What follows is a proposal I submitted to my headteacher regarding a trial of the use of Google Docs (as part of the Education Apps) to deliver online reporting to the parents in my class. I have spent considerable time working with Google Docs both on a personal level, organising planning files and within the classroom as a tool to support learning. The ease with which you can share a document is central to the idea that I could share a collaborative report throughout the whole year – updated at times when units of work are completed or at opportune moments of review.
My headteacher gave me his consent for me to explore the idea and I suggested to him posting the original proposal for reaction from a wider audience, he was also keen for this to happen – as this post and hopefully your reactions will help us develop and refine the whole concept.
What is the proposal?
I am proposing to use Google Docs as a platform to trial the delivery of online reporting to the parents and children in my class for this academic year 2008/2009.
What is the National Picture?
It is clear that the government is positioning itself to deliver real-time online reporting by the target year of 2010 for secondary schools and 2012 for all primary. According to Schools Minister Jim Knight:
“Real time reporting will deepen the school-parent relations and is not a substitute for regular personal contact with teachers. Effective technology systems can actually significantly cut the staff workloads – but it has to be to be manageable for individual schools and meaningful for parents.” Jan 2008
The aim is to develop a real-time reporting system that means parents will be able to access frequently updated information on children’s achievement, progress, attendance, behaviour and special needs wherever, whenever they want.
According to this announcement from the DCSF Primary schools must meet the basic requirement to provide information to parents covering achievement, progress, attendance, behaviour and special needs, on a timely and frequent basis – this should be at least once per term by September 2010 and the real time requirement by 2012.
According to Tanya Byron:
“Schools already using online reporting methods have noted that teachers spend less time in total producing three reports each year online than they did when producing just one by hand. The anytime, anywhere aspect of online reporting allows teachers to have greater control and flexibility of the use of their time. And, importantly, online reporting allows teachers to see the ‘bigger picture’ for each student because they are able to view grades and progress in other subjects.”
Why Google Docs?
This tool presently has three main advantages:
- It is already in place to be used within school, therefore no new software or programme has to be installed or found.
- It is free – we will not need to buy into any contracts or purchase new software.
- It delivers the real-time aspect of the online reporting requirement. This is because parents and children will have complete access throughout the year to the document. It is always on.
What will be the differences with the current end of year system?
We will have to unlearn some things. The sense of a formalised report at one time of the year will no longer exist. In this proposed system the parents (and children) will have continued and timely access to a single document that is the child’s report. That document will be periodically updated by the teachers as various units of work are completed and key assessments are finished throughout the year – not just at the end of the year. There will be key contributions from the children as they also comment on the work they have done and explore their own targets for improvement. Parents will have room to make comments based upon the contributions from teachers and children.
Will it increase the workload for a teacher?
For many their first reactions will be that it will, as you are in effect reporting throughout the whole academic year. However in my opinion the timely nature of reporting extends to the teachers too. I believe I will be able to better report to parents if I have the opportunity to just write comments about, for example, a history unit completed at Christmas time. As opposed to doing it 2 terms later alongside all of the other subjects. I believe I will find it easier to write subject comments if it is all fresh in my mind, consequently this will increase the quality of reporting to parents.
When would the report be updated?
I would expect that comments are updated when major units of work are completed in Design and Technology or History for example. Specific times throughout the school year must be negotiated for adding comments about Literacy and Numeracy and some of the other subjects.
What about parents who do not have access at home?
Although more and more families in the community have access to the internet, due to lowering costs, not all of the children in my class (2008/09) have access at home. For the 2 or 3 families that do not have access I will operate an open door policy in terms of the access to the report document at school. The parents will be welcome to come into the classroom immediately after school and access the document.
What is the teacher’s role?
As the year progresses I will schedule times that I will add comments about particular subjects – at the end of units of work, after major pieces of work in the unit are completed. I will also plan time for children to add their comments about the work that has been completed and support them in adding examples of what they have done. I will also collect evidence that is suitable for the online form of the report. I will notify the parents when these updates have been completed or if there is something that needs their attention.
What is the parents’ role?
In the document there will be room for the parents to add comments and feedback about the examples of work and subject comments about their child.
What is the children’s role?
The children will take an active role in updating the document with examples of their work and comments about their learning. At the end of units of work a structured class activity will see them remark upon what they have learned from a subject unit and the highlights from it.
What is the headteacher’s role?
The fourth collaborator on the report document will be the headteacher who will act as overseer on the process throughout the year. A final end of year comment will still be present but the document will be open to any comments from the headteacher throughout the year.
What might the report look like?
The report will be similar to the existing paper version with areas for subject comments. Room must be made for comments from all of the different stakeholders. Photos of the children working will be able to be included as well as examples of work. Links to other online documents and work examples will be used.
What needs to be in place if we were to begin?
- Parents consent.
- Email addresses need to be collected from the parents.
- Schedule of commenting mapped to curriculum.
- Information letter to parents.
- An agreed report layout in Google Docs – what would we want to include in the report?
- What will happen to effort and achievement grades?
- What do we need to unlearn about the current reporting system.