30 Days of ChromebookEDU – Day 8

ChromebookeduSo here I am on Day 8 of my MacBook Air detox, AKA, the 30 Day ChromebookEDU Challenge. It’s been a pretty smooth transition – again, I’ve been using Chromebooks for a few years, so there wasn’t any form of a learning curve. In the words of Collin Voigt, it’s been “easy peasy.” Onto my observations:

  1. This thing handles multiple Google accounts REALLY well. If you’re like me, you might have three (3) Google accounts in regular use. On my Mac, I’m constantly logged into all three with main windows and incognito windows, and things get screwy in a hurry. My personal account interferes with my work account and vice versa, and I’m constantly logging in and out. My Chromebook has been far better in this regard. It simply handles my multiple accounts more smoothly, which is a pretty big deal to me.
  2. I miss the brightness of my MacBook Air. Compared to my Chromebook, looking at my MacBook screen was like staring into the sun. So yeah, I miss that. That isn’t to say my Chromebook is dim (it isn’t), but it’s taken some getting used to. (Yes, I realize this is a pretty prime example of #firstworldproblems right here. Guess I should check out the Chromebook Pixel).
  3. Chromebook trackpad = serviceable, but not awesome. I learned this one pretty early on in the process. The trackpad on my Lenovo Chromebook is decent, but it’s a little spotty (apparently I’m picky). I’ve been using the touchscreen a lot (which I love), but I quickly acquired a wireless mouse. That’s helped a ton, although I’ve found it loses connection a few times a day. I’m not sure if it’s the device Bluetooth, the mouse Bluetooth, or the mouse batteries (the investigation is ongoing). But I’m satisfied.
  4. I LOVE the keyboard on this thing. I’m a horrible typist, but I’m much better on the Chromebook. I can’t really pinpoint it…it’s just a more comfortable typing experience. There’s this soothing click click click with the keystrokes that’s pretty therapeutic. Typing on this thing is like eating heavy pasta with cheese and sinking into the sofa to watch a baseball game.
  5. It’s slower than my MacBook. Not by much, but it’s definitely noticeable. This is another #firstworldproblem for sure, but accessing websites and general web-browsing is just a little slower. I’ll stop complaining about this one – it’s more of an observation than a complaint.
  6. Chrome Remote Desktop is the TRUTH. This may or may not be cheating – according to my EdTech counterparts at LFHS – Corey & Laura – this is DEFINITELY cheating, and they lambasted me pretty hard for it. But hey, I was curious. I installed the Chrome Remote Desktop app on my Mac and Chromebook, and I was able to access my Mac from my Chromebook. Setting it up was breeze, and within 2 minutes I had full remote access to my Mac.
Good to see you again!

Good to see you again!

I didn’t need to install Remote Desktop- I was honestly just curious. But it could be really useful in the EDU field, in case there are certain programs you/students just need to access (Minecraft, GarageBand, etc). I’d explore it further, but I’ve had enough of the good-natured ribbing from my counterparts, so I’m throwing in the towel on this one right now.

More to follow, but it’s been fun. 22 days to go!

30 Days of ChromebookEDU

IMG_0229In the spirit of Lake Forest High School’s 1:1 Chromebook rollout for all students, I’m embarking on a new challenge. Over the next 30 days, I’m attempting to answer the question:

Can I use a Chromebook – and only a Chromebook, no other laptops/computers – for all of my professional EDU duties?

Chromebooks aren’t new, and neither is the Chromebook-only challenge. I’ve been using a Chromebook professionally and personally for over two years, but I’ve never devoted myself to it. Well, that’s about to change. If our students can use the Chromebook as their primary education tool, why can’t I? So, let’s do this. Here’s how I prepared:

  1. Took what I needed off of my Macbook Air. I live most of my life in Google Drive, but I often get lazy and save things to the desktop/downloads/whatever of my Mac. I went through and grabbed stuff that I need – mainly links to websites, pictures for TEDx and TED-Ed Clubs, downloaded PDFs, and various other things – and dumped them into a Google Drive folder. Anyone else partake in the bad habit of dragging websites to the desktop instead of bookmarking them or using a Chrome extension? Yeah, I’m that guy.
  2. Dumped my music into Google Play. My iTunes is always on. I took all of my music and created a new library at Google Music. I have a LOT of music, and I could start using Spotify, Pandora or YouTube, but this just seemed easier. Plus a lot of my music consists of Phish AUD recordings or film scores that have been spliced together on Garageband, so I wouldn’t be able to replicate it (I’m picky). So, my music is now in the cloud. And so far, it works great.
  3. Acquired a VGA->HDMI adaptor. Projecting shouldn’t be an issue.
  4. Shutdown my Mac, and stained it with my tears. Goodnight sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Really, that’s about it. I’ll be using the Lenovo Yoga 11e Chromebook – it’s a touchscreen/tablet combo. I’ll update frequently on successes, challenges, workarounds and new ways of doing things. In the words of Michael Scott, “Lets get it started! Black Eyed Crowes.”


TimelineJS 3: A Basic Primer

I just checked out TimelineJS 3 – Knight Lab’s update to the popular and versatile TimelineJS. Spoiler Alert: I really, really like it. Some key upgrades include simpler date entry, BCE support (yay!) and the ability to add background images. Everything just looks glossier and more sleek, of course. Here’s a quick start video about the GAFE friendly tool:


21 things I learned from organizing a TEDxYouth Event

IMG_5312TEDxLakeForestHighSchool dropped on Thursday, April 16th – and all things considered, the event was a huge success. Months of planning culminated in 16 students and 9 community adults gracing our stage, inspiring our small audience, and hopefully starting conversations that matter. Talks included how students would reinvent the high school classroom, LGBT representation in the media, and the reality of reality. I’m especially proud of the students and the work they put into delivering a successful TEDx Talk, and I’m pleased to have played a small role in supporting their ideas and passions.

So, what did I learn? A lot, actually. The entire event was a learning experience for everyone involved, especially for me and the other program co-directors, Joe De Rosa and Laura Grigg. None of us have been to an actual TED Conference, so we didn’t know what an independently-run TEDx event is supposed to look like. Sure, we’ve seen dozens of TED Talks online – but the event as whole? Not sure. We had tons of helpful resources provided by TED, but there’s no substitute for experience. Now we have the experience, and here is what we learned:

  1. Consult the manual at all times. If there’s a question to be answered, the manual will point you in the right direction.
  2. Here’s how most of our ideas went: I think we should do this -> Let’s try it! -> This doesn’t work at all and is a huge disaster -> Okay, let’s take step back and figure this out -> We’ve nailed it!
  3. Be flexible, evaluate everything, and be prepared for evolution. Our stage design radically changed two days before the event, which on paper sounds like we didn’t know what we were doing. But in reality, we received good suggestions and feedback late in the game, realized they were great suggestions, and altered our plans.
  4. Be prepared for many small details that pop up at the tail-end of planning. Stay cool, and dish them off to the right person.
  5. Reach out to sponsors as soon as you can, and have a package firmly outlined. We met many awesome, excited people, and it was a joy to establish relationships with community members. Read the sponsor rules in the manual carefully (it starts on page 36), as there are many.
  6. Find people that are awesome at what they do and enlist their help. We worked with talented adults and students to help with sponsor outreach, event planning, graphic design, signage, printing, media production and stage design – amongst other areas.
  7. If you have a red, circular rug on hand – even if the color doesn’t perfectly match the TED red – use it.
  8. Be as clear as possible with what you want from the speakers. Communicate the expectations, and do your very best to work with the speakers to follow through.
  9. Not everyone knows what a TED Talk really is, and not everyone is cut out to take your stage. Form a speaker committee and carefully vet and select your speakers.
  10. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Work out your tech bugs beforehand so you don’t have any surprises the day of the show (we had audio/mic problems…these will be carefully sorted out and resolved for future events).
  11. 100 invites goes SUPER fast. Between interested students, parents, sponsors, speaker coaches, and school administration, our 100 invites vanished in a hurry. Don’t over-promise, and be as upfront as you can about the official guidelines of your TEDx event.
  12. Pay money for a cool website with professional features. I recommend Weebly – it’s very user friendly and easy on the eyes.
  13. Try not to stress the small stuff. I lost far too much sleep over the t-shirt designs turning out well (happily, they turned out great). In the end, it doesn’t matter. Do you have motivated students, food and a stage? You’ve got the essentials covered.
  14. Over-order the t-shirts. I didn’t order enough smaller sizes and was sheepishly handing out XL shirts to 5’4’’ girls. When in doubt, order a few more – they’ll help in the promotion of the event, are nice keepsakes for event volunteers and people that assist in the planning, and freshman girls won’t be stuck with t-shirts that double as nightgowns.
  15. Watch out for old press releases – an eight-week old press release popped up in a newspaper the day before the event, and that press release listed a different start time. There’s not much you can do about this (issue an updated press release?), but be prepared.
  16. Is your TEDxYouth event being held in a school? (Probably yes). Are there annoucements in the middle of the day that might interrupt a speaker? Plan for that. We didn’t.
  17. Are your TEDxTalks part of a class project? In the weeks leading up the event, allow class time for your student speakers to practice their Talks in front of classmates. Our student speakers were remarkably well-prepared, and many of them practiced delivering their Talks numerous times in Joe De Rosa’s social studies class. It helped immensely.
  18. Try to enjoy the show. If you’re a program director, you’ll likely be running around and not fully soaking up the inspirational Talks on stage. Take a moment, breathe, and enjoy a Talk. Rehearsals may be your best chance to fully embrace the flow of the show, so take advantage of that opportunity as well.
  19. Find trustworthy student volunteers, and let them handle the lionshare of the day-of-event management. They will make it their own. A TEDxYouth event is all about the students – both on-stage and behind the scenes – give them the ball and let them run with it.
  20. Dish out the thank yous, and don’t stop. There are many people that make an event a success, and they deserve to be thanked profusely.
  21. Relish your success. We’ve heard so many nice things and have gotten so many nice emails from students, attendees, teachers and administrators – it’s really quite something. It’s easy to get lost in the things that you wished had gone better/differently, but try and focus on the positives. We delivered an event that will be a lasting memory for these students, and we also provided a platform to move forward with their ideas and passions. And, really, that’s the most important part of the entire process.

New download

By Jimmy Posted in TED

We gamified a Google Search PD session, and it was awesome!

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 2.18.51 PMIt was Monday night in Wisconsin Dells, and my friend Corey and I were putzing around the local Walmart (a couple of devil-may-care scamps painting the town red, clearly). We were leading a session called “Building Digital Literacy Skills with the Amazing Google Scavenger Hunt Challenge” at the Midwest Google Summit the following morning, and we were in search of prizes. We had our resources, we had structure, and we figured prizes for the most successful Googlers made sense (our session was called the Amazing Scavenger Hunt Challenge, after all). As we stood near the pet toys aisle chatting about how to best run the session, we had a thought:

We can do better.

Corey spotted decks of playing cards on an end cap, and he wondered aloud how we could incorporate them into the session. Then the Aha Moment of all Aha Moments struck me – “What if each time a group completed a challenge, they received a random playing card? And the team with the best poker hand at the end of the session is the winning team?”

And thus, our gamified PD session was truly born.

Here’s the basics of our session (the Slide Deck is embedded below – with answers that weren’t there I dished out the Slides, obviously): Inspired by Dan Russell, Google Search Anthropologist, I created a series of Google Search challenges that included evaluating biased websites, utilizing YouTube transcripts, accessing photo EXIF data and exploring royalty-free media. We gave the briefest of intros (many of the attendees had attended Corey’s Google Search 101 session the day before), instructed the attendees to form teams, then released the Slide Deck. Teams made copies of the Slide Deck and shared them with teammates. The rules were few:

  • Teammates must stay on the same slide (no dividing and conquering).
  • The process is just as important as the answer.
  • If they think they have a correct answer, they raise their hands – Corey or I would check their answer and processes, and if correct – they drew a card.

We gave them 30 minutes – and it was a FAST AND FURIOUS 30 minutes. It was hands down the most engaging PD session I’ve ever been a part of. Teams completed 3-7 challenges, but what was amazing about the poker structure was that every team had a chance to have the best hand. Sure, the team with 7 cards had the best chance (spoiler alert: they did not win) – but it was almost like adding a handicap in bowling…which made it more fun. The winning team produced a pair of Aces, and they won a Walmart prize pack of random trinkets.

The most important part was the final 15 minutes of the sessions: the debrief and recap. Participants showcased methods and processes they used to find answers. It was great! Everyone learned some cool new Google tricks and walked away with a Slide Deck ready to adapt in their own classroom. I owe a debt of gratitude to Dan Russell – meeting him and learning about his website, SearchReSearch, was the inspiration for the session (and I even used a few of his old challenges). Check out his site if you have some time, and Google on!

Prevent users from downloading your Google Drive videos

Kudos to Steve Douglass of Lake Forest High School for showing me this one – if you want to post/embed a video stored in your Google Drive, you can do this AND prevent users from downloading your video at the same time. You might not need to do it often, but it’s a neat trick. Simply access the video in your Drive (and you must be the file owner for this to work), select the details button on the right side of the screen, click on details and scroll down until you see the box that says prevent users from downloading. Check that box, and you are all set. Check out the GIF below:

Untitled GIF (2)

Google Forms + Add-ons = An Awesome Event Registration System

GoogleFormLogoI was recently entrusted with the task of creating an online, registration system for 1700 high school students for a neat event we run at Lake Forest High School called “E Day” – a 3-hour program where students choose breakout sessions and experience fun, new ideas in an atmosphere of creativity and community building. Think sessions like guitar jam, yoga, smoking meats, improv theatre, dorm room design – yeah, it’s super fun. Each student needed to register for one breakout session depending on their lunch period. We wanted to use the GAFE tools in-house to see if we could pull off the registration process. The biggest issue to solve: sessions had to be maxed out at individual numbers (like an event selling out). Could we do this in-house and avoid 3rd party websites?

Hello, Google Forms and Add-ons!

I’ll walk you through how we pulled this off, and how we solved one unique problem with an even more unique solution.

  1. Created a website. Here it is in all its glory – depending on what lunch period students had, they were directed to a different area of the site. (Our Google Forms are domain restricted – I needed the username recorded – so you won’t be able to view the linked sign-up sheets). But I’ll explain it below.
  2. Created the mother form. Check it out here – I then copied it about 50 times, because each session needed its own Form. I renamed each Form and put them into separate folders in Drive to help with organization. If you’ve checked out the Form, you are probably wondering two things: Why didn’t you just create one (1) Form and include all 50 sessions as multiple choice options, and why are there so many page breaks? Allow me to explain.
  3. Session maxes. Each session maxed out at a certain number – say, 30 participants. Using a sweet Add-On called formLimiter, I can choose when I went the Form to automatically shut down (hence why we needed 50 different Forms). So when 30 students have registered for a particular session, the Form is no longer accessible for anyone. This Add-On allows you to customize the message and add a URL to this message if someone tried to access it, so mine read:

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 11.07.50 AM

Neat, right? But here is where the unique problem came into play. I had created all of the Forms, set the limits using formLimiter, but one question still nagged me: “If 50 students are all completing a sign-up Form at the same time, and the limit is 30, what happens?” 

So, I tested. Went to a class of 25 students and set a random Form to max out and close down at 10 responses. My worst Form fears came true – all of the students were allowed to complete the Form. It didn’t shut down in time. Although on my end, in the destination response spreadsheet, it only allowed the first 10 people that registered. So, it kind of shut down the responses, but the students registering wouldn’t know this. Ruh Roh.

I had a GHO with my friend Corey, and we talked about it. At some point in our conversation, I said, “If only we could administer some sort of a page refresh while students were on the registration site.” Technically, if the page refreshed and a session had filled up, the form would no longer be accessible – which is what we wanted to happen.

And then, it dawned on us:

Page breaks.

Adding a page break to a Form, in essence, creates a refresh. So I edited my Form, added four page breaks within the registration, and tested again. And, lo and behold, it worked. When my class of test subjects were completing the Form, if they were on Page 3 of the Form and the Form filled up to its max at the same moment, going to Page 4 resulted in the “Sorry, this Session is now filled!” Yes, I was elated. Which moves us onto…

4. Custom email messages to registrants. In each breakout session Form, I used an awesome Add-On called Form Notifications. This allows you to send a customized email to users that complete each Form. So, for example, after a student registered for Dorm Room design, he/she received an automatic email from me that read, “Thanks for registering for Dorm Room Design at 10:10 in Room 83. See you there!”

5. Set the response destination. I changed the response destinations for all of the breakout sessions to go to one Google Spreadsheet. So in the end I had one spreadsheet with 50 different sheets within – this made it super easy to disseminate rosters to individuals running the sessions, and rescued me from applying sharing rights to 50 different spreadsheets.

6. Put it all together. I had all of the Forms linked on separate Google Docs and embedded them into the Google Site, because – at least for me – its easier and faster to edit a Google Doc than a Site.

So, there you have it. For the TL/DR folks: I used Google Forms, the formLimiter and Form Notifications Add-Ons, Google Sites and Google Docs to run a registration event with 50 breakout sessions. Using these tools, you can have Forms close down when they reach a certain number of registrants, and you can set custom emails for each Form to be sent to registrants upon sign-up. Form page breaks are super important if you are expecting numerous people to access these Forms at the same time.

Hopefully that makes sense. Contact me for clarification if you need it – oh, and one more thing. Someone asked me how long it took to build the site and create 50 unique Forms with custom limits and notifications.  Not counting the inevitable touch-ups and whatnot, the process took me all of Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and half of Return of the Jedi. It’s lovely background noise, don’t you think?

9 Tips for Passing Google Educator Exams

Bilbo GoogleAbout to embark on a new adventure? No, I’m not talking about tagging along with a gaggle of dwarves on a quest to reclaim their homeland, or depositing the One Ring into the fiery pits of Mount Doom (Hobbit release week…my apologies). I’m actually referring to the epic journey of passing the Google Apps for Education exams and becoming a qualified Google Educator. You won’t receive a chest of gold or a one-way ticket to the Undying Lands, but you WILL receive a Google-branded certificate solidifying your mastery of GAFE skills, as well as the badge of honor that you are a lifelong learner with a passion for innovation and sharing with others.

Even Aragorn and the entire Middle Earth is impressed with Google Educator certificates!

The Hobbits just passed their Google Educator exams. Job well done, fellas!

A group of Lake Forest High School students have begun the process of becoming Google Educators (because the real goal is for the student to become the teacher, and the teacher to become the student, right?).  As the students take and pass exams (huzzah!), there’s been a few exam-taking strategies that have been working for them. In the spirit of teaching and sharing, I wanted to pass those tips along:

  1. Use all 90 minutes. Don’t get cocky. If you finish with 40 minutes left give yourself a pat-on-the-back, dance a jig and then review your answers. You need an 80% to pass, and your success could come down to 1 or 2 tricky questions. Dive back in and review your work.
  2. Use common sense. Think about the Google philosophy of their apps, and ask yourself, “Does it make sense that Google would offer this feature?”
  3. Know the tool. Yes, file this one next to the shocking revelation that the Pope is Catholic, but knowing the tool will help immensely. If you’ve never used Sites before, make a Site. If you are unfamiliar with more advanced features of Calendar, start using Calendar. Sure, you could go in cold and just look up everything…but remember, you only have 90 minutes per exam. Having a grasp on the tool will help you eliminate answers that don’t seem to work and also allow you to spend more time on the questions you are struggling with.
  4. Try out the skill. Many of the questions are some variation of (depending on the tool, of course): “You wish to copy an event from a colleague’s Calendar to yours. How do you do this?” The question is followed by multiple choice answers. So, what could be more helpful than simply looking up the answer! Actually try it out! Launch Calendar, and do it…then you’ll know you are answering correctly. Which leads to….
  5. Look stuff up. This goes without saying, but of course I’ll say it and write more than I need to. Part of the beauty of the Google exams is that they are “open book” – so have another device, tab or browser open to scour the internet for answers. You’re not only being tested on what you know, but also how quickly you can find, interpret and evaluate information online.
  6. Have two (2) different Google accounts. Google is such a collaborative tool, and SO MANY questions are about sharing, emailing, document permissions, etc. Having two (2) accounts accessible allows you to go back and forth, check out individual permissions, examine the differences between editors and owners, etc. It helps a LOT.
  7. Use the online Help resources. I strongly recommend support.google.com and the App-specific areas at edutraining.googleapps.com –  (check out the table on this Doc with direct links).
  8. Mark it, and come back. Don’t spend 15 minutes on a head-scratcher question (the clock is ticking!). Give it your best shot, click on the Mark icon, and check back in at the end.
  9. It’s okay if you suck. Really, it’s okay if you fail a test. You get to take it again (not immediately, but in 7 days). Learning from mistakes is super important (especially for students), and it may be the most important lesson of all. Take it from the Zuck.

So, there you go. You can access the Certification page here, and soon you’ll be off and running. That Google Educator certificate will soon be yours! And if you are feeling unmotivated, you don’t need to do it for yourself:

Steal My Stuff! Google Apps for Collaboration, Communication and Innovation

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.38.55 AMI recently finished teaching a course amongst colleagues at Lake Forest High School entitled, “Google Apps for Collaboration, Communication and Innovation.” The course description: “Interested in team-based challenges that get you collaborating, communicating and learning within Google Apps with fellow faculty members? This course invites you to get amped about the innovative features of Google Apps – features that promote teamwork and differentiation, and can be immediately integrated into your classroom with your students.”

The course was a smashing success – we met six (6) times, with four (4) of these meetings taking place over 90-minute Google Hangouts. I’ve linked the Google Hangout activities below – the general structure of the Hangouts was a 10-20 minute intro/demo by me, and then groups of 3 or 4 teachers broke off into their own smaller Hangouts and collaborated on a Google Slide Deck for 40-50 minutes. We then came back together at the end of the nightly session for a large group Hangout, and the groups presented their Slide Decks and showcased what they created and learned. I loved the format – a lot of the participant feedback at the end of the course revolved around the engagement level, structure and how the Hangouts just flew by. I’ve linked the four (4) Hangout activities below – feel free to make copies, use, amend, pillage, plunder, etc. I owe a MASSIVE debt of gratitude to Google Teacher Academy, CUE and Dan Russell – pretty much everything we did at GTA revolved around teamwork and collaboration, and I’ve since modeled my faculty development and student activities on this collaborative format. Contact me with questions about any of this stuff – cheers, and #stealmystuff!

Peer Review through Screencasting

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 9.56.45 AMI love trying out new ideas with students – taking a traditional activity and reshaping and enhancing it using the digital tools that are readily available. So when it was time for an 11/12th grade AP Environmental Science class to evaluate their peer water quality projects, we (the teacher, a fellow instructional coach and I) asked ourselves, “How can we make this process better and elicit truly awesome and helpful feedback?” Here’s what we came up with:

The idea: Student-created screencast evaluations of a peer’s digital project.

A little background: Students sampled water quality of the Chicago River. They analyzed organisms, performed a chemical analysis, made conclusions and reported their findings. Students chose the digital mediums for which to present their findings (popular mediums included Weebly, Piktochart and Smore).

The peer evaluation process: Students submitted the links to their finished projects via a Google Form. Students were given editing rights to the destination Google Sheet, and the teacher assigned peer review partners. Students were given a paper copy of the evaluation rubric and spent 10-15 minutes combing through their peer’s project (hopefully taking copious notes in the process).

The digital component: We are a GAFE district, and we walked students through the process of installing the Snagit App and Extension for Google Chrome (Snagit allows for simple screencast creation, and it saves the video directly in your Google Drive. Huzzah!). Students did a quick microphone test to make sure the video saves directly into their Drive. (Tech note: Make sure to run the test. We were in a lab, so the students had to Sign-in to Chrome from the browser settings and accept numerous Snagit terms/conditions…and the computers were behaving differently (this would be undoubtedly easier on a Chromebook or personal device). Make sure to run the test!). If the student was able to save a video with sound to their Drive, they’re ready to record.

The recording: Students strapped on their headsets and launched into the recording. They used their notes, clicked and paged around their peer’s project, and when they were finished they pasted the link to this Drive-hosted video on the project Google Sheet in the column next to their peer’s project.

The results: At the risk of using hyperbole, it was the best dang peer feedback I’ve ever heard. I made that conclusion very quickly – just walking around and listening to the students record live was a marvel to behold (the teacher also was impressed with the students’ focus, engagement and willingness to fully examine another student’s work) . The students’ opinions and analysis was thorough, in-depth, thoughtful and honest. The finished screencasts ranged from 3 – 9 minutes.

Other thoughts: The very detailed rubric is a MUST for this activity. Just having the students create a screencast and giving thoughts of the top of their head would have been a disaster. By having the students double down by completing the rubric first gave them a lot of time to reflect and put their thoughts together. And – without realizing it – the students were also self-reflecting on their own projects in a way, especially if they were evaluating a digital medium that they didn’t choose. Choosing the right medium for a project is super important, and the students will hopefully be more educated when selecting digital mediums in the future.

Student thoughts: The students weren’t entirely sold. After reflecting on this peer review process, the feelings were decidedly mixed. Here are some student opinions about peer review screencasting:

  • “I prefer written feedback – it’s easier to go back and look at, so you don’t have to search when going back.”
  • “Recording and talking made it easier to share your thoughts…face-to-face you might be overly nice and less honest.”
  • “In conversations people can get defensive.”
  • “Writing peer feedback is simple and easier. Screencasting was overly complicated.”
  • “It’s better to have a conversation, but with a screencast you can review.”

So..reaction was mixed. I suspect it was the doubling-down aspect (completing the rubric first AND then recording) which made the peer review seem kind of cumbersome (not to mention they were in the same room as their peer while recording). But honestly, after reviewing the students’ video it was the BEST across-the-board peer feedback I’ve ever heard. I would totally do this again.

Oh – one final benefit of this process – I’ve been a part of situations where students turn-in digital projects and a decent amount of them don’t work (either the student sent the wrong link, the sharing settings are off, etc). Because another student had to examine the project from a spreadsheet first, if the link was not-functioning it had to be immediately fixed. So when it comes time for the teacher to grade, you can be sure that all the links work because they’ve already been independently checked. Awesome!