I was asked a great question recently by a colleague. She has read about how I'm using Google Forms embedded in my blog for my students to do a daily math problem. I also have my students on Edmodo, and I occasionally give them quizzes and assignments through that.
Her question prompted me to turn a critical eye towards my methodology. I thought about my learning objectives and my students' learning experience, and I've made a few conclusions. There are pros and cons for each method, and I'll attempt to list a few here.
If you haven't yet read my posts on embedding forms and blogs into weebly, I recommend you take a few minutes to skim it over. Or you can just head over to my weebly site and take a look (although I've restricted the form component to members of my school board, so you won't be able to see that part).
Google forms have a few distinct advantages that set them apart.
- They are incredibly easy to share: when I make a Form, it's easy. I can simply add others as viewers, commentators or authors. This allows easy reuse and remixing, and is totally in line with my teaching philosophy (of openness and collaboration). Edmodo doesn't have any way to easily share quizzes or assignments between teachers, and even their helpful workaround hasn't worked for me.
- Because they're all in the Google family, forms work well with docs, sheets, and drawings. It's also very easy to embed images and YouTube videos. Linking images to URLs means you don't have to download and upload images - just copy and paste the address (and please be sure you're not violating copyright!)
- By installing scripts, you can augment the basic functions of forms and create powerful tools. I use formlimiter and flubaroo all the time, and there is no end to the number of scripts you can find. And if you're adventurous, you can even write your own scripts to customize what functions you want to automate. That may be a little beyond the average user, but the potential is there. I use a script called formlimiter to automatically close the form to responses at a predetermined date and time. This works well, because the questions appear and disappear according to a schedule I've set up in advance.
- It's also very easy to work with the data collected by the form. Because it's in a spreadsheet, you can use all sorts of powerful commands to manipulate the data. Want to know the class average? Easy. Want to import the data into another spreadsheet? No problem. Want to find the entry for a particular date that matches a student's username? There's a command for that. Conditional formatting, sorting, and many other tools are available without the need to copy the data into another format.
There are a few drawbacks, though. It can be time consuming to set up each form if you have to do a lot of them. I use them daily with my math class, and there's quite a bit of front-end and back-end work that students never see. Installing scripts, grading, and transferring grades into whatever gradebook you're using takes time.
Which leads me to discuss Edmodo.
The main strength of the Edmodo platform lies in its simplicity.
- Make a quiz, assign it, and you're good to go. Grades are automatically calculated (for multiple choice, matching and fill in the blank questions), and they appear in the gradebook.
- This also gives students formative assessment by giving them real-time data about their comprehension. It is easy for teachers to check the progress of the whole class or individual students.
- I really like the integration of the LaTeX markup language for math. It is easy to format questions that require complex math layout (such as exponents or integrals). Using Google Drive, the solution I have implemented is to embed an image of the math. This works, but it's not efficient and doesn't allow you to edit the math in-situ.
But Edmodo doesn't facilitate sharing among teachers with nearly the same ease as Google Drive.
I work with a few other math teachers, and we each have to create our own quiz when assessing our students. Right now, we are using a Google doc as a repository for the test questions and answers, which allows the easy real-time sharing and communication (I absolutely adore the comment functionality), but there is a lot of time wasted duplicating work.
Edmodo also requires students to have only that one page of content appear in their browser window. Students can have other windows open with other content, and for most teachers this is a non-issue. However, I use an embedded form in the daily math blog, which lets students see the entire post - including the questions - all in the same place. It's a small difference, but I like that students can still see the big picture, or refer to earlier questions. Cumulative problem-solving (where a response builds on earlier answers) can be simplified, and reinforce the skills I want students to build. I often break a complex word problem into pieces, and it helps to have all the parts in the same place when it comes time to build on them.
In conclusion, I use both Edmodo and Google Drive regularly in my classroom. Each has strengths that serve my students. Which one to choose is a result of my learning objectives for the activity. I'm the kind of person who just can't resist tinkering with something, and I love the ability to play with scripts, but I also tend to break things before I can improve them.
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