Full disclosure: I spoke with a gWhiz representative today on the phone to obtain some of the info contained in this post. I am not affiliated with gWhiz and have not received anything (software / money / promises etc) from them. This is an unsolicited evaluation post of gWhiz MLA.
Back in February 2009, I wrote an enthusiastic review of the iPod Touch / iTouch and iPhone applications gFlash and gFlash Pro. These apps permit anyone to create custom flashcards using a Google Docs account, and then access that flashcard data (and share it) with anyone running gFlash. I’ve shown my own kids how to use gFlash/Google Doc flashcards I created, and this summer my 11 year old son created his own custom flashcards to practice multiplication problems which were most challenging for him, on his own iPod Touch. The functionality of these software programs really is terrific. All you need is the app on your iTouch / iPhone and a free Google Docs account to create new flashcard sets.
The same disclaimer I shared on that post applies here: I do NOT think creating flashcards or multiple-choice assessments is the ultimate use of mobile technology devices– but I DO recognize the value and need for applications like these. I personally think it is GREAT the software company (gWhiz) is continuing to integrate their application functionality with Google Docs, and I see lots of possibilities here.
In mid-September gWhiz released a new application and software subscription model for the iTouch/iPhone called gWhiz Mobile Learning Assessment (MLA.)
It is notable that audio clips can be used/integrated in the questions as well as answers, as shown in the above video. Images online can also be easily integated in questions as well as answers too. There are good possibilities here for accessibility, foreign language classes, etc. I also like how questions can permit sequencing and open answer responses, rather than just multiple choice responses.
Similar to gFlash, with MLA a teacher can create a test / quiz / assessment as a Google Spreadsheet first. A Google Spreadsheet template is available which can be copied and modified, or for demo purposes a webform template can be used. (To access the Google Spreadsheet, users must request access via a provided Google access request link.) I created an assessment using the webform template, which created the Google Document for me in my account. I did have to provide my Google login credentials to gWhiz over an open / nonsecured (not https) webpage to do this.
Unlike gFlash, however, which directly opens the flashcard set from Google Docs, with gWhiz MLA the teacher needs to share the Google spreadsheet with the school / organization’s “master” Google account to which MLA is licensed. A demo mode is available, but all created assessments are accessible to all demo users worldwide. (That account is firstname.lastname@example.org – be sure to share your template spreadsheet with this address and grant EDIT rights, not just VIEW rights.) Educators can get a 90 day trial account also. After a student enters the school’s master email account / Google account, s/he enters their name and selects the assessment to take. Data passes through the gWhiz servers and is directly recorded into the teacher’s Google spreadsheet.
This is a different model for iTouch / iPhone application licensing than I’ve seen previously, but it makes sense from a vendor’s perspective. iTunes permits an application (free or purchased from the iTunes Store) to be copied / synced and used on an unlimited number of iPod Touches / iPhones from the same iTunes account. (I think it is only possible to sync multiple iTouches simultaneously from Apple computers, however. If you have a Windows-based computer, I think you have to sync each iTouch separately. Please correct me if I’m wrong on this.) Because of this “sync as many mobile devices to iTunes” feature, a company like gWhiz that wants to offer per-device licenses has been in a challenging situation. By using their own servers as a gateway / intermediary for the authentication process to a Google Docs account, gWhiz has figured out a licensing process which permits them to offer the MLA application as a free iTunes download, but license the iTouches which access and use their software solution. Without a license code (or use of the demo account) the MLA iTouch/iPhone application can’t work.
If you have a cart of iTouches at your school or in your classroom to use, consider giving MLA a try. I think programs like this can be most useful as STUDENTS create and share assessments tied to curriculum and standards. I would hypothesize gWhiz is working on integration from Google Spreadsheets to learning management systems like Blackboard and Moodle, so student assessment data can be easily ported there when desired.
I’d love to see gWhiz or another company take this same idea and make a web-based / browser based assessment tool which makes Google Forms more user-friendly on mobile devices. Rather than presenting an entire Google forms survey on a single page, like gWhiz MLA it would be good to have each question presented separately and provide users with the option to review and change their answers if desired.
I created a sample quiz titled “Videoconferencing” that you’re welcome to try. Remember to use the demo account “gwhizmla” and you should see it after you click “Register.” The program will show students their final score at the end, but they cannot review answers to see which problems they missed and correct answers. If a student takes a test more than once, the system overwrites their previous submission and does not create a new entry. There does not appear to be a way to prevent a student, at this point, from retaking a gWhiz MLA quiz or test.
Overall, the idea of integrating assessment tools with Google spreadsheets / forms is a superb idea. Like other electronic response / audience response systems, however, this software requires that teachers take time to both create and load assessments “into the system” / following specified procedures. Before jumping on the bandwagon of mobile assessment in your classroom and school, it’s important to evaluate those time requirements and insure staffing support is in place to assist teachers. As I mentioned previously, I think one of the best ways to use mobile assessment options like this is for STUDENTS to create and share assessments which are tied to curriculum and standards.
If you’re aware of or have experiences with gFlash MLA or similar student response programs tied to Google Docs/Spreadsheets, please let me know.
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