Friday, January 10, 2014

The Wisdom of Classrooms

I have begun reading a fantastic book called "The Wisdom of Crowds," by James Surowiecki. In it, the author states that the conclusions arrived at collectively by a group are more reliable than those made by individuals, even expert individuals. This has inspired me to apply what I'm learning to my teaching practice.

I have also been watching the fantastic PD videos produced by the Educational Services Department at my school board. The video below is a short activity for writing a summary, which is a skill we will be focusing on.
I have modified the activity slightly, to have students include more than a single word on each slip of paper. Eventually, I will be having them pare down what they're doing to a single word. They will then be writing a short summary using what they've chosen. You can see the full lesson plan here.

But the book has suggested that the class can likely come up with the best selections through a collective process. And what's great for data collection and analysis? My mind immediately raced to a Google Form, and a script called formRanger.

Using the script, and the instructions +John Calvert created on his blog, I've put together a form that will live-update itself. That means that as students enter their choices for the best pieces of information from the story, the form will update to include those as options for the next form submission. This is critical, because I want to avoid having duplicate submissions in the "Other" box. I've run into problems with duplicates when using Socrative with my class. I'm sure there are ways of avoiding this, but I love playing with Google Drive at any opportunity.

And the reason to avoid duplicates? The script will also tally how many times each item has been selected. Using this data, I have the spreadsheet create a graph of the responses and their frequency. The graph is also live-updating, meaning it will show the new choices as they are added, and calculate the most popular. I have embedded the chart here.


As a class, we will be examining the overall selections that the class has made. I want them to determine the criteria by which we collectively selected the key points, since that goes to the process of writing a summary for anything, not just this particular story.

I've embedded the form below. Please feel free to try it out (this is a test copy that I used for debugging, so don't worry about throwing off the results). Fill it out, then take a look at the graph above - it should change to reflect your input. Items that you chose from the list will increment by one, and any new items will appear on the graph.