I am a huge fan of Google Docs. I expend a lot of energy trying to convince other members of staff to utilise its collaborative power in their lessons. The hypocrisy has never been lost on me. I have never used it in a lesson myself. Until today.
As a Maths teacher, I have always been able to convince myself that Google Docs has greater applications in other subjects. Trying to incorporate Google Docs into a relatively inspiring non-spreadsheet-based Maths lesson has always struck me as a little bit of a challenge. You can only imagine my delight then, when I realised that I was scheduled to be teaching ‘Designing an effective questionnaire’ to my Year 7 class. Of all of the topics Maths teachers are forced to teach, this one is pretty much a nailed-on-certainty to provide at least a few calls of ‘what’s this got to do with Maths?’. Ideal.
After a little planning, I decided to give it a go.
My students had signed up for a Google account prior to the lesson, so I placed a link to a Google Spreadsheet on the class wiki. They were charged with answering the 6 questions next to their names (blanked on the video for obvious reasons). Unsurprisingly, one of them realised that whatever they typed in appears on everybody’s screen and I was promptly faced with a short barrage of hi, hey xx, lol and <3 cells. After the initial excitement subsided, some semi-useful data was collected ready for analysis later, all in only 1 minute. Look out for the confused soul who wrote ‘i dont know’ in the formula bar and other ‘anomalies’. The video was made using Screenr.com to record my laptop screen.
Students were presented with the timeless ‘Mr Riley’s Questionnaire‘ worksheet. After a short discussion and a couple of examples, the students were given the task of filling in one of the simplest Google Forms ever created, on which they were to explain the problems with each of the questions on the sheet. Of course the results were beamed back to my computer in a handy Google spreadsheet. Google Forms really are a superb tool.
Now for the creative bit. The students were given ten topics to design questions for using their own Google Forms – which I had to briefly show them how to use. They were under strict instructions to make sure that their resultant spreadsheet was shared with me before starting so I could access their work, which we just about managed. Given the simplicity of Google Forms it wasn’t a surprise to see how quickly they picked it up. To make sure they stayed on task, they were told that their questionnaires would be shared with the whole class at the end. It all worked fairly well, but we were never likely to have enough time to share them at the end.
And so it proved. There was nowhere near enough time left for this part. Ofsted would not have been happy. I was more than content. There were plenty of ideas left in the tank for the consolidate activity, even for another lesson or two. It would have been really nice to have the students test their questionnaires with each other, but that may have to wait. Lots of data had been collected, I had lots of evidence all in one place and the students had encountered something new. I was left contemplating what to do with all the information.
There is a lot of potential for the use of Google Docs within Maths, especially within the topic of data collection, processing and presenting. We didn’t have chance to utilise the data collected at the beginning of the lesson, but a similar data collection session could be used to introduce any data presentation method - frequency tables, bar charts or scatter graphs for example. It undoubtedly requires careful planning in advance but certainly helps introduce a real life element into students’ Maths lessons. Now for completing our Google Apps deployment…