June 14th – siteMaestro

After a week with Google Sites, we look at another incredibly helpful Add-On from our friends at New Visions Cloud Lab.

June 14th – siteMaestro

siteMaestro is another in the long list of helpful Google Scripts that New Visions Cloud Lab has created.  siteMaestro allows you to digitally assign or “hand out” a Google Sites Template (much like Doctopus) and keep track of everything in a nice Google Sheet to review, access and keep track of revisions.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 9.54.58 AM

Like all New Visions products, there is a helpful intro video on the website and dozens on YouTube from people who have tried the product and liked it enough to make a screencast of it.  We used it when we assigned all of the 9th Graders a “digital portfolio” which is a current trend (and good one) in education.

Like most products, type in a few emails addresses of your own (and a friend or two) to have a test run and see how everything works before jumping into your class.  Like everything in tech, there is a certain workflow that you have to test first and then you life is make easier.


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 19th – formMule

After our week of Google Sheets is finished (Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7) we’ll focus on a great addition to Google Sheets that is very similar to autoCrat, but with different features that might be what you were looking for.

April 19th – formMule

formMule is another great add-on from New Visions which automates simple task that would take you forever to do individually.

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New Visions Cloud Lab formMule Home Page taken April 19th

formMule is a Script that you add-on which helps automate communication through/from a Google Form.  Google Sheets as a program has gone through a couple re-designs since it’s inception, so the video on the actual webpage might be outdated but this Basic Setup Guide is up to date and this video is as well.

Although the video above doesn’t give any classroom uses, think about the power of instant feedback to students on a do-now to start the class and email them their answers back so they can correct them to participate in class discussions.  This add-on is worth installing and playing around with to see how it can work in your classroom!

March 2nd – autoCrat

Yesterday we discussed Algorithms so today I’m going to introduce you to a great one from New Visions called autoCrat.  Just like Doctopus, it connects to your Google Sheets as an Add-On and automates a process to help you in the classroom.

March 2nd – autoCrat

Way back on January 4th I mentioned autoCrat as an Add-On for Google Sheets, well almost two month later it gets its own post!  autoCrat is a powerful mail merge like program that can be used to merge information contained in a spreadsheet with a PDF or Google Doc and share with anyone.  This can be a very powerful tool as you are trying to automate your classroom.

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autoCrat on the Chrome Store taken March 2nd

autoCrat (the lowercase and camelcase is on purpose – it’s a programming thing) can take the information contained in a column, and place it into a PDF or Google Docs where ever you designate using double brackets (<< >>) this way you can create a form and instantly email users back as you form fill their answers.

I’ve used this tool in a variety of situations, mostly for “Do Now” quizzes at the beginning of class to quickly check what the students are understanding from the lessons (typically a review of the previous lesson).  They answer a quick 5 questions and I have a “answer key” already created and then I form fill their answer into it and quickly send it back to them.  I’ve also used it to remind students when they sign up for events and send them feedback when students fill out a Google Form on their work.  The New Visions creators have a great Screencast of a how to and Amy Mayer does a 6 minute video on how to work it.

Basic Steps:
1.) Create the Merged Doc – once you have an idea of what information you are collecting, create a blank document with <<bracketed>> places to fill from your form
2.) Create the Google Form to collect the data
3.) Add the “Add-On” into the Google Sheet and follow the instructions from either of the two videos above
4.) Sit back and be amazed at the ease and efficiency you now control!

January 4th – Google Sheets

Today was the first official day back from Winter Vacation for my school.  Coming back after any long break is a chance for rebirth.  For the students to focus and get grades up (especially with the end of the semester coming up) and for teachers to tighten up anything that got loose in classroom practice before the break.  It’s also an opportunity to start new classroom practices that you want to test out – I find that nobody has time in August and September to try out anything new, so coming back from a break is a great time to know what your students need and want isn’t working as well as you want it to in the classroom.

Full confession, I’m a spreadsheet guy, my father is and along with is favorite vegetable (corn) he passed it onto me.  If you aren’t afraid of the big bad excel, spreadsheets can be your best friend, and should be if you are a teacher today.

January 4th – Google Sheets

I’m making the assumption that you know a little bit about Google Docs and Google Drive (if not, bookmark this because I’m sure i’ll loop around to those – this was just on my mind).  Technology is changing the classroom with instant sharing and collaboration and Google was on the forefront with its Google Docs.  They’ve changed dramatically through the years, but it’s power still lies in its ability to share and collaborate at the same time and also access from anywhere.  Google Sheets is a very powerful ally in the high school classroom for management, even if your school doesn’t use google products, you’ve probably shared an email back and forth.  September challenge: collect students emails on the first day via notecards or a Google Form and use a powerful Add-On like autoCrat to do a mail merge and send students information – automatically!  Switching schools I needed to learn a whole new online gradebook system.  My previous school was always on and visible – which caused some issues (panicked students), but the positive was I was very transparent as a teacher.  This school is a little more reserved and the students are responsible (gasp!) for knowing their grades (it’s amazing, you should try it sometime).  However, old habits die hard and I spent the better part of two weeks asking them to check the gradebook for missing assignments with very little followup – then I realized they couldn’t see them.  In came autoCrat and I created a spreadsheet with the assignments and grades, comments for each assignment and then ran autoCrat (a kind of mail merge) which sent an updated grade report out to them.  Viola!  Problem fixed, I’m transparent again and students are able to see what they do and do not have turned in.

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AutoCrat Homepage taken January 7th

***Note: I accept late work only on the grounds that they’ve gone above and beyond.  As a CS teacher I feel that everything is in Beta and can always be improved upon, therefore I can’t NOT accept work that students have been making constant adjustments to.  This is big for our Scratch unit as students are able to share their work over the Scratch network and other people can comment, like, favorite and remix their work.