I have been up on Schoology for about three years. I love the platform and the fact that we are all-in as a school this year makes things even more interesting. At the same time, I have been set in my ways when it comes to the grade book and the test functions more specifically. Part is my own reluctance to part ways with Jupiter, a gradebook I’ve used for years and may continue to, despite its recent change to a pay-platform; part is the strength of Google Apps for Education, Forms in particular. I have used Forms for all kinds of feedback from self evaluation to formative and summative assessments. I made it this far without feeling that I needed or even wanted to branch out into the Test/Quiz Function on Schoology.

I decided to give the Tests/Quizzes function a test run for three reasons this week. First, my students need some “drill-and-kill” on the preterite tense. Second, I wanted to use a tool that would allow me to customize questions and give students immediate feedback. Third, the year is winding down and I am interested in exploring tools for 2015-16.

I jumped right in with two Spanish 1 classes Monday. Curiously, what I witnessed was different than what I saw from Google Forms + Flubaroo or other third party Spanish learning sites like Conjuguemos or Colby Spanish Grammar. I wonder why? Is there an intimacy with an LMS that can feel betrayed when feedback comes through. (“But…but you just were supposed to give me the assignment…not grade me on it!”) The feedback wasn’t any faster or colder than it is on any other  platform, however my students’ reaction was markedly different.

Here is what I saw.

  • Autocorrect is the new go-to excuse, the “dog” of the early 20th century and the printer of the latter 20th century. What if we used this as an opportunity to think about adding keyboards to a mobile device (we were using iPhones, iPads and Windows phone) and laptops. There is a lesson in getting the language right, and there may be additional lessons about the different character systems in different languages.
  • Close enough? As my father used to say “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” In the study of a modern foreign language, precision matters. Patterns matter. Spelling matters. “But it’s just one letter,” they said. The difference of “fox” and “box” and “lox” and “pox” is just one letter too, but I would not want to get those mixed up! Why did students see this in greater relief in this format than any other? I’m not certain, but I know they did.
  • I had some interesting conversations about the angle accent marks, even though students in Spanish 1 have seen them all year. Again, what makes a digital assessment different than a paper one or even a digital writing activity? For the record, in Spanish it is “é” not “è” or “ê” or “ë” or “ē.”
  • Student appreciated and acted on immediate feedback; but I don’t think they would report that they “like” it. The cycle of completing and then cutting the cord with work seems to make students comfortable. The immediacy of feedback in this form has an impact. Think about it: a coach doesn’t wait until tomorrow to make suggestions for improvement, it’s today. New, easy-to-use tools give teachers the same opportunity.
  • I witnessed lots of questioning and not a little cringing. Why are they more hesitant to hit send than turn something into me? The red and green of it? The immediacy of it? The lack of human contact?
  • Students seemed to see things in stark relief and in greater detail. In many respects this feedback loop reminds me of what I see when we do speech-to-text readings/dictations using Dragon. Apps are unflinching in the feedback, and this seems to surprise students.

I’m sure there will be more reactions this week as I experiment. I can report that day 2 was less of a shock to the system than day 1. Let’s hope that the tools continue to improve and that students and teachers leverage them towards improvement in all possible areas.