Thursday, April 18, 2013

Doctopus. Or How Do You Hand Things Out?

So, how do you hand things out in a paperless class?

With the coming of the paperless classroom, that is soon going to be the question.  If you don't use a course management system like Moodle, you have a real issue.  My school district is moving slowly toward a Google Apps For Education approach.  Paper assignments should soon be rare.

The obvious way to handle paperless assignments in one of our traditionally paper classes would be to have the student share his work with the teacher.  This student ownership of the work does create problems.

For instance, I don't know how many different ways there are to spell my name, but I am sure there will be some new ones that come up when students HAVE to get it right to set up the sharing of the document.  Name the document something other than the teacher is expecting and there will be some problems as well.  Students have been know to delete files they shouldn't.  And how do you file all of the incoming work to evaluate it?  The 21st century version of the dog ate my homework has arrived.

Andrew Stillman has developed a Google script that turns this issue on its head.  It is called Doctopus.  Who should own the document?  The teacher should.  That way you know it was delivered.  You can also control how it gets shared.  You can send differentiated assignments.  You can see when it was worked on.  You can even turn off the editing to stop work so you can evaluate it.  Powerful stuff.

There is even a partner extension for embedding rubrics into the student document called Gobric.

You keep track of class work via a Google Spreadsheet.  Just follow the link the script generates to see the work.  Keeping track of where things are is automated.  All the teacher needs to keep track of is the spreadsheet.

Kid looses an assignment?  Just re-send the link.  Where is that dog now?

When I first read about Doctopus in my Twitter feed, I got excited.  I was just talking to our computer teacher who was complaining about how much time she was putting into sharing Google Docs with the student ownership plan.  Her estimate about how much time she is saving with the Doctopus approach is 10 minutes per assignment.  That can add up fast.

Look for Andrew's video walk through at  There are some other tutorials on YouTube.  If you don't use a course management tool, you need Doctopus.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Take the Train!

Spring Break and Easter, next thing you know the weather and calendar might actually align and we get Spring around here.

This blog is always about something tech-y and I think I can make the connection with vacation and technology.

First some old technology.  We took the train to Chicago.  Loved the train.  Wide seats, lots of leg room and power for all the devices.  The space is soooo much better on the train.  I am 6'3" and 250 pounds.  I know what good leg room looks like.

On the train you can hook the phone up to the computer and you have a rolling internet cafe.  Which was actually kind of handy for last minute trip planning and bird identification.  (The Sandhill Cranes are back for the season!)  Google Maps and Earth are good to help explain where we are to the kids too.  Chicago to Minneapolis/St. Paul is pretty scenic too.  Must have seen 50 Bald Eagles.

Yes, it may be slower than the airplane, but the train drops you off in the city.  No long ride into town.  It is cheaper than flying too.  We made the trip in about 7 or 8 hours.  Better than driving.

If you have the time, take the train.