Sunday, February 2, 2020

Interpreting graphs with "What's Going on in this Graph?"



It's been three years since the New York Times partnered with the American Statistical Association to bring "What's Going on in this Graph?" to teachers and students. The premise is simple, every week during the school year they publish a graph asking students to think about it and discuss their observations whether on the site itself or on Desmos. A week later, they have a reveal, with more information and highlights from the moderation.

I started using the activity with my 8th grade Science and Engineering classes last year, as I struggled to teach them to interpret motion graphs. What I was looking at at the time, was students who jumped to conclusions without stopping to actually look at axes or units,  or choosing to bar graphs over line graphs simply because they were more familiar. I also, at the time, was invested in having students create infographics for projects, but again, they were doing so without actually looking or thinking about why one choice was better than another, or even worse, Googling for ready-made ones and pasting them without realizing that what they had included actually contradicted or was completely irrelevant to the message they were trying to send. The need was obvious - How do I help students acquire the skills they need to analyze graphs and charts.

During the first few months of using them, I presented the graph posted by the NYT that week and used their prompt:

  • What do you notice?
  • What do you wonder?
  • What's going on?
This was fine except for one little thing, they started looking at the comments posted for "correct" answers or as a guide for what to write in their response to me. While it did force them to at least open and read the comments, they were still taking that short-cut of having someone else do the thinking and noticing. So I started adding some other questions that would require the act of reading the graph in order to answer them. These questions were not necessarily of a very high DOK, but rather of the "actually look at the graph" type. Things like
  • "What is the military spending worldwide presented on the graph?" for this installment
  • "Which destination seems to be the most popular for Thanksgiving Travel?" for this one
  • "Describe how the author represents data in the graphic."
These types of questions are always presented before the analysis questions and have served us well to help students look at the graphs before moving on to the deeper analysis posed by: 

  • What's going on in this graph? (i.e. what would be an accurate conclusion that can be supported by this graph). To answer this question use the CER framework
  • Write a >140 character Tweet that could accompany the sharing of the graph. Your response must include a relevant hashtag.
By now, I have a bundle of 29 such activities in the GoFormative library. Most of which come from the weekly NYT publishing, with a couple added from other sources due to my students' interest in a topic. The activity for me is weekly and takes up about 30 minutes of class time. Since many of them are related to my content it ends up supporting not only the acquisition of the skills for interpreting graphs espoused in the CCSS and NGSS but also addressing ISTE standards for students, making the activity an absolute win.

Documenting Peer-Reviews leads to better builds



As a project-based learning teacher, I know about the importance of feedback during project runs. I constantly conference with students, formally and informally, trying to push them to think critically about the project as well as what they are creating. Unfortunately, these conversations and documents don't always make it into their final projects, leaving both me and the students frustrated come unveiling day. You see, often my students become enamored with an idea and it is really hard to sway them, even when they realize that they should have taken a different approach. They come up with "patch" solutions to "fix" the immediate problem, but they seldom take a step back and realize that they should start from scratch. While I know that the learning is in the process, I also see a lack of transfer of those lessons from project to project - i.e. this did not work last time, why would it work this time?

Case in point - I run a project based on Teach Engineering's "Adding Helpful Carrier Devices to Crutches", and have this whole set-up that walks students through the engineering design process for it (Assistive Technology - Crutches). Last year we even had one of the students as an actual client that needed the device and built to her specifications, supposedly. What happened was that students basically attached whatever they had on hand without much consideration for usability - boxes and bags that make holding the crutches almost impossible, or too big causing a severe imbalance, etc. When challenged about this during first testing, their solutions were always about fixing what was already there (create a hole for the hand or adding dividers so help with the swaying of things), but they never included "take the whole thing off and re-work from scratch". After weeks of patches, students unveiled final products that did comply with the requirements but were not actually useful. The posed to the student we were building for, "Would you buy this?",  was always met with, "No, not really" - even for her own build! This led me to a bigger reflection of where I was dropping the ball and/or what could I do to help promote better builds.

As I pondered this question, I came up with two key things that I've implemented and seem to be working:

The fast build 

As soon as the project is introduced, the students have one class period to create and test a quick prototype. This happens even before the brainstorm. The goal of the fast build is to help students identify where the problems may eventually arise.


The Peer-Review documentation

After the fast build, my students continued through the engineering design project as usual. However, when it came time for testing the first full build, I introduced a "Prototype Evaluation" rubric.
 
The key portion for us was the requirement of providing specific ideas to help the team improve.  I "sold" this to the students as "your team has already thought about different ways to address issues, but that is only 4 brains. You are getting the benefit of 28 other brains that are seeing other things you have to address." After the testing and prototype evaluation rubric has been filled out, each team is responsible for compiling the feedback and presenting a summary of the information obtained from those rubrics and creating a plan of action for the next prototype. 

This peer review documentation seems to be working, though it does add three days of work for each prototype. In this case, I am requiring at least three rounds, extending the project 9 more class periods.  while this may not be feasible in every situation, I believe that it will be time well spent.

What do you think? What scaffolds do you have in place to ensure yous students are successful during their project runs? I'd love to hear about them.


Monday, July 29, 2019

Declutter your district Gmail



Having a district Google account has many benefits. From single sign-on to sharing documents with students and using Google classroom, it provides many opportunities for collaboration and communication, which makes it an invaluable tool. However, dealing with the e-mail attached to that account has always been a nightmare for me. That e-mail account is clogged with newsletters from different vendors and notifications of shared documents from students to the point of making it completely useless. In the past, this has not been a problem since my district was also using an LMS  which made it easy for me to bypass the use of that Gmail. However, it looks like it may no longer be the case, so I needed to find a way to make that Gmail account work more efficiently for me, and the answer was not as difficult as I thought it would be. It all relies on filtering your e-mails.

Filtering the vendors

1. Click on any e-mail you receive from a vendor to open it
2. Click on the three little dots at the top right of the message to open the "more" menu and select "filter messages like this"


3. On the screen that opens, select "Create Filter" and then choose what you want to do with those e-mails.


Filtering the invitations to edit

This was my biggest issue. No matter how many times I've asked my 240 stduents that when they share something with me (which I do want, of course) they should "skip sending a notification", they almost never do - that requires paying attention to details, which is not their forte. So on any given day, I would get hundreds of "____ has shared a document" e-mails. Filtering those was not as straightforward since the option to "filter messages like this" is not available. However, it can also be done.

1. Open your Gmail. Click on the Gear icon and then on Settings.



2. Select Filters and Blocked Addresses

3. Scroll down until you see Create a New Filter
4. In the box that appears, create the filter

5. Once you click continue, select what you want the filter to do and then click "create filter"

I selected "skip the inbox" for these types of e-mails just in case something gets filtered that I then need to go back to at some point. These e-mails will never make it to your inbox so if you ever need to see them, you will need to click on "more" on the left side of the screen, and then on "all e-mail".


It is important to note that all these filters you created do not necessarily apply retroactively. Anything received before you created the filter will still appear in your inbox unless you do something about it. However, anything new will be filtered according to the rules you just created.

So there it is. I hope you find this useful and if you have other tips I'd love to hear about them. On to teaching students about the wonder of BCC and never using "reply all".

Monday, July 8, 2019

Boss Battles with Google Forms and Sheets - An Update



I spent most of the last summer creating Boss Battles for my gamified classroom. Throughout the school year, I also shared with you a couple of tweaks I made to those original sheets, adding "first hit and first perfect hit", and then adding "shiny bosses".  My students really got into this whole idea of battling the bosses and I was really happy with the excitement they generated.

A couple of days ago, I began the painstaking process of clearing all of this work out in preparation for the new school year. While I would have loved to use them as they are, they no longer fit the game narrative that I am exploring for the upcoming year, plus, I reused Bosses across my grade levels. While this may not be a problem for most teachers, it is for me because I loop the students, so most of them would be re-battling the same bosses they already know. Perhaps they would not remember, but all it would take is one of them to check their student sheets (where the bosses are displayed), and the excitement of getting collecting the boss would be diminished. 

With all of this in mind, I started creating new bosses - we will be rescuing scientists - and clearing out the old forms/sheets tweaking the originals a bit, which is what I am sharing today.

Boss Battle Form (will auto copy)  - I have dummy-filled it with some data so that it is easier to explain. If you make a copy simply delete all the prefilled contents of "form responses 1"

Boss Sheet


While it looks basically the same, there are important things to note. 
  • Column L contains each of the Boss possibilities. Each is its own drawing (published to the web) and placed into the cell using 
=image("published address of your google drawing")
You may be tempted to make use of the new "insert image in cell" function. Don't. You will be calling the images into the boss battle pane and into the scores sheet. Google Sheets does not recognize images insterted that way as actual objects so until they fix that what will happen is that you get blank instead of the image you want to display.

  •  Cell F15 now contains a new formula:
=index('Form Responses 1'!$B:$B, match(true,isnumber(search("/",'Form Responses 1'!$A:$A)),""))
This formula looks at the timestamp looking for the first appearance of the slash symbol (/) in Form Responses 1 column A and reports the  matching contents of column B in the same sheet. This formula solves the problem of having to change cell references as the sheet is populated the first time around.

  • Cell F16 contains a similar formula:
=index('Form Responses 1'!$B:$B, match(true, 'Form Responses 1'!$C:$C=12, 0))
In this case, it matches the contents in column B with the first time the "perfect score" of 12 is achieved, and of course that can be changed to whatever number you is your "perfect score". 

Perfect Sheet

That sheet simply reports the contents of first hit and first perfect hit and assigns them a value. I bring that into my leaderboard using the Vlookup function as a way to give students an added incentive.
Formula that imports this into your leaderboard:

=IFERROR(VLOOKUP(A17,IMPORTRANGE("Boss Battle Google Sheet Identifier","Perfect!A:B"),2,0), 0)

Where the number 2 is the column number where those "extra points" are housed.
If you are interested in the Vlookup formula as it pertains to the leaderboard, visit my post "Assign XP automatically using Vlookup - Google Sheets"

Scores Sheet - AKA Where the magic happens


As originally, this is a pivot table that aggregates the data generated first by adding all the scores each student generates (Column B - Sum of Scores) and then by reporting the maximum score the student obtained (Column C - Max Score).

Column D (Counts the number of times a student achieved a Perfect Score)

I've been toying with the idea of having students "catch/rescue the Bosses". This collecting of the bosses had a great impact in engaging students to attempt the quizzes multiple times throughout a semester, regardless of whether it is an official Boss Battle day with the whole display of the Boss. In order to achieve this assigning of bosses I first needed to know how many times a student scored a perfect score. To do this, I added a Calculated Field to my Pivot Table:

If you click anywhere inside the already populated pivot table, the Pivot Table Editor opens. This already had the score summarization by SUM and by MAX.

The Times Perfect Score was added using by clicking Add values and selecting "calculated field". The formula is simply a COUNTIF, though you notice that the normal use of the quotations is eliminated.

=COUNTIF (Score, 12)

The number 12 obviously corresponds to the "perfect score" in this particular case and could be changed to whatever suits your needs.

If you are recreating your own, also make sure that you select Summarize by Custom and Show as Default.

That got me the number of times a student got a perfect score. You may be wondering why this was important. The answer is that I did not want to give out the Boss simply based on the number of points. My students are notorious for finding the easy way out and often would rather take a quiz 100 times scoring 1 each time than getting 100 the first time.

Column F (Where the Shiny Bosses come in)

With that number of "perfect scores" aggregated by student, it was time to move on to the "catching/rescuing" of the boss.

When working to pivot tables, you can still add formulas to the columns that are not being used by the pivot table itself. I added a title to Column F and called it boss obtained. To give the illusion of randomness to the catch, I decided on the following formula

=IF(D2>=10, Boss!$L$9, IF (AND(D2=9), Boss!$L$8, IF (AND(D2<=8,D2>=6),Boss!$L$9, IF (AND(D2<=5,D2>=1),Boss!$L$8," "))))

which gives the Boss in Cell L9 or L8 of the Boss sheet depending on the number of perfect scores. You would think that you could use the RAND (random) function, but unfortunately, it is what is called a volatile function, which means it refreshes each time and I did not want students to have a new boss catch simply by opening the sheet.

The formula is just copy/pasted down through the sheet so that each row gets its own student reference. The results of this column are again imported to my Leaderboard using VLOOKUP as mentioned in Perfect Sheet above. The key here is to remember that VLOOKUP references the column number:

=IFERROR(VLOOKUP(A2,IMPORTRANGE("your sheet identifier","scores!$A$2:F"),6,0), 0)

where the initial A2 - is what it is looking for (e-mail of my student),
"scores!$A$2:F"- the sheet and range where the data is housed
6 - really column F where the bosses caught were "assigned"

Column E - Maximum Possible Score: the end to "grinding"

Last year, some of my students greatly inflated their leaderboard standing by retaking boss battles over and over again. While in principle this would be OK with me, there is a point where enough is enough. I know that I can simply close the form, but that leaves the student who may need the extra practice out of the loop, and opening and closing a form manually means that I must remember to do so. Taking this into consideration, I opted for writing in a formula that reports a set number of points out to my leaderboard (again with the VLOOKUP formula) to my leaderboard once the maximum is reached.

=if (B2>40, 40, B2)

Looking at the formula, it simply reads if the contents of cell B2 (where the scores are added is greater than 40, report 40, otherwise report the number present in cell B2. The formula is copied down Column E.

That is it for today. I hope this inspires you to keep working on your leaderboards and perhaps make some additions or modifications. And as always a big shout-out to Mr. Powley who although has moved on to standards-based grading and may be letting go of the Dread Sheets inspired this whole Boss Battle process.


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Embed a Live Google Slide into a Google Doc



This post falls under the "How did I not know this before" category...

Over the last few days, I have been updating my 8th-grade waves unit and will be using this performance task I found online. As I was working, I was going back and forth between the document and a slide deck "template" that I want students to use as a guide to organizing their work. My students tend to lose track of things so this was my way of ensuring that once they got to the end of the task they had everything they needed. Anyway, long story short I placed the document, which is rather long, into my preferred delivery site (WIX) and embedded the slide deck but was not particularly satisfied with the way it looked. I needed side by side and rather specific placements.
I definitely did not want to just give access to the slide deck since I know that my students would just make a copy of the template and use that instead of going through the instructions. I also did not want to add all the instructions to the slide deck. So then I decided that I wanted to add the slide deck to the instructions document.

I know that I could take a screenshot of the slides I wanted to reference and then link them, but while searching I came across the absolute easiest way of doing this:

How to Embed a Google Slide Into a Google Doc

1. Open your Google slide deck.

2. From the left side panel, click and select the slide you want to add to your Google doc. Go up to Menu and select Edit > Copy.



3. Open the Google Doc where you want your slide to be. Place your cursor in the location in the document where you want to add the slide.

4. Go up to the menu and select Edit > Paste

5. Choose "Link to presentation" to make it an active link.


Google docs will treat this as any other image, so you can resize, add borders, crop to shape or whatever you want. The absolute beauty of this is that the link not only directs the user (my students) to the specific slide, but also any changes made to the slide in the slide deck are updated in the doc by just clicking on update. You can see how this worked in the document I was talking about before:


I am thinking that this little trick can be used for hyperdocs, instructables or even lab reports. What do you think. What other uses do you see?




Saturday, March 16, 2019

Reviewing Content with Shiny Bosses



By far, the greatest successful addition to my game this year was the Boss Battles. Piloted at the end of last year, and fully implemented this year, I've even had students present this form of testing during Student Exhibition Nights. This boggles my mind since the Boss Battles are in reality nothing more than the normal tests and quizzes I would normally have, but as we all know, beating the Boss, and even better, adding each to our collection of "perfect bosses", is so much better than simply taking a test.


My boss battles have undergone a couple of minor tweaks over the course of the year, with the addition of the first hit and first perfect hit, and Google Sheet's new (to me) shuffle question order, but other than that they have remained the same as when I first created them. 

With CASP dates approaching, I started to think about pulling questions from this already created "bank" of questions to create new battles for review. However, I did not love this idea simply because, I did not think this far along in the school year when I set up the individual student sheets, and thus did not leave myself extra places for more than a couple extra bosses. The other issue I had was that each unit is tied to a race of aliens we encounter through our narrative so it would not make much sense for a "robot" boss (matter) to suddenly ask questions about earth systems, for example. 

I was pondering this one morning while on my daily Pokemon Go walk (yes, I still play) when the idea to make shiny bosses came. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a shiny Pokemon is a variant of a regular Pokemon that has a slightly different coloration. It does not give anything new out nor does it have any special attacks, it is simply different. So I set about trying to figure out how to make that happen without having to recreate (copy) a multitude of forms and sheets and do a bunch of work with changing cell references in my evergrowing leaderboard. Most importantly, I did not want to touch the student ranking sheets. So here goes - Fullscreen link




If you are presenting the shiny boss battles as a stand-alone thing for review, you are done, but if like me, you were already pulling data into your leaderboard, you will need to make some other adjustments. 




 As with most of the gamification set-up tasks, the joy for you may be in creating the first shiny boss, and the rest of the process may become tedious, but remember, once done you do not have to do anything other than enjoy your students as they confront the shiny boss. As you see below, the figuring things out ends up being done by Google Sheets so there is no time wasted in looking up individual students to see if they got the shiny boss or not.



What do you think? Any other ideas to make review a part of your game or narrative? I'd love to hear about them.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Foldables or what to do when there are no devices allowed

I am sure that many of you are familiar with the foldable idea. There are books and blogs specifically dedicated to them, and the whole interactive notebook movement is still making the rounds. Although I love the idea, I am more of an #edtech teacher and tend to prefer to find opportunities for students to create digitally. That is until I am absent from the classroom, and I need to find an activity that ties into what we are doing and that will not need the use of devices. Too many times I've been burned by either my sub not knowing the rules of using tech with students or my students taking that absence as an opportunity to be off-task on their devices under the guise of "doing research".

So for those times, I find that foldables are "just right" in that they allow for a bit of scaffolding, but they are easy enough for students to handle without my presence. Unfortunately, every time I need one and do a Google search, I end up with several Pinterest hits that lead to TpT - a site that I prefer to avoid.

Today was one of those days, which spurred the idea of sharing the one that I created this morning for human body systems, along with some others, in case you are in need of them.