In which teachers actually flock to take a survey and request the results

I recently conducted a couple of informal surveys in order to prepare for my next professional development video. I already had some ideas about what I wanted to say about using spirals and writing portfolios in class, but I thought I’d see how other teachers are using them and what comments they might make. Here are the results of that survey. (NOTE: For some reason, SurveyMonkey shows some pairs of words in the questions as running together with no space between. This is a problem on their end and not a series of typos by me. I checked. Yes, it’s bugging the heck out of me!)

SURVEY RESULTS: Use of Spirals and Writing Portfolios –

I wasn’t too surprised by these results. Most teachers reported using some kind of spiral or composition book in class and include a nice variety of activities in them. Far fewer teachers reported using some kind of writing portfolio. The responses that started me thinking some different thoughts, however, were the ones in which teachers said they want to start having students complete these activities electronically.

My brain went in two different directions here. First, I thought, “I need to address this in the video because I’ll look terribly backward for still talking about actual paper and writing utensils in the 21st century.” Then I remembered my first year at a one-to-one high school (where all students had laptops) and my epic failure with LiveBinders and Google Drive. Seriously, I think my students lost three solid weeks to that internet abyss, and I was near tears when I finally told them to go buy some freaking spirals already. It’s not that we lacked competence, but for some reason we had major issues with syncing – assignments were lost all over the place, and things would disappear even after I watched the students upload them properly. It was so painful that I didn’t attempt it again.

Anyway, I digress. The point is, I figured I wouldn’t be doing the thing justice if I didn’t address electronic versions of the journal and the writing portfolio, so I threw this survey together. And promptly got more responses than my free account on SurveyMonkey will allow me to view. Plus several people eagerly requested to see the results. And do you know EIGHTY-EIGHT respondents took the time to detail the methods they’ve used for accepting electronic assignments? This tells me that people feel very strongly about their electronic grading. Check out the results and see if you’re surprised.

SURVEY RESULTS: Electronic vs. Written Work –

Now keep in mind that I distributed this survey in places where teachers hang out online and participate in a techy sort of community: Reddit, Schoology, and Edmodo. So it’s inevitably biased in favor of techy solutions – i.e., submitting electronic assignments. I imagine if I went to a couple of schools and handed out a paper version of this survey in a faculty meeting, I’d have a wider variety of perspectives. (Anybody want to volunteer to administer this survey at your school? If so, please share the results!) But I think the responses to Question 6 would be an awesome resource for the teacher considering a foray into the world of electronic assignments.

The main concerns I saw are the most predictable (and valid) ones:

  1. Not every student has access to a compatible device and reliable internet at home. Equal access needs to be an important factor when considering whether to assign something electronically.
  2. Technical difficulties can become a real barrier to submitting graded work.
  3. Technical difficulties can be cited (falsely) as an excuse for not turning in work. (“Oh yes, I worked on your assignment diligently, for HOURS – and then my computer crashed. What, you want me to explain verbally what I wrote? Um . . . well, I’ve slept since then . . .”)

This isn’t to say that assignments can’t or shouldn’t be assigned electronically, but it does mean we need to recognize the potential problems and make sure we address them as fairly as possible.

Have an opinion, concern, or suggestion related to electronic assignments? Please share it below! 

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