teacher’s desk. At the end of every lesson, I quickly scan the code and input the merit points given to the students who earned them (I write them on a chart on the board during the lesson). Additionally, if there were any discipline issues, I use the behavior management log to record the type of behavior and how I responded to it. I can also share each spreadsheet with the relevant year-level coordinators as a way of keeping records of discipline issues inside my class.

Merit points log

Behaviour management log

5. Documenting PD

Teachers are required to maintain evidence of any professional development they undertake. Sometimes, this can be a hectic task. I started this year to collect all my PD on a Google Spreadsheet. Once a PD event was finished, I would scan the QR code to access the PD log I created on Google Forms. I would write the title of the activity, a brief description of it, a brief reflection on it, and the teaching standards it satisfies. All my PD is now compiled in that one spreadsheet.

PD log

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Your place or mine?

Teacher with students in schoolFiona Thomas is an EFL blogger and Director of Education at Net Languages, a large online language school. Here she talks about the impact the location of classes has on the teacher-student relationship.

Most teachers view the prospect of teaching a new class with a mixture of excitement (an opportunity to do things differently, a chance to learn new things) and a certain amount of anxiety: Will the students like me? Will they like each other? Will the class be a success?

Irrespective of whether the class is a one-off, a substitution or a class lasting a whole term or academic year, most of us worry about how the class will go. But, when preparing for the new class, how many teachers or managers reflect on how the class dynamics and the relationship between the students and the teacher are affected by where the class is actually held?

According to Charles Handy (1993, Changing Organisations, Penguin, London, p.170) the location of a meeting (or class in our case) gives out certain signals and these signals affect the way people behave and interact with each other. Take, as an example, a teacher who is called into the Director’s office. By choosing to hold a meeting with the teacher in the Director’s office, the Director is (consciously or not) reinforcing the power relationship which already exists between a director and employee.

Depending on the purpose of the meeting, this can be used to great effect. If the meeting is disciplinary, the choice of venue will effectively emphasise the authority of the director to discipline the teacher. If the meeting is for another purpose, for example to bounce ideas off a teacher, the choice of the Director’s office as the venue for the meeting will not be as conducive to an open and frank exchange of ideas or opinions as meeting in a classroom, teachers’ room or other more neutral place.

So, let’s take this theory and apply it to where classes are held. A language school territorially belongs more to the teacher than the students. So, in terms of the student – teacher relationship if a teacher gives a class in his/her language school, this naturally emphasises the teacher’s role and authority in the class in relation to the students. Consider how much easier it is for a long-established teacher to assert his/her role in a new class full of new students who do not know each other if the class is held in the teacher’s language school compared with starting a class in an unknown venue with a group of students who already know each other.

For newly-qualified teachers (NQTs) giving a class to an already established group of young learners on the students’ territory e.g. in a state school, is a tall order. More experienced teachers will be equipped with a series of strategies and the required confidence to help manage the class and compensate for this more threatening environment.  So, where possible, when dealing with classes of younger learners in which discipline can be problematic, managers would be advised to assign NQTs classes in the language school rather than sending these teachers out to off-site locations where the teachers are at more of a disadvantage.

The same is true, although different, with classes held in companies. Teachers giving classes in a company walk into an already established set of roles and power relationships between the students in a class. The teacher, as an outsider, cannot challenge these roles and much of what he or she will be able to do in the class and his/her relationship with the students will be conditioned by these pre-determined relationships.

As for online classes, although giving online classes requires a different set of teaching and management skills to face-to-face classes, if the student attends the class from his/her home and the teacher from his/her home or language school, the territorial factors which can influence the teacher-student relationship and establishment of roles are, on the whole, neutralised.

There are obviously many more factors which influence how the teacher – student relationship and roles develop. However, by being aware of these territorial issues, teachers can anticipate and try to adapt how they manage their classes according to where their classes are held. Managers in turn should take this issue into consideration when deciding which teacher to assign to each class and how the location of the class could affect the amount of support the teacher might need.

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Teaching English in the developing world

William Bradridge shares some ideas on how to make lessons work if you are teaching with minimal resources in the developing world.

If you are headed for a developing country to teach English, then don’t pack your iPad. The smart IT suite available to you where you did your training will be a long-lost memory: instead, wonder whether your classroom will have any chalk today.

So how can you plan for teaching English in a country where you’ll be lucky if you have a regular supply of electricity? Here are a few tips before you set off to help you get prepared.

  • People often love speaking about themselves, so use your students as a resource.  Get them to tell you about their lives and show a genuine interest in them. For example, consider establishing a regular routine of short 10 minute student input slots in each lesson. If you are teaching youngsters, establish this as a time for “my precious object”, where one at a time children show and tell something from home. It will give you a glimpse into their culture, history and daily lives, while giving them an opportunity to speak and share with their classmates.
  • Bring lots of realia from home when you go; maps, photos, menus, forms for completion etc. Remember basics, like scissors, Blu-Tack or colouring pens and paper. You’ll be glad to have these to hand when you get to your destination to find the cupboard bare.

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Teaching values is nothing new!

Having given us some tips for teaching values in the classroom, Susan Banman Sileci, co-author of the new Primary course Everybody Up, now considers whether this is a new phenomenon or not.

EFL teachers, especially those who teach young learners, know instinctively that they’re standing in front of a group of kids teaching more than English. One of those things is values – how to behave at school, at home and out in the community.

I recently spent some time online preparing for a presentation on teaching values and found a few sites expressing worry about this generation of children “The world is on the verge of collapse,” the sites suggest. “What will become of the world with kids like these in it?” Some sites say the biggest problem is video games. Others say it’s divorce. Others blame today’s social woes on bad teachers, rap music, reality TV, the Internet, cell phones and political corruption. If you believe those sites, we’re in trouble.

But then I look back on my childhood in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States. I remember a lot of talk from the adults around me about how terrible my generation would turn out. There were drugs everywhere. There were rock festivals, disco music, political scandals, race riots, girls wearing boys’ clothes and guys with long hair. Every night we watched the Vietnam War on the news and mourned the assassination of our leaders, from President Kennedy to Martin Luther King, Jr. It wasn’t an easy time either.

I asked my mother about her generation. For kids of the 1950s, listening to Elvis Presley was the end of the world to the adults around her. Before that, moving from the farm to the city was trouble. Even Plato and Socrates worried about their own disrespectful kids and teenagers.

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The digital age of teaching: It’s time to evolve!

Woman looking at computerHaving taught us that you don’t need to be a digital expert to teach with digital, Shaun Wilden, a freelance teacher trainer and materials writer for OUP, discusses how embracing the digital age can help you and your students.

As teachers, our role needs to evolve from being the ‘fount’ and the ‘model’ to that of helper and guide. We need to link our classroom practice with the wider world, accept that the four walls are gone, and show students how to extend coursebook topics into the real world.  At the same time, we should acknowledge that for students to attain their full language learning potential it is important to let them loose on their own. Let them find out what works best for them.

I am sure we all agree that no matter how good a teacher we are, learning doesn’t take place solely within one lesson; we’d be fooling ourselves if we finished a 60-minute vocabulary lesson thinking our students would remember every word. Research indicates that 80 percent of learning is lost within 24 hours of the initial learning and yet, no matter how often we try to convey to students that opening their notebooks a little each day will help, we often seem to be fighting a losing battle.

But that’s understandable. With busy lives, students can be forgiven for not always opening their notebooks to study, or for not having their notebooks with them when they do have a moment. That’s life.

However, this is another area where digital material can help. Publishers now provide support to students in different ways. With workbook materials on CD-ROMs or online, students can load the material on to their computers and do the exercises in a five-minute break instead of having to remember where they put their paper notebook. Even the student who says they are too busy to study is running out of excuses. Listening materials, for example, can now be put on to mp3 players and Smartphones so students can learn on the move. And, of course, there’s a myriad of mobile learning apps now available.

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