This fall, I’m trying out a new version of an old routine from the first meeting of a college class: the “get-to-know-you” index card, reimagined as a Google Form. You’re probably familiar with the practice of jotting down your name, contact info, and maybe some goals for the class on a 3×5 card, and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit now how much I used to fret about following my professors’ directions for these cards. I imagined them deciding what kind of student I would be based upon how neatly I printed my name, when really they were probably just aiming to generate a quick list of phone numbers (in an era before email contact lists and auto-complete “to:” lines) and a general sense of what students thought they’d learn in the class.
For my purposes today, the index card a la Google Forms (above) gives me a quick reference for my graduate students’ academic and professional backgrounds, experiences with K-12 learners, and some insights on what they hope to learn with me, but it’s also a practice run for our bi-weekly “mini-course evaluations.” In an effort to assess for learning, I check in with two questions presented on a Google Form, usually one related to clarity of expectations and communication, and one a content-related question. I’m seeking specific, timely evidence to inform my teaching, which written responses on index cards can provide, too, but collecting this information in print (like I did when I first experimented with this idea) limited what I could do to track and reflect on the students’ feedback over time. With Google Forms, I can enter my two questions, gather and study the comments now and whenever I want later on, plus I have the original questions to revisit, reuse, and refine for new forms in future classes.
Now, I’m ever aware of tilting the balance of this blog too far into the world of “learning to be a librarian,” so here’s where this strategy applies to the needs of practicing school librarians. Even in schools with well-funded and deeply appreciated libraries – and especially in schools without such support – school librarians must gather evidence of student learning and the outcomes of the library program. This evidence should be collected and organized so that it can be easily accessed, analyzed, and applied to strategic planning, professional goals, and school initiatives for student achievement. I had good intentions to transcribe and review my semester’s worth of handwritten feedback from students on my first run of the mini-course evals, but the truth is that I only got about halfway through before I lost focus, and though I still have the cards, the evidence of student learning would be much easier to read, search, and track if it were electronic- hence the switch to Google Forms. Students seem to like the chance to type rather than write, anyway – I’ll have to see if the responses are longer or more thorough in a typed format – and it couldn’t be simpler for me to set up and edit the forms.
In “10 Great Free Google Forms Teachers Should Be Using,” some classroom applications for Google Forms include guided reading records, an inventory of prior learning, and library book reviews. You can also find online several great resources which school librarians have shared to show their use of Google Forms in the school library, including for scheduling class time and equipment sign-outs, developing student projects, and taking materials requests. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned Google Form fan, I invite you to consider how these different kinds of forms might be applied but also more broadly studied and interpreted to create a picture of the library program.
If we extend the use of Forms from a particular context (beyond reviewing a book or scheduling a laptop lab) and step into library advocacy mode, we may realize that we have a readily available array of data about the library, and what’s even better, our various reasons for creating and using Google Forms give us different stakeholders’ perspectives, including (as some examples), from students directly (book club title choices), from librarians’ observations or anecdotal records (maybe of class visits), and via teachers’ feedback (such as responses to surveys about curriculum mapping). Not every aspect of the program can represented in this space, but we might as well make good use of the data we’re gathering.
Using Google Forms might be an instance of “back and forth design” – my made-up version of the highly regarded backward design curriculum model by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. From a true backward design viewpoint, we would consider the outcomes we want to accomplish, the evidence we will need to show that we got there, and then the appropriate learning experiences. But perhaps you’ve been using Forms awhile, or you want to start playing with Google Forms to see how it might work for you. In this back and forth design method, see what you data you have collected, and then see how this evidence represents your library program. What accomplishments does the information represent? What might not appear in this context? Think about the possibilities for Google Forms in your library advocacy toolbox, and then on an index card, write your ideas. (Just kidding. Tell me what you think in the comments, or in this Google Form).