Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Adventures with Doctopus

Today I discovered Doctopus. Apparently I'm a year behind but it's better late than never, right Brownbaggers?  Doctopus is a Google Sheets Add On and, according to its description, it was designed with "teacher workflow in mind - taming complexity and unlocking the power of Google Apps for differentiation and collaboration."  Quite a claim!  You all already know that I am a HUGE FAN of using Google Apps in the classroom.  In fact, I have revamped my entire writing curriculum to be entirely online through Google Drive.

So when I heard about an Add On that could essentially make my life easier by "passing out" my documents, storing them in one place, and allowing me to grade with a rubric... I was down!

Thus far my experience has been a little murky though.  I don't know if it's just me but I found that the explanations of Doctopus could have been a little bit clearer.  Maybe they could have hired a technical writer?  I wonder if the directions make sense to people who have used Doctopus over the past year, but as a newbie I was confused.

It starts off by asking you to import or create a new roster including names and emails.  Simple enough.  

Then it goes through the different types of folders that can or should be created.  As a newbie, I didn't know the difference.  I suspect that the longer I toy around with it, the more familiar I will become.  You'll see in the picture below that just one assignment for one roster created all of the folders under "July - Summer School Students".  That's 11 folders.  I only have 7 students for this section so imagine a full-sized class!  That being said, I hope and assume that additional assignments will be filed under the same roster.  Time will tell.  But, folders created!

Next it asks you to choose the assignment template.  I had a difficult time choosing one because it didn't give me access to other folders on my Drive. Maybe that's a glitch with my computer.  Anyhow, I just resaved my assignment template in the folder that the roster had just created.  I could then upload the assignment template from there. I did like that it gives you options for how the students view the document.  For example they can view only, comment, or edit (nothing new) but you can also set it up for them to view each other's or only their own.  That's a cool feature!  It also allows you to send it to groups or to individuals.  There's where a new level of collaboration comes in.  I sent the assignments and checked what they looked like on the other end - meaning I snooped over a student's shoulder.

Finally it allows you to do Add On's with grading.  I have yet to use those but I look forward to exploring them.  Goobric, an interactive rubric tool, can be added on to the Doctopus sheet so that they interface together.  As I typically grade holistically, I haven't tried it yet. All in good time!

My thoughts so far?  It seems difficult to use and easy to use at the same time.  As a beginner, I feel like I have no clue what's going on or how to truly utilize Doctopus yet.  It's not super user friendly.  At the same time, I know that it has much to offer. I'm excited to see what opportunities for innovation and collaboration it will bring into my classroom.  

I'll keep you all updated as I become more familiar with it, of course.  Have any of you used it before?  I'd love to get some tips from you all! Comment below or tweet me @mac_ker1.