Laura Gibbs

#TotalCoLearner: Week 9. Spreadsheet Power!

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Oct 21, 2018

So here is my #TotalCoLearner post for Week 9, and it will be a short one because I am at my dad's this weekend, stealing time here and there to get my homework done! Luckily, he watched a lot of football yesterday, which meant I was able to finish Week 9 and even get started on Week 10. The end is in sight, and I tweaked my "gradebook" spreadsheet, adding a column so I could plan out what I want to do as I finish up the semester. Here's what it looks like; you can take a look at the whole thing, too, because it's public: spreadsheet link.


spreadsheet screenshot

I actually feel badly that the Canvas Gradebook doesn't work like a customizable spreadsheet in this way; I'm having a much easier time than the students do by managing my work this way.


The spreadsheet automatically shows my total points, and now it shows the assignments I plan to do (marked in blue), so I can know for sure I am on track to finish up. That column works like a to-do list which also tells me that I am on track with my overall goals for the class.


It also shows the number of days left in the semester, and the number of points per week I need to be doing. It's definitely reassuring to see the number of points I need per week way down in the coming weeks, because I know I am going to be really busy.


I can sort the assignments by type, so when I decided I would definitely do the story and Wikipedia assignments every week, I was able to quickly mark those as "planned." Then I switched the sort back to by-date.


I can customize the view in other ways too, like filtering out assignments as they are completed or as the due dates pass by.


Plus I like my color coding. I respond well to blue and gold. (Oh wow, I just realized: those are the Berkeley school colors, ha ha.)


And so on.


With all the sorting and filtering and automatic formatting and calculations, it works GREAT. That's what spreadsheets should offer.


I wish the Canvas Gradebook worked like a real spreadsheet that the students could configure in their own ways for their own reasons. I'm guessing that was not even on the table when Instructure redesigned the Gradebook, even though it seems like it would not be that hard to do. I can totally imagine a Google Sheet set-up where there would be grades that the students could not alter, but they could alter everything else with spreadsheet customizations, color coding, calculating, doing all the things that spreadsheets can do.


Because of my hectic schedule, I've really been relying on the design-your-own-course approach. My students do not do such a good job with that, and I think the inflexible Gradebook and Calendar is a big part of the problem. I explain about designing their own course and setting their own schedule on the first day of class (Design Your Own Course), and I come back to that again and again in the announcements, in other class activities, in my communication with them... but they see the deadlines in the Calendar, and they see all the assignments in the Gradebook, and nothing about that gives them a sense of control like my spreadsheet does, where I am organizing and color-coding the assignments based on what I have done and what I plan to do.


But sadly, this is really the only way that FERPA constrains me in my work: even though I would love to find a better way to give my students more of a sense of control over the Gradebook by offering them a spreadsheet alternative, there is literally nothing I can do. For the past week, I've been pondering if there is some way I could use a Google Sheet alternative to the Gradebook, and there's just no way I can do that so that I would be able to say I was complying with FERPA.


But I will be tweaking my spreadsheet and making it available to the students next semester if they want to use it IN ADDITION to the Canvas Gradebook. Since it is extra work for them (recording the points in the spreadsheet and recording then in Canvas), I'm guessing most students will not take me up on that option, but at least I can make it available to the students who do want to have more of a sense of control. So, this is totally a result of my #TotalCoLearner project: I'd always thought about offering the students a spreadsheet, but now I have one that has been thoroughly tested and tweaked all semester as I've thought of new/better way to manage the data.


And of course I will be using a spreadsheet next semester myself because I definitely plan to take my Indian Epics class next semester. That's actually the class I am more excited about in terms of the reading and storytelling (I'm convinced that most of the world's great chain-tale types started in India), so it is going to be even more fun to take that class. The story I wrote for Myth-Folklore this week is a retelling of a Tibetan folktale that is undoubtedly Indian in origin. And yes, it has cats! I updated my "latest story" widget in the blog sidebar; I never used to use this widget in Blogger before, but now it is one of my favorite widget options. So handy! Here's my blog, with famous last words for the week there. Happy weekend, everybody!


screenshot of blog widget