May 29th – Force “Make a Copy”

In the previous two post, I’ve talked about an assessment I gave to the students and they had to “Make a Copy” to share with me as they turned it in.  This usually leads to headaches as students can’t find the “Make a Copy” button or someone (if you’ve given editing rights) modifies the original copy.  Well you can only give people the ability to copy the document with a little trick – this will save a ton of time.

May 29th – Forced Copy

On any Google Doc (Slides, Draw, Sheets, etc…) you have a bunch of different “Sharing” options.  You can share with individuals, share with anyone in the organization, share with anyone with the link, make it completely public and share with anyone with the link (outside of the organization).  Typically we share by individual names/email addresses or with anyone in the organization.  But a little trick of changing the URL – just barely – will preserve the original and others can make a copy.

The steps:
1.) Create you document (I’d suggest putting directions on the original document)
2.) Share > Anyone with the Link (might have to select the dropdown, needs to be anyone outside of your organization)
3.) Copy the URL Google Drive gives you
4.) Change the last word “edit” to “copy”
5.) Reload the page and you’ll get the “Make a Copy” screen

Google Make a Copy

Like handing out assignments, students will just need to share with you and you have the original intact!


May 8th – ScratchX

After writing about Arduino yesterday, I figured I should connect to some common knowledge that we have worked from, basically from the beginning.  All cool Makery/Physical Computing things have their own Integrated Developer Environment (IDE) that was developed with them in mind, but they have also been built to be compatible with many other IDE’s so they cast a wide net.  One common IDE is Scratch because it’s trustworthy, has been around forever and has a huge following.  Well Scratch has a few plugins (Pico Board, Lego WeDo 1.0, Lego WeDo 2.0) but to really get into it, you’ll need to jump to ScratchX.

May 8th – ScratchX

I’ll repeat the disclaimer found on the website on this blog post, “Warning: all extensions are experimental and not a product of the Scratch Team.” so there might be a few hiccups along the way, but some of the “experiments” do some very cool things.

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ScratchX Home Page taken May 24th

I first found ScratchX when looking for something that was easy to connect for the Arduino board, Scratch is a simple language so interacting with the tool early was key.

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Arduino Experiment in ScratchX

Then I noticed some of the other experiments and they are amazing.  The Twitter search is amazing because there are a dozen websites, including Twitter, that you can do that on, but having it available in Scratch shows the power of code and if you can dream it, you can build in.

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Twitter Search Experiment in ScratchX

In the additional experiments area you’ll find LittleBits and our good friend Stephen Lewis with MakeSense (who has been a hit at some trainings I’ve recently been doing).  So look around, much like the original Scratch you can’t really break anything and enjoy ScratchX!

April 21st – formLimiter

Since I have this bad habit of introducing a tool associated with another tool, and claiming “I’ll write about this later” – well today that stops!  New Visions Cloud Lab has been featured multiple times because they do great work – but there might be similar Add-On’s available, I just have my go-to group.

April 21st – formLimiter

Google Forms are great – use them in your classroom all day to collect student data and answers.  Make little “do now” quizzes that instantly grade and return to the students using formMule or autoCrat, but then you get into making a form that the public has access to and you need to cut it off at a certain point.  Every day you log into that form and check to see if people have signed up and it basically consumes your day – until you realize there must be a better way.  formLimiter allows you to setup conditions which when they are met, it doesn’t allow access to your forms – amazing!

formLimiter already installed and using number of responses option

In the GIF above I have already added the formLimiter add-on (see April 20th post, last GIF) so I access it by clicking on the “puzzle piece” icon on the top.  Then I simply select a Date/Time or a Number of responses, then adjust me message and clicked “yes” on emailing me when it has reached it’s max.

***Note: I selected 75 as the max because I’m assuming everyone will want two tickets (I mean, it’s The Day After Tomorrow – everyone wants to see that) but if there are a few seats left over because of singles, you could turn in back on and adjust.


April 20th – Google Forms

With yesterdays post on formMule utilizing a Google Form, I don’t actually know how many people are that familiar with the brilliance that is the Google Form App from Google Drive.

April 20th – Google Forms

Google Forms is another free GAFE (Google Apps for Education) that records data into a spreadsheet.  You can design the look and have simple questions which the user sees, and then you receive the data in a sortable, searchable Google Sheet.

Google Forms pt1
Getting to Google Forms

You can access Google Forms by visiting your Google Drive, then the red “New” button on left hand side, then scroll down to the More > and Google Forms.  It’s not considered a “core service” like Docs, Slides or Sheets, but it’s just as useful.

Google Forms pt2
Google Forms Intro

Google Forms has gone through a redesign in the last few months and is getting more user-friendly by the day.  In the GIF above I titled the Form, gave a description, titled a question, choose different types of responses and duplicated my question.  If you want to sort, make sure that you give selected questions as responses – otherwise the computer will read “computer” and “Computer” differently based on the capitalization.

Google Forms pt3

In the settings for the Google Form you can (as shown in the GIF above): change the color, view a preview of the survey (which is the URL I always share with people), and manage who can access the document.  If this is outside the organization, i.e. parents, make sure you don’t have the “only people in my organization can access button”.

Google Forms pt4
Searching through Add-On’s and activating formLimiter

Finally Google Forms as Add-Ons which you can access from the three dot menu button on the far right hand side.  Add-On’s are scripts that allow you to change and control the form closer.  My favorite is formLimiter which controls the amount of people that can submit a response on a form, which is great when people are signing up for activities after school.


April 18th – “A Week With…” Google Sheets Day 7

The final day of the “A Week With…” series of Google Sheets walks you through how to make a grade book that you can share with students.  If you’re school doesn’t have an online grade book that students can see updated grades at any time.  (My philosophy: If I can check my bank account at any time, students should have access to their grades – it might have somethings pending but it typically updated within a few days.)

April 18th – “A Week With…” Google Sheets creating a Gradebook

Creating a grade book isn’t an overwhelming task – just putting together the skills we’ve learned here and using two new formulas to link sheets and spreadsheets together to give access.  In “pseudocode” (or plain english), we are going to create one spreadsheet that you can input all the grades onto and update as more grades come in.  Then you’ll create an individual spreadsheet for each student, share it with them (and parents if requested) and link it to the original spreadsheet and if you give yourself enough room, you only have to worry about the original because the shared will update.

Grade book 1
Gradebook in Google Sheets Sample

In the GIF above I take you through a sample grade book I’ve setup.  Rows 1 – 7 give all the information including the number of assignment (row 1), description of what it is (row 2), marking period (row 3), category because they are weighted (row 4), date (row 5), possible points (row 6) and a “=HYPERLINK(” formula to the presentation so the student can have a reference point for that grade (row 7).

Rows 8 – 18 are students, and then the columns are the assignments.  I have a few sheets on the bottom:

  • Grading Sheets are links to the individual students
  • Extras are assignments that I’m not using
  • Vertical is a spreadsheet that has a “=TRANSPOSE(” formula (in cell A1) to flip the grade book from horizontal to vertical, which was feedback and easier to read for students
Grade book 2
Grade Book Part 2

In the GIF above, I preview the Vertical sheet which uses the “=TRANSPOSE(” formula (in cell A1) which takes the vertical columns and makes them rows. Then I preview the “Grading Sheets” sheet with uses the “=HYPERLINK(” formula to link to another spreadsheet which I’ve shared with students.  Every student has the same “=HYPERLINK(” command in cell A1 because it’s just the general information from the first 7 columns, which were the first 7 rows above.  The students score is the “=HYPERLINK(” and importing only their column (the example has column H with rows 1 through 92 to give myself plenty of room). If a student tries to change anything, the scores disappear so they can’t fool the system.

In all honesty it took me a little while to get this right while getting feedback from students.  In the “Student 1” spreadsheet the student can see all the information as they scroll down the page, which makes sense when you are the only one there, but in a multiple student view it makes sense for the students to be rows that I can easily fill in scores.  This also leads into a great conversation about user experience and students can write about this, cross curricular mic drop.

March 25th – Dropbox

One theme I’ve been noticing in my writing is to “expand the walls of your classroom”.  This can be done many different ways from Screencast to Google Slides and creating websites.  I’ll discuss websites in a few weeks, but something you can do right now to help your students is give them resources and the best way to do this is in the “cloud”.

March 25th – Dropbox

Dropbox is probably the most popular file sharing service out there (and one of the first popular ones).  Starting with 2GB for free, you jump into the cloud and are able to access files from anywhere, have shared folders with team members and do basically anything you could in person, but much easier in the cloud.  Dropbox also has a great App for multiple devices and is very simple to navigate.

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Dropbox Home Page taken March 28th

Dropbox is very similar to Google Drive as a cloud based storage system, you just don’t need a Google email address to access it.  This can be very helpful in schools without a email system setup (which you’d be surprised how many out there still exist).  The downfall of Dropbox is the size limit on the free storage, you can pay for more and earn extra storage through a number of different means so keep your eye out for those.  I use multiple file sharing services based on the ease of each.  The best use for Dropbox I saw was a student in my AP Computer Science A class had .java files stored and easily was able to modify and put them right back into the cloud, rather than having Google Drive ask him what he wanted to open the files in each time.  It’s free to sign up and everyone can use an extra 2 GB of online storage!

March 10th – Zapier

Back on February 23rd I talked about If This Then That – which is a little flavor of programming but with sequences on your computer through conditionals.  Well, If This Then That is one of a few conditional based websites available – Zapier is another.

March 10th –  Zapier

Zapier is very similar to IFTTT but with more “subscriptions” that they have setup for you.  On IFTTT the conditionals are called recipes, where on Zapier they are called “Zaps”.  These Zaps connect Gmail or Google Sheets (as examples) to other Apps and will (as an example) email you if a cell, row or column is changed.  It’s a great way to connect multiple programs together.  Much like IFTTT, you just need to experiment with a few apps and get in the programming flow!

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