Technology that aids inclusion and community

Technology that aids inclusion and community

One of the advantages of having worked in communications for ten years is that I have a wealth of experience and knowledge of online technologies. I’ve been experimenting using some of them to build community and aid inclusion in the classroom.

Some of my favourite classroom technologies I discovered during the teacher program: Menti, Padlet, Microsoft Teams, and Kahoot. However, the one that I’ve relied on again and again is one I learned about as a communications strategist—Google Forms. I’ve found that Google forms is the Swiss Army Knife of classroom engagement and assessment.

With Google Forms, I can create self-reflective pre-learning assessments that introduce topics to the students and allow them to access prior knowledge, all in a safe online space. Furthermore, with the results of our questionnaires, I can effortlessly present to the class anonymous data that reflects what we know or how we feel as a community of learners.

These forms not only give me, the teacher, access to rich assessment data, but they also give the students access to the hive-mind in the classroom. Here are some examples of how I’ve used Google Forms.

Taking the pulse of the class – Assessment For Learning

In one of the first Google Forms that I created for our class, I looked at interest in the upcoming unit on friendship and mental health, while also taking the pulse of the class. How included do students feel in our class? This form asked seven questions. Here are two.

The results of this questionnaire were heartwarming and incredibly informative. More than that, though, the students were more engaged than I’d ever seen them when I showed them the results. All eyes, every single one of them, were on the smartboard.

The Pros and Cons of Anonymity

When creating a form, I need to choose whether it will be anonymous or not. There are pros and cons, of course.

The pros are that when students know their input is anonymous, they tend to be more forthcoming about how they really feel. One thing I’ve learned is that students in the middle years are incredibly self-conscious. They don’t want to do anything that will make them stick out to their peers.

By creating an anonymous form, I give students the opportunity to really share what’s going on. During a unit on friendship and mental health, this has proven incredibly useful. Students have revealed very personal information that I do not believe they would share otherwise. Here is an example:

You see near the bottom, someone wrote Yareness, which is an example of one of the cons of this type of anonymous data. Sometimes students input junk data or jokes meant to disrupt the class or get a rise out of me. This seems to happen less often the more I use the forms, as I think the students themselves are seeing a benefit to them.

Another con is that anonymous data skips over the vulnerability that real, true community building requires. In a circle, when students share how their feeling, the vulnerability required to do that levels the playing field among students and there is a palpable change in the classroom experience. With anonymous data, it’s not the same.

Having said that, I feel there is truly a place in the classroom for this type of interaction. I plan to continue using Google Forms for this type of pre-learning assessment, or assessment For learning.