Homework Hotline with Google Docs

I developed a “Homework Hotline” with a Google Docs spreadsheet to answer student questions in the evening.  The students can open it up at any time after school and type in their name, the time, which homework question they need help with, and any other questions they have.  I then get on from 9:00 – 9:15 pm to say “Hi!” and answer their questions.  Often, other students will get before 9pm and answer each other’s questions before I even get there (I love that)!

We use the spreadsheet but also the chat box for questions and help.   I have a separate page for each subject that I teach.  When it started, I would comment on the row below the question and hi-light it.  Now, I type into my own designated (purple-colored) column.  The new column is much easier for me and much easier for the students to follow.

I have found that this is a great way to answer student questions in the evening.  When I first started the “Hotline”,  students were on every night chatting with me.  It has calmed down quite a bit, but is still a very useful tool for evening questions.  Since it is much quieter now, I no longer go on every night at 9pm.  But, I usually check it once an evening to see if anyone has been on or has a question.  I now instruct the students to send me an email if they have questions and then I will get on the hotline that night to help them.

The two biggest drawbacks to the hotline are that writing equations and fractions in gdocs is awkward, and many kids are in bed by 9pm.  But, as I have kids myself, it is difficult for me to get on before mine are in bed too!  If I have an email request I will try to get on about 8:30pm.  Right now, I am averaging about 2 “Hotline Nights” a week.  I love being able to help out my students this way!

Here is a Sample Google Documents Homework Hotline (Blank).

Hotline

I am also playing with Scribblar and will try that with my students in the next couple of weeks.  Thanks so much to Twitter and @jrykse @druinok for “playing” Scribblar with me!  Great Tweeps are always there to help!  With my current workload I have missed out on Twitter lately and have really been missing out!

11 thoughts on “Homework Hotline with Google Docs

  1. They do not have to have a Google account. When you go to Shared Settings, you just make the document Public and allow anyone to edit. Most of my kids do have accounts now. They like that better bc if you do not have an account (or are not signed in) you are listed as “anonymous user” in the chat box. They don’t like that at all! : ) If your kids have a gmail account, they do not even need to sign up for Google Docs, it is automatic. My students love it!

  2. I just made a copy and changed the name in the file to my own! I will publish this out on my webpage for my learners. I love this idea, and it fits completely within my own teaching style.

    The hardest part is pushing the link out, but that can be done with a shortener like goo.gl or bit.ly, or just post the link on your own website (if you have one.

  3. I have been playing with this idea, but thinking about doing it on facebook. Trying to figure out a secure setting, where I can’t have access to their page (because I don’t want to!), but they can see my “classroom” page. I think this way other kids will answer as well.

  4. ER – you can do exactly that in FB! I created a FB site and experimented with it over the summer with some of my Twitter friends. Students don’t become friends with your page, they just have to like it to see your status updated. They will receive your status updated and can read your page/site but you do not have access to their FB pages. The only problem with FB for me is that students have to be 13 to get accounts and I teach 6th grade (11 yo). I know some kids have accounts anyway but I didn’t want to leave anyone out. Here is my MathReuls FB site: http://www.facebook.com/pages/MathReuls/134326756583735

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  8. I have been wanting to do a interactive homework helpline for quite some time now and also thought of doing Facebook but was turned down from my principal for the reasoning of having access to student pages and having no control over what they post in their own personal pages. However, I did not realize that I have the ability to change the setting. I feel many students are already on Facebook all the time anyway might as well find a way to make it more educational.

    I noticed you found some glitches within your method and am currently take a class about integrating technology into the classroom. Our course readings discussed about RSS, an automated syndicating network which will allow all users to receive feeds without having to log back into the site/Google Docs (November, 2008). I feel this method will help remedy the issue of not knowing if a student needed help or allowing other students to respond quicker to one another. I have am not familiar with RSS on how to establish one a blog or if Google Docs has a notification sender already but it might be very similar to me responding to this blog and clicking the box to notify via email with any new postings to this blog. I am interested to see if this will help. Keep me posted on how things turn out.

    I also found Google Docs to be difficult to use for using mathematical symbols and many documents typed in Microsoft Word do not transfer over fully into Google Docs either. I was thinking an alternative to be to a blog for students to use for the helpline with the RSS and having students type equations in Microsoft Word to use equation editor or currently I use a free similar version to word called Open Office Writer that includes text, spreadsheet and presentation just as Microsoft does and has an equation editor as well. Also with student phones maybe students can even take a picture and post the picture of the particular question they have if their is a graph or something more complex that text will not cover. Hope this will help.

    References
    November, A. (2008). Web literacy for educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    • FYI – Not sure why but this was posted on May 8th at 8:49 pm and not by the date or time listed in my first post.

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