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Observations & Conversations : Part 1 of many?

I kinda run on some basic principles when using IT -- it's gotta be free, increase teacher efficacy (modulo some smal learning curve), reduce time spent, it's got to digitize content and I have to be able to to work with the data to find meaning.
So every other year we get inspected by the Ministry of Education and her most recent feedback has been that we need a way to record evidence of observations and conversations in our classes -- and provide a structure for how they are included in the grades of our students.  Now we have read Growing Success (link to PDF), the guide to assessment & evaluation in our province and we thought we were doing really well with discussions, debates, Harkness, one-on-one conversations, videorecordings, student screencasts, Flipgrids, well, you name it.

But NO.  She wanted evidence of incidental noticings, conversations-in-passing -- those ephemeral interactions with students that build up our gut-instincts of what a student knows and doesn't yet know, and what causes us to pause when we look at a test or report mark that isn't in line with what we feel about our student.  Well -- this is hard to capture because it happens in the moment.  We're trying to record it after-the-fact, after class, after school but by its definition, it's in-the-moment.  And there are a lot of them; they happen continuously with every interaction with students.
Here's what I've put together as a result:
It's an app -- a very simple app that

  1. Allows you to take a picture (not required)
  2. Choose a student from the current class
  3. Choose between either the course's general expectations (standards) or the Learning Skills we also have to report on
  4. Assign a score of 0 (not scored) to 5 (far exceeds expectations) in case you want to use it for evaluation
  5. Write an open entry 
The SAVE saves the content from the screen to an Excel file (the picture goes to a Picture library). 
CLEAR resets the student name and score but not the Picture, Expectation/Learning Skill or comment in case you were working with two or more students on a problem and want to add similar content to another student.
X resets everything.

Now this does nothing more than do what other apps already do, except it gives me direct access to the data in an Excel spreadsheet. Once it's in Excel I can now work with the data; I can pull it into PowerBI, connect it to my markbook, etc.  
What I can also do is connect it to my student list and ask the spreadsheet my most important question:
Who have I missed?  Who did I not record an observation on?  
It's very easy to get data, and a lot of data, but it's really hard to recognize that you're missing data!  One of my biggest fears is missing something or someone and not valuing their contribution.  It's one reason why I use Random Seating & Grouping and use a checklist when asking questions in class so everyone talks at least once in each class.
So this is what we're trying to capture those passing observations & conversations we have with students.  Being on the phone makes it mobile & quick; students are already used to me using the phone for capturing content (see my earlier work with Learning Skills here).  Being in Excel means I can work with data in any way I want and ask questions.  Down the road, I can use things like sentiment analysis -- what kind of language do I use to describe students? Is there a bias present? How do I phrase things? Once data is in Excel, you can start to ask the questions -- if it's just in your gut, well, it's tougher to do.


Ryder Jack said…
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