On two occasions in the last six months or so, I have had the privilege of being a guest on podcasts produced by fellow Google Certified Innovators Nancy Minicozzi (@coffenancy) and Tom Mullaney (@tomemullaney). In both of my guest appearances, I took time to talk about "teching up" the DBQ.
TLC Ninja - Episode 23
For those of you not familiar with DBQ, it stands for Document Based Questions. In a history class, it gives students primary and secondary source documents to analyze and questions that require text/document based evidence to answer. I first started using DBQs years ago and it pained me to spend hours making 10-12 page packets at the copy machine. I hated wasting so much time with all this paper that will eventually end in the trash. Students would see the packets and let out a collective groan.
Don't get me wrong, I love the DBQs and the historical thinking they foster. But at the same time, I have sought ways to make it more engaging for students and efficient for teachers. The first step in "teching up" the DBQ was to convert the packets to PDF form. This allows teachers to avoid the copier and distribute electronically via Google Classroom. Students can now mark the text digitally using DocHub.
A snag I ran into was how students will answer the questions. If students typed answers using DocHub, I really wasn't changing the DBQ much. It wouldn't be much different than reading those answers in stacks of papers. I decided to make the text marking a credit/no credit task. I wanted the text marking to be a resource for students when attempting to answer the analysis questions. Instead of having them type their answers on the documents, I put the questions on Google Forms. This allowed me to have a one-stop shop for reviewing student answers and allowed me to add links and videos to supplement and enhance the DBQs. Not only could they refer to their text marking, students had teacher curated resources simply a click away.
Another issue with the DBQ as a whole is incorporating checking for understanding and teacher-to-student feedback. Since I'm "teching up" the DBQ, Google Hangouts was a natural choice. Students receive participation points for asking a certain amount of questions while they mark text and analyze documents. As I circulate the room, I can look over shoulders to see work and instant message students CFU. On the flip side, students can instant message me their questions.
Long story short, like anything I do, "teching up" the DBQ "always in beta." This is merely the first iteration. Students don't let out the collective groan when we do the DBQ. The empowering and engaging effect of technology hooks students in and makes both teacher and student more efficient.