Google moderator use in class

I’ve talked before about how I like to use Google Moderator to have students crowd-source the questions for me in class. I wanted to get down some notes about the conversation I had with my current class about our current implementation.

Every Friday I spend at most 30 minutes going over the questions that they’ve been submitting and voting on all week. I start at the top and go down from there. Most weeks I’ve only gotten to about a third of the submitted questions, but I’ve been fine with that given that they decided which ones were most important.

But I’ve noticed something. The questions at the top are always about the material we cover early in the week. So I asked the students this past Friday whether the early questions get more votes because they’re seen by more students. They all thought that was likely the case. So we brainstormed some ways to fix that. At first I wondered if it was worth it to try to get more students to submit things early, but we really focused instead on holding off the voting until the bulk of the questions were in. A student asked if I could set Google Moderator to accept questions but not votes for a while but I’m pretty sure that’s not possible. But I said we could certainly make that our policy, so we focused on when the voting should start. I threw out ideas like Wednesday or Thursday night, but they said that it seemed most questions come in late Thursday and early Friday. I asked if they could do it before class, but a lot of the students have class all morning.

Then I had an epiphany! We could just use the first 5 minutes of class on Friday to do the voting. I asked if GM worked well with phones and a few said it worked fine. I then asked how many thought they could do it on their phones in class and most raised their hands.

So we’re going to give that a try this week. I’m hopeful that it’ll make me more confident in the vote, especially given that I don’t get to the rest of the questions.

The other thing we talked about was what I should do about the other questions. I offered to make screencasts dealing with them, but I was surprised by the vocal negative reaction to that. I asked why and a few said that the low vote ones really don’t need screencasts. I pointed out that people didn’t have to watch them, but it was still interesting that they thought that might be a waste of time. Some thought maybe we could have a vote total threshold where if I didn’t get to such a question, I’d still make a screencast. One student talked about how she experienced at least once some disappointment that I didn’t get to just one more question (they can see what’s coming because I project all the questions). I wondered aloud whether the new plan would make that problem go away, but I think we’ll still keep a close eye on that. I did tell them that I’m always happy to do a screencast on demand (via email or whatever) so that if they’re still dying to know the answer to something they could always do that.

Your thoughts? Here are some starters for you:

  • I’m in this class and I’m glad we talked about this. What I like most about the new approach is . . .
  • I’m in this class and I wish we had also addressed . . .
  • Can you let the rest of us see these awesome questions? [right now I’ve made it limited to people in the Hamline google world but I’d love to hear some thoughts about that]
  • I work for Google and I’d respond about ways to limit the time when voting occurs, but I notice that you’ve switched from Blogger to WordPress so you’re dead to me.
  • You still use Google Moderator for this? You fool! Instead you should use . . .
  • What’s wrong, Mathematica can’t do this for you? I bet python could, loser.
  • What if you found that it was always the same students who get voted down? What would you do to help them?
  • How do you get students to actively vote down someone’s questions, as opposed to just skipping it and only doing “up-votes”? [I know I’m supposed to put that question mark inside the quotes, but I always feel weird doing that]

About Andy Rundquist

Professor of physics at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN
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3 Responses to Google moderator use in class

  1. Hailey K. says:

    I’m in this class and I’m glad we talked about this. What I like most about the new approach is that I’ll have a better chance of getting my questions answered regardless of when I post a question. I also think that with the voting changes we will be able to use this review time in class more effectively. Sometimes the questions asked are really only pertinent to a couple people, and this will make the use of questions and time more relevant.
    I do agree that I would like screencasts of some of the questions not answered in class. It would be beneficial to have my own question answered, whether it be something I asked personally or wondered about and another student actually posted it.
    I am still against making screencasts of every question, but mostly as a courtesy to your time. I think that some of the questions asked are simply for people to get the grade boost from google moderator. Now, sometimes they are still relevant, but occasionally the questions do not seem well thought out and the student asking might not care about the answer. Other times the question was answered in lecture, by the textbook, or very easily by google browsing. I worry that they are not worth the time of answering and that no one would ever watch them. I think that the google moderator voting can probably gauge some of the need for a question to be answered. Maybe not considering the down votes, but instead only considering the up-votes. If the question received 4-10 up-votes I think it could be deemed relevant to enough people that it is probably a question worth answering. However, if someone is truly confused and alone in their confusion their question might not be answered with this method. I don’t know how to work around that. I do know that some of the previously questions asked, if answered would not be watched, at least not by the person who asked it.

  2. Pingback: Homework in Standards-based grading | SuperFly Physics

  3. Pingback: Crowd-prioritized questions for speakers | SuperFly Physics

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