Drive Companion: How I Designed a Google-Centered Workflow in Schoology
Are you wasting your time giving students feedback? Dylan William, in his book Embedding Formative Assessment, argues that the only measure of good feedback, is how students act on it. In other words, teacher feedback that is not acted upon by the student is a waste of time.
While I’m always trying to find new ways of making less work for myself, a practice that too often results in one-hour jobs taking five hours to complete, my goal is to never waste my time. In fact, I would much rather spend my time designing and building a tool that makes a task easier, than doing the task itself.
So I did it. I built an app that gives me the workflow I want with Google Drive and Schoology called Drive Companion. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
First, I want to share how this all came about.
Searching for My Perfect Workflow with Google Drive and Schoology
For the last four years, I’ve had the privilege to collaborate with students and educators at the International School of Düsseldorf in Germany. As a Computational Thinking instructor and a Technology Integration Coach, I’ve seen firsthand how creative educators can be when trying to figure out creative strategies to become more effective and efficient.
Lately, much of our creative focus as a school has been on formative assessment. And over the past year, my understanding of formative assessment and how effective it can be has changed tremendously. In particular, the effect that timely feedback can have on learning.
I started looking at which factors increase the ability and likelihood of students responding to feedback in a constructive way. One of the largest factors, as Dylan William implies, is the timeliness of the feedback. I observed that by asking students constructive questions while they were still writing their assignments caused them to alter their thinking and get learning back on track.
One of the keys to my success in this has been Google Drive. The collaborative editing and commenting features of Google Docs enables me to provide students with feedback on their work in real time as they are doing an assignment.
This feedback is mostly in the form of questions that probe the student’s thinking and requires them to act. Once the student has resolved the comments on the Google Document, they submit it to me via Schoology.
Schoology’s Google Drive Resource App provides a great way to import Google Drive Documents into a course or attach them to an assignment. However, I wanted a way for each student to automatically receive *their own* copy of a particular Google Doc.
To do this, I was sharing a link to a template Google Doc and asking my students to make a copy of the document, rename the file, and move it to a shared folder or share it back to me.
From there, I’d needed to ensure that the file was moved into the correct folder in Google Drive to prevent a cluttered and disorganized Google Drive. Did I mention that I am fairly obsessive when it comes to organizing?
I have used this method many times and it does work; however, it takes time and there is plenty of room for mistakes.
Tools such as Doctopus, Google Classroom, and Hapara Teacher help automate this process, but I need the robust functionality of an LMS—e.g., a parent portal, a unified gradebook, LTI integration, and the ability to pace students individually in a real pedagogical framework.
Using two separate systems is not an option because it just creates additional complexity and takes more time to set up and maintain. Plus, there is the danger of students becoming confused about which system to use for which purpose.
I decided I was going to make this happen all in one place. Thus, Drive Companion was born.
Drive Companion and My Google-Centered Workflow Within Schoology
Drive Companion is an app I built using Schoology’s API. It’s available in the App Store and can be added to courses by Schoology Enterprise subscribers.
Once the app is added to the course, it will automatically create student folders in Google Drive, make copies of Google Drive Documents, name them correctly, and place them in the correct folders.
All this is done right from within Schoology and uses the Schoology Course enrollment so there is no need to maintain a separate class list. Drive Companion also provides teachers with a dashboard view that allows them to see the Google Drive Documents for each student.
It works particularly well with Schoology Assignments. I designed it so that Google Documents shared through Drive Companion can be attached to a Schoology Assignment, allowing the student to submit a copy, or snapshot, of the Google Document with one click. This saves the student some time.
Watch this short video I made to show how it works:
I have been using Drive Companion with my own class for a few months now, and it has been a great addition to my day-to-day. It gives me the ability to host my assignment workflow primarily through Google Drive while also benefiting from the full power of Schoology’s LMS.
Plus, Drive Companion has enabled me to better embody my beliefs around feedback and formative assessment. The time it saves me now goes to providing my students with higher quality and more timely feedback. The rest of the time saved has been repurposed to help me keep up with the latest escapades of Jon, Cersei and Daenerys.
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Want to install Drive Companion? Get it in the Schoology App Center.
You’ll need to be a Schoology Enterprise subscriber and have a Google Apps for Education account. There is a cost of $2–$5 per course section (depending on how many section credits are purchased) in which the app is used.
Adriaan van der Bergh works as a Technology Coordinator at the International School of Düsseldorf. Originally from South Africa, he has taught in South Africa, Thailand, South Korea, and Germany. Adriaan has earned a Masters of Education with specialization in Technology. Prior to taking up teaching, Adriaan worked as a network administrator and later a designer and web developer.
Reach out to Adriaan via Twitter (@avanderbergh)