Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Don't Forget to Write!

I have just finished grading my first set of paperless lab reports.  This was high on my to-do list for this school year, so it feels like a major accomplishment that, by the tenth day of school, I have tried something that I really wanted to attempt.  Like all new ventures, there were highs and lows.

First the things I loved:

I used the Google Add-ons Doctopus and Goobric to create student and teacher folders in our Drives and send out the lab report template.  These add-ons are awesome; I loved that the whole process is so nicely organized.  Using Doctopus creates a tidy spreadsheet where the links to all the lab reports are accessible for grading.  Goobric allows me to use a rubric to evaluate the work and then Goobric automatically pastes the rubric onto each student's report.  So slick!

I wrote this summer about my transition to a new rubric based on the PARCC rubric for analytic writing.  I turned that rubric into my Goobric.  I liked using this new and improved rubric to evaluate the work.  Much more detailed than what I have used in the past, this new rubric improved my eye for critical details.

And, of course, they are all typed.  No sloppy, messy, I-am-going-blind-trying-to-read-this reports.  No ketchup stains.  No spiral notebook edges.  No pink ink.  No arrows.  No scratch-outs.  They all looked great!

Now some hurdles to overcome this year:

It took me longer to grade the work this way.  Noticeably longer.  Maybe because I was doing it a new way, with a new rubric.  Maybe I will be able to speed up with practice.  Adding time to my grading time was not on the to-do list.

I am struggling with how to make comments.  I started by using the commenting feature in Google Docs, but when the documents are embargoed for grading (student editing access is turned off), the students cannot see those comments.  Argh!  There is a space at the end of the rubric for comments, but I want to be able to add them in to the appropriate place in the report.  I settled for typing them right into the report in a different color ink.  There has to be a quicker way.  Less feedback - or worse feedback - was also not on the to-do list.

This last one might sound crazy.  It turns out that, while I am glad that they are easy to read because they are typed, I feel like I am missing a little something too because they are all typed.  With a handwritten document, I feel like I learned a little something about the student as I read the paper.  When it was sloppy or perfect or minimalist or vebose, I knew more about them as people.  At least I knew who liked ketchup!  But, seriously, when I was done with this mountain of grading, I don't feel like these reports made as much of an impression on me as reports have in the past.  I can't really say which lab groups did really interesting experiments or whose work impressed me most.  Much has been written lately about how important handwriting is for learning.  I feel like I lost some of my learning with the loss of their handwriting.  And, if something has been lost for me, has something been lost in their learning too?

It's only Day 11 of the school year, so it's too soon for judgment.  I am excited to try it again.  I am looking forward to perfecting the process and reflecting on the outcomes.  Perfecting and reflecting are added to the to-do list.

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