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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Let's Agree to Disagree: Using Google Moderator in the Classroom

Google Moderator was originally designed to collect and rank questions to be answered in large conference settings. Users could submit questions and then vote up or vote down those questions or ideas submitted by others. Used in this manner, Moderator acted as a back channel for live sessions.

What's great for classroom teachers, however, is that Moderator can also be used as a tool for collaboration, crowdsourcing, and even assessment. See some recommended classroom uses below the video.

How to Use Google Moderator

Using Google Moderator is in no way difficult, but you need to be aware of variables which can be toggled on or off.

First, be sure that you're logged into a Google account (students will need to be logged into Google accounts as well to submit responses or vote on ideas).

Once you arrive at Google Moderator, you'll need to choose a nickname. Since you are the moderator, this nickname will be used to identify you, so yes, it will be visible! Choose wisely.

Next, click on Create Series. Other series (questions sets) you've created with this same Google account will show up as well.

Rather than simply typing a Title, click on Advanced.

Use the Advanced Screen to choose a Title, Description, and other variables.

One task is to Choose Options for Responders. These are fairly self-explanatory, but note that
  • If students submit responses, these will simply appear below the moderator's question. Peers will not vote on these responses.
  • If students submit ideas, these can be voted up or down as a "Good Idea" when students click either yes or no. Additionally, peers can respond to each submitter's idea. This option creates more dialogue among students.
  • When students submit questions, these can voted up or down by choosing yes or no.

One setting I recommend changing is Series Visibility. This will lessen the chance of uninvited users adding to your conversations.

Other settings might make little sense now, but become more clear as you begin to use the site. The good news: you can always change these later, and they'll take effect on all responses and questions, no matter how many have been submitted. When done with options, choose Create Series.

If you didn't do so earlier, click on the Home button to create your nickname as moderator for the Series. Otherwise, all of your comments and questions will appear as "submitted by Unnamed."

If you want students to remain anonymous to each other (and you), don't let them choose nicknames. If you want identities known, I recommend students use nicknames or codes that are already known to their peers.

Next, submit a Question.You can submit multiple questions, but I recommend you try just one at first.

To share the Series with students, click on the Home Menu and select Share. The Share button provides options for email, direct link, etc.

Once students reach the site, they create a nickname and they're good to go.

When I tried Moderator for the first time, I neglected to allow students to post responses to questions. I easily fixed that by editing my Series (which took just a couple seconds). Then, we noticed that all the responses came up unnamed, since I hadn't directed students to create nicknames. What's cool, though, is that once the nicknames were created, all the "Unnamed" attributions changed to the owners' nicknames (which leads me to think you might actually want to work your responses in this manner in order to initially keep responses and ideas anonymous, thereby preventing students to vote ideas up or down based on student popularity).

Video Explanation

Below is a video which explains much of what I discussed above. Nothing, however, beats giving it a try with your own students!

Suggested Uses:
  • Post a statement concerning a character's motives. Let students voice opinions on whether or not they agree with this character's actions. Students can also discuss what the character should have done instead.
  • Post a headline from a recent current event. After students read the news article, they chime in with their opinions.
  • In preparation for argumentative writing, allow the class to crowdsource ideas. Assign students to post ideas, examples, and evidence for both sides of the issue. Regardless of which side each student chooses to argue in a later writing piece, the ideas from the other list will help them to craft their opposing view statements. (For more on strengthening argumentative writing with opposing viewpoints, see my post called Fightin' Words).
  • Students agree or disagree with an editorial stand.
  • Post a scenario relating to a topic or theme of a novel and ask students to share their thoughts. When students wondered why neighbors would assist the Nazis is locating Jews, I introduced the idea of Citizenship Credits. Students soon learned that incentives to report on your fellow citizen can lead to abuses.
  • Students can share opinions in connection with a video (which can be attached to the form). See some sources for videos at the bottom of this page.


The Flashlight Reader said...

This is great! I had no idea this feature existed! Thank you.

Keith Schoch said...

I had no idea either until just recently. Apparently it's been around for at least two years. We were using a cool debate site called Barkles but it disappeared, so I'm happy to have found this one to take its place.

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