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History Nerdfest 2016 Day Two: VBQs – Using Google Forms and multimedia to create engaging problem solving

And now it begins.

This morning is the the first day of the full on #ncss16 conference. Five sessions to attend today ending with a 5:00 presentation with @MsKoriGreen that will focus on using VR and Google Cardboard. Diet Pepsi, almond croissant, and fully charged devices.

First session?

Video Based Questions. Using Google Forms to create a more interactive version of a DBQ. I’ve been using something that I called a MBQ for a while that sounds very similar. My Media-Based Question also uses video, audio, and photos to engage kids in some sort of a writing prompt.

Kelly Grotrian from East Brunswick, NJ has also been using the idea of mashing up Google Forms with Document-Based Questions. She’s done a ton of work with the concept and has some great resources and examples on her VBQ website. Get her NCSS presentation handout here and then head over to a direct link to one of her VBQs on Rosa Parks.

rosa-parks-vbqShe likes the idea of using videos rather than just text-based documents because it forces kids to really dig into the content. Kelly focused quite a bit on the idea of using VBQs as a way for kids to work outside of the classroom – during a Some of the conversation with others around me focused on ways to use not just video but other types of media as well. And the VBQ doesn’t have to – and probably shouldn’t – be written totally using the traditional DBQ format and template.

But I like the flexibility to edit the Form and copy it for different purposes. So you could use this idea for formative or summative assessment. It could easily be some sort of exit card activity all the way up to a full blown actual DBQ that requires kids to respond to multiple primary and secondary sources with a final written response. That response might be a Google Doc or even traditional paper and pencil.

Why does this strategy work so well? Early this fall, we brainstormed some reasons why this mashup is a good idea. Using Google Forms to analyze evidence just makes so much sense in so many ways:

  • thinking is both textual and visual. Some of my recent Sketchnoting research suggests a strong impact on learning that includes both writing and visual activities.
  • anywhere / anytime access. Students can address your questions and media in or out of the classroom, whenever they have internet. (Or you can print out the Form, they do some pre-thinking, and then enter their thoughts when you can get into the computer lab.)
  • formative and summative assessment. This could be a quick exit card activity or a richer, full-fledged end of unit exercise.
  • is instructive. The process itself is learning how to think historically. It’s instruction! It’s assessment! It’s historical thinking!
  • writing is evidence of thinking. Nothing wrong with small or large group discussion but we need to have kids write more. Bruce Lesh argues for more Quick Writes. This is the perfect answer to that.
  • paperless. I think we take this too much for granted. Gathering student work via Google Drive or through Google Classroom without manila folders or those big metal paper clips? Priceless.
  • collaborative. One of your Forms setting options is to let users see the results of the Form after they click Submit. That’s when you could open up the discussion to a small group or whole class face to face format.
  • critical thinking. One of the obvious reasons for this sort of activity is to support historical and higher levels of thinking. Your Google Form could ask kids to address simple sourcing questions like author and date but be sure to encourage summary and synthesis somewhere in the process.

I also like that her VBQ or my MBQ embeds and integrates perfectly into the Google Classroom app. Additional kinds of things you can do is to create sections in the Google Form that breaks up the content into chunks. The VBQ / MBQ strategy seems perfect for connecting past content with current events.

A practical suggestion is to use the Google Sheet addon called Save as Doc. If your VBQ asks for long responses, the resulting spreadsheet can be difficult to read and score. Save to Doc allows you to change the spreadsheet to a Google Doc that breaks all of the data. So . . . on your Form, put two questions asking for first and last name. Then after kids complete the activity, sort the spreadsheet by last name, then apply the Save to Doc addon. You get a long Google Doc that has the student responses in Alpha order.

The basic idea here is that Kelly’s VBQ and my MBQ is that the tech allows your students to interact with multiple types of evidence. So check out her stuff and then be sure to head back to my original MBQ post – you’ll find some extra resources for developing good questions.


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