Friday, August 9, 2013

Using Google to Manage your SBG Workflow - Google Forms Script

This is from a session at TMC13 to help you use Google to manage all the tasks that may overwhelm you. Instead of creating my own resource which may quickly go out of date as Google updates their products, you will notice I mainly link you to Google created resources/tutorials.

We will look at using Google Scripts to automate some functions, specifically a way to have submissions to a Google Form emailed directly to you instead of you having to go to the spreadsheet to view them. Yep, no more going cross eyed trying to read the submitted responses on a spread sheet.  Instead, receive an email with the submitted response that looks like any normal email. You can even reply to the student using that email. See an overview of the process below.

Before I begin, there are a variety of scripts that you really need to check out. The top ones I would recommend you play with are:
  • gClassFolders - Easily and quickly create class folders for you and your students
  • Doctopus - Great for organizing/managing student work and projects your students are doing in Google Apps.
One of the things that can be most time consuming with Standards Based Grading is reassessments. With my extra duties and the usual items that pop up out of nowhere, it is difficult to find a consistent time I was available for students. At the same time I also did not want reassessments to become somethings students just took at random to "see what happens this time". I needed a way to do the cliche kill two birds with one stone, stay organized and make reassessments meaningful for students. 

My first attempt was to use an email template created by Sam that students would use to request a reassessment. For some reason many students had trouble figuring out what they needed to copy and paste from the template into the email and what they were supposed to write themselves. 

My next attempt was to use a Google form just like Bowman's. Perfect, now students don't have to do any copying and pasting for an email and just fill out the form. Then I realized I needed to go to the spreadsheet to view the submissions.  I did some searching and came across a script that would do an email merge of Google form submissions. Brilliant, no more having to look at a spreadsheet of form submissions!

Google Form Script How to Guide

Step 1: Create a Google Form

Create your Google form. You can use Bowman's as a guide or mine. After creating the form, create the spreadsheet to hold the responses. 

Our school district is a GAFE (Google Apps for Education) district. In my form I had an option to force the student to first sign in to their school Google account so that the form would automatically collect their email address. This is nice in that it helps prevent the silly students who have a hard time typing their own email address. If your school is not a GAFE school, make sure you have a field in your form that asks for their email address.

Step 2: Share the form and response spreadsheet with a second Gmail account
The best part about the script is that I can reply to the email and it will be sent to the student who submitted the form. However, the reply does not work if you are getting the script emails from the same Gmail account used to set up the script. In other words, I set up the Google form and script using my account. I told the script to send the emails to my account. When I try to send a reply to the student, the email address that Gmail wants to send it to is incorrect (if interested, you can read why). The work around is to share the form and spreadsheet you created with a second Google account and use that account when setting up the script.

I created the form using my school Google account. I also have a personal Google account but I did not want to use that account. Whatever second Google account you use, that email address will be in the email sent to you by the script. To keep my personal Google account private, I created another generic Google account to use to set up the script.

Step 3: Install the script
The script being used is called FormEmailer. Using your second Google account, open the response spreadsheet. Follow the instructions given by the FormEmailer creator to install the script.

Step 4: Set up the script template
You can choose what data from the form submission to be included in the email sent to you. You can also create a template in the script so that the data is sent to you in a pleasant to read kind of why. I set up my template to make it look like the student was actually sending me an email. If you know some basic html, your template can include bolded text, etc.

Until I make my own directions to show you my settings, the video below does a decent job of showing you an overview of the process. The first 3 minutes shows you how to install the script. From about the 3 minute mark to about the 5 minute mark, it shows you how to set up the template.

Step 5: Set up the script trigger
You have two options to make the script run:

1. Manually run the script - aka you have to open the spreadsheet and tell the script to send out the emails (pffftt)
2. Have the script automatically run - Ding ding ding, we have a winner!

You can set the script to check for any submissions and send you an email for each of the submissions automatically. You have the option to set the trigger to occur as soon as someone submits a form or be time driven (set it for once a day, once an hour or even once a minute).

Let's pretend you have it set to once a day. Say you had three students submit a reassessment on a particular day. The script will check the response spreadsheet, see that you have three submissions and then send you each submission in a separate email based on the settings in your template.

To view how to set up a trigger, see the video below from about 4:40 to 6:05.

Step 6: Test
Go pretend to be a student and fill out your form. Look at the response spreadsheet to see your pretend responses and to see the script to mark your submission as "Email sent". Note: You will want to change the trigger to something like every minute, otherwise you will be waiting a while. Then go to your email to view it. If you don't like the formatting, go back to the script template in the settings to modify it.

Once you have it tweaked to your liking, you are ready to go live.

You can send an email to the student as well. You have the email sent to you as you set up using the above instructions, in the script you would set up a second email template that would go to the student (person who submitted the form). Even though a Google form has that confirmation page that appears after the student submits the form, for some reason I have found students are still worried that I saw their submission and will ask in class the next day. When they get a confirmation email, that seems to calm their fears.

For directions on how to set up a second email, see the video in step 5. Skip to about 3:28 until 4:40.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Using Google to Manage your SBG Workflow - Gmail & Calendar

This is Part 1 of resources from a session at TMC13 to help you use Google to manage all the tasks that may overwhelm you. Instead of creating my own resource which may quickly go out of date as Google updates their products, you will notice I mainly link you to Google created resources/tutorials.

Part 1 Google Resources:

  • labels
  • filters
  • canned responses

  • sharing calendars
  • posting/embedding calendars
  • view work week/hours only
  • add event from your email
Managing your inbox can be annoying for those of us who like it to be empty and then their are others out there who shall we say their inbox is far from empty. One of the first things you can do is to set up labels (think of them as folders but with special abilities). Instead of one ginormous inbox, sort those emails into various labels. One tip, I have two labels I use often called "parent contact" and "student contact". The labels are sorted alphabetical. I wanted those two labels to be at the top of the list so I added an exclamation point to the label name to make them be at the top. 

Filters are another feature I use. I have many filters set up to put incoming email directly into a specified label and skip the inbox entirely. For example, I subscribe to some of the Smart Briefs by NCTM and ASCD. Sometimes (often actually) I just don't have the time to even browse through those. Instead of those newsletters cluttering up my inbox, they get sent to one of my labels. Then I don't feel the need to have to read them or do something about them right now. Instead, when I get a chance I click on the label and then browse the newsletters or just decide to delete them. Since our school district uses Google Apps for Education (GAFE), I was also able to easily set up a filter to send emails from students to my !student contact label. 

Another Gmail feature I use a lot is canned responses or email templates. I found myself having to respond to the same type of emails over and over again. Some common ones from parents/students are the "How can I get help" or "Where can I get extra practice" emails. I created a email template that I can easily use to respond to those emails. It is much faster than copying and pasting, it is a reply to option. One tip when creating your template, make sure the body of your message is completely blank. For example, if you have a signature that is automatically added, do not include it in the template otherwise it will appear twice.

Gmail guides/tutorials:

My wife and I are pretty organized. We both have android phones and have a personal Gmail account (along with our work/school account) that we rely on heavily. We have our accounts set up so that we can see each others events (and our kids). No more missed birthdays for me and I easily find out if I can play cards with the guys on a certain night.

One tip if you keep a personal vs work account, share any calendars from your work account with your personal account but not vice versa. As much as my life revolves around school, they don't need to see what I do when I actually have some free time. By sharing your calendars, you can create events for your work calendar(s) even though you are logged into your personal account. 

I have a calendar for each of my courses. 99% of the time my 1st hour Math 8 class is doing the same thing as my 2nd hour Math 8 class so I just use one calendar called Math 8.  I have that calendar embedded on my class webpage for students and parents to view. Students and parents with a Gmail account can also easily subscribe to the calendar so it automatically shows up on their Google account calendar. They now do not even have to visit my webpage. Whatever I put on that calendar automatically shows up on their calendar.

Since your work account probably only deals with Monday through Friday and only certain hours of the day (say 7am to 4pm), you can set up your calendar view to only show those days and times. This gives your screen more space. You can still create events for outside those dates and times, you are just setting up your view to default to a certain time frame.

One newer feature is the option to add an event to your calendar directly from an email. Say a students emails you asking to meet with you for help. If in their email they included a day/date and/or time, in the email message you will notice that Google makes that a link. If you click on it you can then add it to your calendar without having to manually create the event yourself. 

Google Calendar guides/tutorials:
  • To learn how to use Google calendar including the tips I mentioned above, view the calendar guide on Google Apps for Education Training Center.
  • There is not an official "Ninja" guide for calendar created by Google by another user did create one here.

Twitter Math Camp 2013 Recap

I am going to have to add Twitter Math Camp to the "to do" list each summer. This year, it almost did not happen due to some financial challenges. The experience last year was incredible and I could not stand the thought of not being able to go again. I so wanted to be a part of it I even found a way to be a presenter from home thanks to Ashli. Just as the registration deadline was looming with space filling up, my awesome wife again gave me a shove and we found a way to make it happen.

Part of the way to making it more affordable was road tripping it. The past year I tried to meet up with Lisa whose folks live near me. However it seemed every time they were in town, our family was on the other side of the state visiting my relatives. The one time we were both in town, my kids were sick. Lisa and her husband offered me a ride to TMC13. Six hours goes quickly when you have someone fun to chat with. Thank you Lisa and Jason!

Being an introvert by nature (I would win first prize at Anne's "shut up and notice", recap via Gregory Taylor) I am glad I went to TMC12. I am not nearly as active on twitter and blogging as many of the folks at TMC12 were. With TMC12 being smaller, it gave me a chance to get to know a smaller group and not allow myself to hide in the background since there really wasn't a background to hide in.

TMC13 while having a larger group of people still felt the same as TMC12 but better. I had some folks from TMC12 to reconnect with and I got to meet a bunch of new people. It seemed whenever I went out to eat or hang out I was with a mixture of TMC12'ers and new folks. I got to eat gelato for dinner, sing a couple songs in the basement of a bar, eat some interesting concoctions off of food trucks, hang outside the hotel waiting for the fire alarm to end, learn to fold origami (I really wonder what the other guests thought of us in the lobby?), eat some really good food at a restaurant that reminded me of a place near me, and have some pizza and more gelato while serenading (quick Glenn, what were there names?).

Speaking of the hotel lobby, Jasmine had a good thought while we were chatting. The lobby had the feel of the old college dorm where you could hang out all day and have different conversations with all the random people coming and going.

I really hope everyone who attended had the opportunity to get that happy "math is awesome, tweeps are awesome" feeling we all had. Looking ahead to TMC14, I think there are some key ingredients that could possible make or break someones TMC experience.

1. Get on twitter
You don't have to be super active, just look at my number of tweets. Just start at least lurking and jump on a conversation here and there. This would give you the opportunity to have that handful of people to seek out.

2. Get a roommate
Find someone from #1 above or just ask on the facebook page. Random is fun. I'm not sure if I ever interacted with Justin before TMC but I am glad I had the opportunity to room with him at TMC.

3. Go eat with someone
See a group going for food, ask to join. The worst that could happen is they say they are going to Taco Bell. That is how I ended up with gelato for dinner, it was a perfect decision.

4. Go to the planned social event(s)
I did not go to the piano bar which was planned while we were there (I needed some rest time) but I did have fun at trivia and had a blast at karaoke.

For future TMC's, I really believe having the food trucks for lunch and a planned place to eat/sing/hangout the first full day was key. Everyone had a chance to start to meet someone during the morning sessions and then we all ended up at the food trucks for lunch and then sitting at random tables and grass chatting. I believe this gave us all a chance to bond some. Then for the evening we all had a scheduled place to go to. I think by having some structure on the first day, it allowed us to not have to worry about who do I go to eat with and where. Instead we got to focus on the social aspect of getting to know others who we could then possibly connect with for future food and fun. I think it is possible it could have turned out different for people if we ended up having to split up to go to different restaurants instead for that first lunch. Not every future TMC location will have food trucks, maybe we pitch in a few bucks to have a catered lunch, even if it is just pizza and bread sticks or subs?  I highly recommend to future TMC planning groups that all future TMC's are structured on the first full day. I do not remember if I put that thought down on the evaluation or not.

Thank you TMC13 planning group. Riding with Lisa gave me an opportunity to see all the pros and cons behind every decision they had to face. Pulling off TMC was no walk in the park and you all get a big high five.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

TMC13 Session Idea

I have an idea for a session at TMC13 but would like a partner. Oh, and there is a catch, I probably will not be there in person and will skype or gchat in.

Many of us are using standards based grading, I was thinking of having a session of sharing tips, strategies for dealing with the logistics. Things like handling reassessments (scheduling and creation of), gradebook use, etc.

I have a strategy about the reassessment process I would like to share with everyone.

I have gleefully stolen from Sam and Bowman their version of applying for reassessment. I like how the email version Sam uses you can reply to the students. My downfall is my junior high kids for some reason have a hard time figuring silly things out like to erase the [list reasons here] or even where to put their responses. For some reason it confused them, seriously. I then saw Bowman's use of Google form. Our school district is all Google so it would be easy. However as Sam has noted, it can be a pain to go check the spreadsheet and try to read the responses.

Enter the wonderful world of scripts. I have a Google form set up similar to Bowman. However, the responses from the form are emailed to me. The email looks like a regular email, very easy to read AND I can reply to the email which is sent to the student like normal. But wait there's more, from the email I can then create an event in my Google calendar to help me keep track of who is coming in and for what reason. This has saved me lots of time. So, I would like to share. It would probably take me 20 minutes to do a guided walk through on how to set up the Google form correctly. So, here is where a co-presenter(s) could share their tips/strategies for managing sbg.

Any takers?

Ohh yeah, the part about how I will not be there in person. My wife and I had this silly notion this past Thanksgiving of starting to browse for houses so that when we really wanted to start looking in June we would know how the process worked and what we would look for in a house. Well, browsing turned into buying, took only two house. We got a great deal in a location we wanted and in the school district we teach in. I can actually walk to work with my son (his elementary is on the same campus as the junior high). We moved just after the winter break and are now paying two mortgages. Anyone want to move to Michigan and buy a house? Plus we got a great deal because this house needs some improvements, so we probably will not be able to make TMC13. Booo.

If anyone is interested in co-hosting a session, let me know.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Notice and Wonder

Somehow I had some free time last night. Well, more like I really miss talking and sharing with everyone so to heck with grading and planning. Plus the topic for #globalmath was of interest to me.

Our district is big into Cultures of Thinking and held a Project Zero conference earlier this year. One of the thinking routines is "See, Think, Wonder". I was curious to see more from Max and his take on a similar "What do you notice?, What do you Wonder?". I was looking for what might be similar and how he envisioned the process.

It was refreshing to see everyone. The discussion was well worth it. My take is I like the simplicity of just the notice and wonder. I have used see, think, wonder and students are ok with it. The students did well with the see and wonder part but would get tripped up with the "think". Students would sometimes just skip the think statement. With the notice, wonder question, students are not hesitant. The questions seemed more natural to them. I am wondering if using See, think, wonder applies best in certain situations vs just notice and wonder. I need to look into this some more.

Now that I got my fix, time to do some planning. We were starting the concept of scatter plots and line of best fit the next day. Seemed like a perfect opportunity. I went looking for some interesting data and came across the winning Olympic Women's High Jump heights.

Some of our noticings and wonderings.  Hmm, time to clean the board.

A little thin. I was trying to use it at the beginning of class and got distracted by student stopping in for a signature for schedule card (we are in the middle of scheduling for next year), another random student needing help, phone call from office, grrr. If I wasn't so tired and I was on top of it, I would have had a student leading the charge instead of waiting for me. 

Loved someone noticed the jump in years. I purposely only showed the 1928 to 1964 data to hopefully make that jump stand out. I asked the person who mentioned the taller people what made her say that. We then got out the general trend of "as the years increase the winning heights increases".  Of course there was the discussion of it is not exactly linear. Next up, estimate what might have been the winning height in those missing  years (high five to history teachers, they guessed it was because of WWII). We started with just staring at the table, got some different responses and how they came up with them. Asked questions like "how confident are you in your estimate".

Transition to a scatter plot of the data (I used the . Estimated again, some stuck with their estimations, some modified. Asked the modifiers why they changed. Some great thoughts on trying to make the estimation points "line up" with the rest of the data. I wanted to dig into that "line up" statement and asked them to say more about that. Student went up and drew a line. I wish every day went like this.

From there the lead in to "best fit" line. I really wanted to use the high jump data with the Illuminations applet but had the darndest time getting the scale to work with the data. It did not like 1928+. The green dots to move the best fit line were off the screen. We had some data in our textbook that we used instead that was able to fit on the scale. We then played around with trying to get a best fit line and seeing how close we were to the computer fit. After playing we wrote up some guidelines on what to look for when trying to create a line of best fit. 

Tomorrow we get to circle back to that wonder question of "are people taller now so can jump higher". Time to go gather some date, make a scatter plot and see. I have no idea what correlation we might see if any. I will be curious to see how the students react. If there appears to be a correlation will they latch onto that and go with "it must be because we are taller" or will they introduce other variables such as better coaching, equipment, etc.