The latest issue of C&RL News, (October 2012, Vol 73 no. 9), contains an article I wrote on Google Spreadsheets and Real Time Assessment. I have been wonderfully overwhelmed with the daily email responses. So, a huge thanks to all those busy librarians that took the time to read it.
Due to the responses and inquiries, I thought I would put together a little FAQ here that would include information on some of the more frequent questions, some work-arounds and future suggestions. I did not include all of the practical information about HOW to create this spreadsheet in the article, because the article was more about how and why I got around to using the spreadsheet. The practical details are included in a Google document that is linked to in the article and right here. If you plan to use this method in your classroom for the first time, it's imperative that you review this document in order to avoid common pitfalls.
FAQ for using Google Spreadsheets for Real Time Assessment
Q. What if my students don't have Google Accounts?
A. Your students don't need Google accounts. You just need to make it public AND editable for anyone with the link. Check out #6 in Shannon's 10 Steps to Creating a Google DRIVE Spreadsheet for Real Time Assessment.
Q. I copied the link and changed it to a tiny URL but the students still can't edit the document.
A. Make sure you carefully read through Shannon's 10 Steps to Creating a Google Drive Spreadsheet (above), paying close attention to everything detailed in #6. You need to make sure that anyone with the link can EDIT the document.
Q. I was thinking of assessment as more about how the session went, or how to assess my instruction. Is there some way I could incorporate that into the spreadsheet?
A. As a matter of fact, there is. If you feel super confident with Google Drive options then you could create an assessment survey of your spreadsheet assessment. Seems pretty meta, right? This is how it would work, and I've actually done it. Before class you create a Google Survey. You can pick out a nice looking template and everything. Just ask a few short questions, like,What did you learn? and What are you still unclear about? and perhaps a space for them to enter an email address so you can get back to them. You can then copy and paste the link to the survey into each student's row in the spreadsheet. If you leave enough time at the end of class, (does anyone EVER have enough time at the end of class?) then you can attempt to answer their questions as they come in. A spreadsheet will self-create in Google Drive showing responses to the survey. The responses will also be in real time.
Q. Are you available for parties?
A. Yes, but I insist on bringing my guinea pig, Valentino. He has a tux, and does not bite.
Q. I think my students might cheat off each other if I do this.
A. One of the ways that you can avoid this, is to make sure that the students each have their own individual research topic, or assign them separate topics to research. I recently had a group from a typography class that had yet to figure out their topics. Normally I'm not thrilled at this prospect, however, I gave them some fun, more notorious typographers to research. (Like, the creator of Comic Sans, ack!.) They ended up having fun with it and they were pretty engaged. (I only gave them the names of the type designers and not what they actually designed. That made things fun.)
Q. This sounds good, but I'm a little nervous about trying it in a live classroom.
A. Try it with colleagues first. It really does take some getting used to, so I would let out a little lead with a couple of other instruction librarians before attempting this in front of a live audience. It will ease your worries and provide more benefit to the students.
Q. I'm thinking about using this for an online course.
A. I think that's a great idea! Especially if the class meets online all together at a certain time. I think that would be an ideal way to conduct an instruction session. That said, you will have to do even more multi-tasking in order to keep up. I think you'll have to be fairly organized. Now, if the class does not meet all together, I think this has the potential to be a nice way to monitor their research progress. I've never used this online, so I'd love to hear how it goes!
Q. I had my students working in groups and one group deleted the work of the other students!
A. That's awful! I've never had that happen on purpose, but I suppose that is a potential pitfall. Since you most likely know which student(s) had which topics, you can tell who is deleting. One solution might be to require them to do the other student's research before leaving the classroom.
Q. Can the students access the spreadsheet after class?
A. Yes, and the professor can embed it in their courseware if they feel brave.
One of the benefits I'm finding from using the spreadsheet this semester, is that no matter how much my instruction changes, I can easily change the spreadsheet tasks right along with it. It's also an easy way to throw together a last minute session. Feel free to drop me a line and let me know how things worked out for you! Thanks for reading! firstname.lastname@example.org