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10 Tools to ROCK Assessments Using Google Apps on the iPad

by Chris McGee on September 15, 2015


Google Apps can Play a Powerful Role in Assessment

Dr. Chris McGee will be presenting a full day GAFE Workshop and numerous breakout sessions at the 2015 Teaching and Learning with the iPad Conference this November. Come join Chris and hundreds of other passionate educators at the original iPad educational conference November 12th – 14th in Raleigh, NC!

I love assessment. Seriously. It’s one of the most exciting things to talk about in education. One thing we know for sure is that assessment improves learning. Check out this data from Robert Marzano’s Classroom Assessment and Grading That Works (pg 10):

I mean check that out. Over a 15 week period students who were assessed more frequently, increased learning by nearly 30 percentile points. WOW! For those of us like me that love standards-based grading, this is perfect news. We can alter (or improve) our assessments using learning goals and proficiency scales to really focus our assessment to improve specific objectives. There is no doubt assessment is a powerful learning tool.

But what’s wrong with assessment?

Of course, it’s not all milk and honey when it comes to assessments. Let’s focus on two simple things teachers do wrong with assessment:

  1. They use a “gotcha” mentality. They try to craft assessments to catch students NOT knowing the answer instead of seeking to determine what students DO know.
  2. They only see assessment as paper/pen or question/answer. Assessment can be so much more! Just wait and see!

Let’s agree on terminology first. What is “Assessment?”

Webster’s dictionary defines the verb “assess” as:

1: to determine the rate or amount of (as a tax)
2a: to impose (as a tax) according to an established rate
2b: to subject to a tax, charge, or levy
3: to make an official valuation of (property) for the purposes of taxation
4: to determine the importance, size, or value of <assess a problem>
5: to charge (a player or team) with a foul or penalty

We see often in education that teachers see assessment as definition #5 more than any other. That’s the “gotcha mentality” we spoke of earlier. But what if we took the concepts in definitions 1-4 and applied them to the educational setting? This was done perfectly by Banta and Palomba in Assessment Essentials: Planning, Implementing, and Improving Assessment in Higher Education. They defined assessment as “the systematic collection, review, and use of information about educational programs undertaken for the purpose of improving learning and development.”

BOOM that’s it! Assessment is:

  1. A series of instances as a part of a system over time
  2. A collection (possibly demonstrating growth or their best work)
  3. Review (read feedback through collaboration)
  4. Useful in improving learning
  5. Purposeful in improving learning

Now that we have a framework to think about assessment, I’ll reference it when we look through the Google App ideas listed below.

Which are my favorite Google Apps on the iPad?

Google Classroom

Google Classroom allows you to set up a system that will easily allow the teacher to review student work, give feedback to students in a timely manner, leverage classroom discussions, and uncover student ideas and thoughts around specific topics.

Using Shared Folders in Google Drive

Probably my favorite of all the options. The ability to make anything on the ipad and turn it into an item that can be shared and uploaded to Google Drive is a fantastic resource. One of my favorite and all-time awesome ideas is to utilize the Camera App. I ask students to turn the camera on, and record themselves answering a question/prompt, then tap the share button to use the apps installed on the iPad to share the video just recorded.


One of my favorite quotes from Jon Smith (@theipodteacher) from his talk entitled “The Global Refrigerator” is this: “When teachers ask students to make something for the world, they make it good. When teachers ask students to make something for the teacher, they make it good enough.” So asking students to publish their ideas, thoughts, videos, images, etc. through a blog is key. A blog is an easy system to implement in the class and can provide students the opportunity to add their thoughts. The beauty of the blog is that it is always there and is a great collection of thinking. The ability to add comments also allows us to monitor learning and nudge students in the same direction: toward learning. Finally, this allows students to have an online space where their work “lives.” It’s so important for students in the 21st century to have a space online that creates a digital footprint.

Google Forms

Google Forms is currently a mess on the iPad. Building them on the iPad is less than ideal right now. It can be done, just not great. But we can’t overlook the effectiveness of Google Forms. As the teacher in the room, it’s a great opportunity to build quick, exit-slip style engaging assessments. So as classroom teachers we can build something on a computer and ask kids to interact with the Form on their iPads. Forms are easy to build into a standards classroom workflow and are an easy way to assess student learning quickly. There are a TON of add-ons we’ll talk about later that can transform the simple form into a great way to provide simple feedback. That feedback is essential to improving learning.

Google Docs

Google Docs are an easy way to build, edit, and collaborate on a single document. A few tips and tricks I use with Google Docs:

  • Make the documents for each group ahead of time.
  • Author a document to be used as a template. Go up to the URL and change the end from “/edit” to “/copy”. This will force everyone who uses it to have their own copy.
  • Leverage paragraph styles for easy table of contents creation.
  • Assign font colors at the beginning of the year. Use the “header” to code who did what on the project.
  • Make the documents for each group ahead of time. I know I already said that, but this allows you to own the revision history (found under file) to double check who did what.

Google Docs is an easy tool to use in any circumstance. It’s probably my go-to to plan and then I move to other services. It’s such a simple and easy resource to build into your classroom assessment system. Docs is easily organized in Google Drive and it also allows for comments which makes feedback simple.

Google Slides

Using Google Slides is one of the easiest way to build presentations. This is a great way to give students experiences to deliver their content to a group. But thinking creatively about Slides can open up doors to assessment. Some ideas beyond the presentation:

  • Break up unit goals into slides and assign students to find images, links, and resources to add to each slide building a student-driven study guide.
  • Have students create a non-linear slide set where they use links to move from slide to slide and demo their learning. (See my example on Solutions and Mixtures here).
  • Use it as a “portfolio.” Set each student to have the same slide deck pre-loaded with the unit goals and outcomes (see 2nd bullet under the Google Doc section), then assign a student to populate each slide with links to their created/curated resources and images of them and their learning.

Google Slides is easy tool to use in any circumstance. It’s probably my second go-to to plan, and then I move to other services. It’s such a simple and easy resource to build into your classroom assessment system. Slides is easily organized in Drive and it also allows for comments which makes feedback simple.


Add-ons could really take up their own blog post. The idea of Add-Ons is that Google services and many of its tools are “open source” which means that people–more well versed in computer programming than you and me–can create amazing services that enrich our lives and make our workflow even simpler. Below are some of my favorite Add-ons.

Some of my favorites:


Padlet is a great tool to brainstorm ideas, curate rescues, build interactive spaces, and collaborate. We’ve all seen the 3M Post-It Note, now imagine a Post-It that can hold text, images, graphics, links, videos, and more. We can use a Padlet site in a ton of different ways for formative assessment. It’s a great place to post a question and have students find as many different solutions to one prompt.

Google Voice

Did you know your iPad has a microphone? Did you know that your Gmail (Google Hangouts really) can make phone calls? Plug in a set of headphones and have students “dial” using the Handouts app to “call” and leave a message. Now, here’s where the awesome happens. Set up your Google Voice account and use it to be able to record student information. Voice is a great way to record a selection of readings, post a quiz, or just get feedback. Next you can go to your Voice account and download those audio files and play them in class the next day as a great feedback/instructional tool. This can be done with the whole group or one-on-one.

NOTE: Rumor has it that the services of Google Voice are being phased out and wrapped into the hangouts app. The same ideas apply when/if this happens.


This is a cool service that is a great interactive way to get feedback on a presentation. Imagine you are going through a slide deck, and you want to do a quick, simple formative assessment. Peardeck allows you to ask questions of the class and get immediate feedback. You can ask students to type, draw, and interact through multiple choice or simple answers. The “coolness” factor goes up when you take the formative assessment data and alter your instruction mid-presentation. Now, I’m not a huge fan of the “sit-and-get” model of teaching, but sometimes it has to be done. The key to executing this “sit-and-get” model well is making it as interactive as possible and being able to shift mid-presentation to ensure learning is happening.

Here’s a few more. In the time between this post and when I deliver the GAFE workshop at TLIPAD in November I’m sure there will be at least 15 more awesome Add-ons, so I hope I see you there and have more to share!

So what are some of your favorites?



Dr. Chris McGee serves the Webster Groves school district located in the St. Louis suburban area as a curriculum coordinator for Science and Social Studies. His thesis was entitled “The Correlation of Standards-Based Grading and the Performance on Standardized Assessments.” Since his first year of teaching he has been a leader in technological advancement in education. He serves his alma mater as the president of Webster University's alumni association board of directors. His passion for professional learning has inspired him to start a non-profit organization called Connected Learning, for which he serves as the CEO. He has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished Educator, a google certified teacher, and a Phi Delta Kappa Emerging Leader.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris McGee September 23, 2015 at 11:28 am


Great, great question! I love that you are thinking about providing the most purposeful and meaningful feedback. Grades are such a personal thing and there are over a million different ways to answer your question. All I can do is tell you what I did and how I’ve changed.

I started my teaching career using a point system. So each one of the items I listed above would be worth an assigned number of points and I would score students based on the number of points earned. I’d write all of that in my gradebook and average all the points at the end. Then I evolved to put things into categories, I made quizzes and tests worth more and homework worth next to nothing. Again I assigned things points and averaged within the categories to come to a final grade.

Then a BIG shift occurred. I learned about standards-based grading. I learned so much about this that I completely changed my practices and grade book. I even then did my dissertation on the correlation of standards-based grading on standardized assessments. In a standards based environment every one of these experiences listed above are all pieces of evidence that are noted but aren’t given weight in a gradebook. I started looking for a learning trend (progress over time) related to a proficiency scale. This means I would take notes, observations, assessments all along the way with the point of never averaging them but looking at where the student demonstrates their best work (sometimes latest work) throughout the unit. That artifact or evidence is then used to determine the grade in the gradebook.

Whew! Needless to say I have tons to share on this. Find me at the conference and we can talk grading!

Sari September 22, 2015 at 9:05 am

Great article! What advice would you give teachers who would like to utilize more formative assessments, but feel they must have grades in the gradebook? Are we talking completion grades, or what?



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