Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Using Google Forms and an iPad to increase efficiency with observation systems, including Danielson's FTT

Let’s start with admitting that I could use a bit of a marketing lesson when it comes to using kitsch to help get people onto the blog.  Truthfully, I tend to get very practical when it comes to titling files, folders, tags, etc. so that I’m least likely to lose them in what’s become a happily voluminous store of resources.  I can also say that although I have a bit of theory to get to throughout this post, practicality is at the essence of this post, so I think the dry, functional title is perfect.

If you’re curious about the essentials of my beliefs on teacher observation and evaluation work, read my last post here here.  The work I’m explaining helped served a definitive need in my supervisory roles, but it’s only a piece of the puzzle that I’ve laid out in the other post.    

I am a huge fan of collaboration when reflecting on what’s working - and not - in classrooms.  As a teacher, I shared a double-period class for a large chunk of my career.  Even with a partner and a close-knit grade-level team, I still wanted my principal and AP to come in to see and comment on what we were doing.  They never came, but that was before principal evaluations and accountability took hold and before teacher evaluation was so politicized.  As a department chair and assistant principal, I’ve worked hard to get into classes and offer observations, feedback and supportive reflections as much as possible; I was never able to make it in as often as I’d like - or as often as some of my teachers needed.  What I’m going to explain comes in the context of both my believing that observation and evaluation systems can inform the improvement of teachers’ practices and the reality that many places, like NYS, are mandating that administrators are in classes more often than many of them currently are.  Turning all leaders into instructional leaders is a huge shift.  For some, who have always been more operational leaders, it is going to be a logistic and a philosophical shift.  For those who have always seen themselves as instructional leaders, being able to give enough specific and usefully collected feedback to make an impact on instructional efficacy has always been tough.  Hopefully, this effort via Google Forms will be able to help.

In February, my eyes lit up when I saw this Blake Konny (@blakekonny, of post about using Google Forms to help with teacher evaluation.  He essentially lays out a method of to create a Form that observers can fill out anytime they go into a classroom.  The results would populate a spreadsheet - as all Google Forms do - and the embedded script would automatically send an email with my observation notes to the teacher who was just observed.   Wow.  Slam dunk.  To an extent...

This tool won’t / shouldn’t:
- be the only tool used in observing teachers
- replace narrative descriptions about what happens inside classrooms
- work very well without follow-up discussions
- do you much good unless you adapt the form to your school’s needs and expectations
- work without a bit of work.  It’s great once you get it going, but watch Blake’s video carefully.

This process will:
- allow you to adapt any of the forms here to your school’s observation expectations
- serve as a starting point for more adaptive conversations regarding teachers’ practices
- allow you to sort information over time by department, grade level, individual teacher, observer, etc, so that trends can be established and PDs can be tailored to individual’s needs.
- quickly collect a good amount of information  
- get feedback to your teachers as quickly as possible
- track observation data across a year’s time to help with seeing improvement for the purpose of yearly evaluation writing.  

So, in addition to Blake Konny’s amazing instructional video about how to set up the forms and the emailing script, he provides a version of the form that he’s used with his school.  I will include my templates as well for you to copy and use.  What you’ll need to do is go under the “file” menu and click “make a copy” so that you can use the form for your school with your teachers’ emails.  

The first template, which you’ll find here, includes some items that I took from Blake and some items that stem from PD work we did at my last school.  This second one, though, is the piece I think you might be most excited about.  I set up a form with reference to all of the language from Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching.  Personally, I think it’d be a lot to observe at once, but you could go to classes with a focus on a particular domain or two and have this very nicely track your data.   Most of NY and a lot of states and districts around the country have adopted the Framework as their observation rating tool and system of teacher-practice benchmarks.  Now that I’m in Massachusetts, I should begin crafting one for the new rubric they've just adopted via Research for Better Teaching.  

If, by the way, you're looking at the three links above and wondering why they brought you to blank spreadsheets, that's what Google Forms will populate once you fill out the surveys. You will first have to make your own copy of the forms. Then, if you click on "Form" and "Go to Live Form," you'll see the survey that'll eventually be on your devices' homepage so that you can fill it out while in classrooms. Here's what each of those spreadsheets looks like in survey form:  

I’ve brushed over two bits of technology that I was already somewhat familiar with.  If you’ve never used a Google Form, I can’t say enough about them.  They’re really easy to use and - of course - fully integrated with Google Drive, meaning that everything’s (the form and spreadsheet) right there for future access.  Here are a few links to read and watch first if you’d like.  To get the survey onto your iPad or iPhone is also only a few quick steps away.  From the “form” menu, use “send form” to email it to yourself.  Open the link from the device you’ll want to use and follow the instructions here to put it onto your phone’s home screen.  It’s the same for an iPad, but the “Share Button” is just to the left of the URL bar in Safari.  Yes, by the way, I believe you’ll have to open the link with Safari in order to save it as icon on IOS.  I don’t have one, but - as described here - doing this on an Android device seems easy enough as well.