With PARCC looming on the horizon in New Jersey, many educators are trying to simulate its unique testing environment with frustrating results. The PARCC will be totally online and feature many questioning and answering methods students have not seen before. Skills like drag-and-drop, window pane, and computer-based tool (protractor, ruler, calculator) manipulation will be new. Understanding drop-down menus, fill-ins, and check box style questions and typing efficiently will be required. The PARCC will place multiple texts side-by-side or in a separate window, so familiarity with scrolling techniques and alt+tabbing will be imperative. Short cuts for Copy (Ctrl+C) and Paste (Ctrl+V) and Find (Ctrl+F) will help students work more efficiently while students with special needs will have to get use to accommodations like text-to-speech, speech-to-text, in-line reader, answer masking, and more. Understand, we aren’t even talking about content! We are talking about the test itself! Kids continue to struggle to get use to the harsh testing environment, so while many teachers have been turning to different websites to help them create PARCC-like assessments, I’ve turned to Google Apps for Education to make my own.
I was a Junior in high school the first time I got fired up. My best friend stormed up to me and smashed a burnt CD into my chest and said, “Listen to all of this…” I still remember the fire in his eyes as he continued, “…loud.” Later that day, I did just that. What came blistering and blaring out of my speakers rattled my windows and set me on fire: How I Spent My Summer Vacation by The Bouncing Souls.
During presentations and essays, I like to have students use Google Forms to provide peer feedback. While Google Forms is awesome, there are two big problems when using it for peer feedback: 1) It isn’t great for collecting wordy feedback. As you know, when you collect big pieces of text via Google Forms it can be hard to read. 2) Once I have all that peer feedback collected, it is difficult to share it back to that student so they can reflect.
For a while. I was printing out the feedback, cutting it, and handing it back to each student. This was annoying and time consuming. I said to myself, “Self, there has to be a better way!” Thus, my first foray into scripting came about like most inventions: Necessity.