Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My book is getting chunky

No, the book has not gained weight. It's still at a svelte 136 pages of pure learning fun....

But my publisher has started a new program with my book as one of it's pilots- Maupin House a la carte. Through this program you'll be able to download small chunks of my book for $3.95 each. The packs are separated as shown below and you can head here to buy some of the chunks. Hope you enjoy and I hope this helps you use more digital tools to help your students collaborate, create, and publish!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to create a word cloud from Google Form surveys

I just posted this post about the word cloud I created from a Google Form survey I sent students and then realized others might want to know how to do this. It's actually not all that difficult and is a great way to start conversations around student (or anyone's) input from a Google Form. Here are the steps:

1. Create a survey that allows users to use their own words. You can do a word cloud from free-form or paragraph type responses but my gut tells me it's probably best to limit the responses. For example, don't ask for an open-ended response, but instead 3-5 words that describe feelings or requests. This will allow your eventual word cloud to be more focused and "hit" on common words.
2. Send the survey out to folks you want to respond. If sending to students, give reminders of checking spelling- the word cloud will not work correctly or as powerfully if words are misspelled.
3. Collect responses. As responses come in, check them to see if any of the ideas need editing to be more cohesive. For example, the students I surveyed used words such as "challenging" "be challenged", or just "challenge". I edited these responses to all read as "challenging" so that the word cloud would pick up that singular concept. You may need to edit some phrases as well. For example, I had students say they wanted things to be "hands on". In Wordle, that would separate those words and they'd lose their meaning. To fix this, put a ~ sign in between words in phrases. This links them together for Wordle to interpret as a phrase.
4. After responses have been collected and edited, inside Google Forms, click on File -> Make a copy... It is this new copy that you'll use to single out the words you need for the word cloud.
5. Delete all columns except for the one that contains the information you'd like to make the word cloud out of.
6. Click File --> Download as... and download as a pdf. In the options box that pops up, UNCHECK "Repeat Row Headers on each page". Then click "Export".
7. Open a web browser and go to wordle.net. Click "Create"
8. Copy the information out of the pdf and paste it into the first box in Wordle. Click Go. The word cloud will be created.
9. You may have to click on some language options to make it look better- go to Language and click on "Guess case for each word".
10. Change layout and colors to however you'd like and save the image by taking a screenshot or just printing.

That's it! Hope you find this helpful.

UPDATE: This seemed to gather some interest when I threw it out to Twitter, so I made a quick little screencast for those visual learners out there! (sorry for the low volume, I didn't have my regular microphone with me):

What our students hope for

There are very exciting changes happening at my school (JN Fries Middle) next year- we will be converting from a traditional middle school to a magnet school with 2 programs: STEM and International Studies (are in the process of applying to be an International Baccalaureate school). We will serve about half as many students (435), will have a lot of new technology flowing into the building, and the best part of all is that our leadership team truly gets to think outside of the box and create the school we'd love to work in.

As part of this process, I've been pushing for more and more student voice in our decision-making process. You can't claim to be a student-centered school if you don't involve students from the very beginning.... In an effort to do this, I created a quick, optional Google Forms survey and sent it out to our students. (Take a look). The main thrust was in three questions:

  • Write 3-5 words that describe what you hope JN Fries will be like
  • Write 3-5 words that describe what you hope to DO at JN Fries next year
  • Are you interested in coming in with other students to speak to our leadership team about what types of things you'd like to see happen at JN Fries next year?
I loved the responses I got! I decided to make a Wordle Word Cloud of the first two questions to share with our leadership team and I thought I'd share them here as well:

What our future students hope JN Fries will be like:

What our future students hope they will DO:
I'll also be contacting the students that were willing to come and talk to us soon so we can get their input into their new school. Looking forward to it!

Instead of Content Objectives, how about Process Objectives?

One movement I've seen sweeping through every district I've worked in is the content objectives movement. In case it's not happening near you, this is when teachers are expected to post the content objectives each day for their students to easily see. These might look like this:

Language Objectives
1. Students will learn about how descriptive language paints a picture for the reader.

Math Objectives
1. Students will learn the formula for the solving the area of a triangle.
2. Students will learn how to determine the slope of a given line.

These are just some quick examples of the types of content objectives that are most likely posted in thousands of classrooms across the nation as I type this. I am a big fan of objectives, objective writing, and creating paths to mastering objectives (especially a big fan when students are able to write their own....but that's another post).

But what would a classroom look like if it shifted away from content objectives toward process objectives? How would business be conducted each day? How would it impact student assessment? How would it help blur the rigid boundaries of subjects we currently work within? How could it open things up? It's an interesting thing to think about. Consider these types of objectives:

1. Students will debate their ideas in an effort to build common ground.
2. Students will build a model of their thinking.
3. Students will work together to uncover myths and misconceptions.
4. Students will tear apart and rebuild an idea/object/argument.

These are intentionally wide-open, just to start thinking about how these kinds of posted objectives could impact a classroom. With these kinds of objectives, students are forced into action. Students are forced to think. Students are forced to make decisions. Students are forced to fail, problem solve, and attempt to solve. Students are given choice and freedom. Teachers would be forced to let go. Teachers would be forced to authentically assess processes instead of straight content (not nearly as easy...).

Would your students be more engaged if process objectives were the norm instead of content objectives?