Q&A with Jeremey Wilder, Doctopus & Goobric User

Jeremey Wilder is a science teacher at Grand Haven High School in Michigan that has a student population of approximately 2,000 students. Starting next year in grades 5-12, all students and teachers will use Chomebooks and GAFE tools at his school.

Jeremey was an early adopter of these tools, and last year used New Visions CloudLab developed tools, Doctopus and Goobric, to manage class journals for his AP Environmental Science and 10th grade Biology classes. Below you will find a Q&A with Jeremey on how he is leveraging these tools to make his classroom management more efficient:

Q: How have you traditionally approached student writing in your courses? What did you find most challenging about managing the process?

In most of my classes, writing assignments were limited to short answer responses on tests and a longer writing assignment per unit. Returning writing assignments promptly and providing quality written feedback prevented me from assigning writing assignments more frequently. I question the value of assigning student work for which I cannot provide feedback in a timely manner. 

Q: What most appealed to you about Doctopus and Goobric when you first heard about them?

I was selected to pilot 1:1 student computers in 2013 following a successful district bond campaign. I attended a Michigan Google Apps for Education conference to prepare for the pilot. At the conference, participants mentioned a file sharing and assessment tool, Doctopus, that streamlined the digital management of student work. I viewed YouTube video tutorials, researched how to access the Doctopus script, and tried it out with some of my classes. I’ve continued to use Doctopus as it has evolved with the GAFE platform. Having spent the past year as a technology coach in my building, I’m convinced that the file management and assessment tools that Doctopus and Goobric provide can create truly paperless classrooms that are functional for teachers. Nearly all student work that I assess is hyperlinked, placed directly in or otherwise connected to the Google Docs and Sheets managed by Doctopus and Google Classroom

Q: What lessons have you learned from using these tools to manage student writing in your classes? How have students reacted to them?

In the past, I was as much worried about my students’ willingness to write as I was about my ability to grade and assess work and provide quality feedback in a timely fashion. Student acceptance for writing typically is very low, yet I have experienced almost zero resistance using these tools. By encouraging comments about depth of thought or insightful ideas directly in student documents, some students that were reluctant to share verbally in class became regular contributors to class discussions. I use the GAFE tools and Doctopus to access work and track student engagement, view progress in real-time, and determine which students need more attention during particular lessons.

Q: You recently tweeted (see below) that you attribute your students' improved AP Environmental Science scores to these tools. What kinds of gains did you see? In your view, how did these tools help your students improve their writing?

Since adopting GAFE tools in my classroom, the changes in my students’ free response AP scores have been significant. Previously, the proportion of my students scoring in the top quartile was 39%; however, after using GAFE, Doctopus and Goobric for the entire 2014-2015 school year, 63% of my students scored in the top quartile, while for the first time, none scored in the bottom quartile. Writing on a daily basis allowed my students to approach the written section of the AP test with confidence. Continual written feedback, both from myself and their peers, allowed students to hone their writing skill and concisely explain their understanding of complex topics and questions. 

Q: How have Goobric and and Doctopus made you a more efficient teacher?

Using GAFE tools to review written assignments makes the process of providing feedback achievable in small increments of time. Now, I am far more likely to ask students to write about a topic in their journals than I ever did before. I also like the fact that I can control the share settings on their work. I now have the ability to adjust the share settings during an assignment so students can have periods of independent work followed by peer review and class level sharing.

Q: What would you say to a teacher who is thinking about using Doctopus and Goobric in her classroom (particularly a teacher who is less experienced with GAFE tools)?

I’m very excited about the newest iteration of Doctopus that allows it to interface with Google Classroom. Just this week I was training a colleague and explained how simple using Doctopus is now by just ingesting student work directly from Google Classroom. The video tutorials and Google+ community users have enabled myself and other teachers in my district to efficiently access and integrate the tools created by the CloudLab team. The ability to drastically increase the amount of writing that I assign and assess it with quality feedback tools like comments and integrated Goobrics justifies the initial learning curve, and I would recommend all teachers try out these tools.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

I constantly evaluate technology tools that might be useful for interacting with my students, and I try many of them out. Only a select few make it past the initial trial period due to the effort and time involved versus the impact on student outcomes. Doctopus and Goobric are tools that I strongly recommend because they increase the effectiveness of classroom management. The CloudLab tools are responsive to educators’ needs and feedback. I want to personally thank the CloudLab team for their work and commitment to students and teachers. 

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