Google Forms for the win – Edublogs Club Wk 5


As a teacher, there are two distinct phases of my career: life before and life after Google Forms.

A little background – my graduate school work focused on using reflective practices in the classroom to promote critical thinking. Which is great…until you have to collect and process all of that reflective writing. It can pile up pretty quick. I cannot overstate how much Google Forms has made life easier for me to collect data (e.g., polls, exit slips, journals). You can administer quizzes with Google Forms. Heck, they can even make it easier to plan for the next field trip.

  • You can create a variety of response types including open-ended, multiple choice, scaled response (e.g., rating 1-5) and more. You can even insert pictures or videos.
  • Share the link via email or post to Moodle, Edmodo, etc.
  • Respondents do NOT need a gmail account.
  • The best part, all of the responses are automatically compiled in a Google sheet (i.e., Excel-type sheet) in your Google Drive. You have the form automatically collect student id’s with one click, and all answers are time-stamped. You can view the sheet to see each students’ response or you can create a summary response. I have found summary responses to be especially useful for journal type responses and survey polls.
  • Even better best part, the newest version of Google forms provides automatic data visualization (e.g., pie charts, graphs, etc.) of the responses.


Here are some examples from my class this year.


Collecting feedback at the end of a unit or project




Collecting lunch menu selections for a field trip



Take a quick poll for fun or to support class discussion



What should you do next?

Do it. Use Google Forms. Here are some resources to help you get started.


Google Learning Center: Getting started with Google Forms

Educational Tech and Mobile Learning: Google Forms for Teachers – A Must Read Guide

Tech Tips for Teachers: 4 Ways to Use Google Forms

Chalkup: How to Create Quizzes Using the New Google Forms






Thanks for stopping by – leave a comment!

Do you use Google Forms already? What is your favorite or most useful Google Form feature? Do you have questions about using Google Forms? 


Filter, Connector or Advocate?

In his book “Net Smart: How to Thrive Online”, Howard Rheingold suggests that our participatory power on the Internet can manifest in three key ways: filter, connector, and advocate. Furthermore, these three roles are roughly hierarchical, one cannot effectively be an advocate without being and effective filter and connector.

So, where am I? And what is my ideal role?

I don’t think that the three roles can be considered in a vacuum, as they are strongly interrelated in terms of the user skills and motivations.

For example, web 2.0 capabilities only make sense to me if, at the heart of it all, I am advocating a certain point of view. The desire to become a more effective teacher by incorporating digital tools into my instructional practice is certainly not unique to me, but it is still a specialized niche within the field of education. Not everyone is aware of it, or agrees with it, so by definition my support and interest makes me an advocate. This core issue is the filter, no pun intended, through which I am currently exploring the Web.

However, I cannot be a particularly effective advocate without the ability to filter the static and connect to other people. In simplistic terms, I need to find the good stuff, refute the bad stuff, and let other people know. This of course can take many many forms, and I anticipate that it will be a life-long endeavor (if I choose it) to refine and improve my processes.

Right now I am firmly in the “filter” stage. To me this means that I am exploring the different options that are available to gather, curate, and share digital information. As I have gotten better, and more comfortable, with interacting the online community, I am quickly realizing that an essential part of the filtering process is simply picking which tools I want to use. Each goal of filtering (gathering, curating, sharing) can be accomplished in some fashion by a variety of available applications, and most can accommodate all three goals in some capacity. I must balance open-mindedness to a better solution with the need to strengthen and develop my proficiency with a particular tool. At this point, I think that I have settled on a cocktail of Twitter, RSS, Blogger, Scoopit, and Edmodo to meet my current filtering needs. Based on my work the past few weeks, I feel confident in my ability to apply the basic functionality of these tools toward connecting and advocating.

What’s next?

I think that need to continue to use and refine my filters. For example, I think it would be helpful to develop a strategic plan for how I use my tools to gather, curate and share. I have gone through honeymoon phases with each, and now need to figure out how I want to use them as a coherent whole. Part of the plan should include frequency of use, both in terms of minimum AND maximum usage. For example, say that I want to check Twitter everyday, but I don’t want to spend more than 10 minutes TOTAL per day on Twitter. Same with my other tools. The power and seduction with the Internet is the essentially infinite connections (hence the name…). If I don’t have a plan, attention according to Rheingold, then it will be all too easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole.

Once I have a good practice of filtering, I need to use my filtering abilities to find people with whom I want to connect. Of course, I have made some connections already, but they have been haphazard at best. Building trust relationships requires time, whether online or in “real life”. A PLN is not built from a few tweets and random comment on someone’s blog. The really cool thing is that ANY of my filtering tools can be the launch-point to build a network. Some of this will happen organically, but I am pretty sure that I will need some sort of plan to really maximize my participation in this area. For example, pick my favorite 2-3 blogs and comment on them regularly.

Advocacy…I don’t want to worry to much about that at the moment. I think the most important thing that I can do to contribute to that role is to maintain a focus in how I use my tools. For example, create separate accounts to differentiate causal social and professional development activities. As I increase my footprint and my sharing networks, I will automatically become a greater advocate for my interests. Probably the most valuable advocacy function that I can provide is help others link into the network of movers-and-shakers in the field.

The Hammer or the Curious Mind?

Disclaimer: This post is my reflective response to Bryan Wehrli’s article “Technology as a Fence and a Bridge”.


Ok, ok, so at least two of these videos are staged events to prove a point. But, even if these professors are not rampantly destroying the personal property of their students, I think that the message that they are sending is still troubling.

Let’s see…

  • Never let your attention stray from the teacher.
  • You cannot be trusted to use technology appropriately.
  • Your concerns and affairs outside of the classroom not allowed in here.
  • Tech devices have no place in the classroom unless the teacher introduces them.


And don’t forget that videos are taking place in COLLEGE CLASSROOMS with ADULT LEARNERS (Yes…18 year olds are in fact adults.). Even if these represent isolated incidents, policies, and attitudes at institutions of higher learning, they are in fact quite representative of the current climate in K-12 public schools. It’s bad people, and teachers are not trusted with the technology anymore than the students. No cell phones, restrictive Internet firewalls and usage policies, teachers encouraged, or directed, to refrain from using social media even for personal interactions outside of work, “technology classes” that only teach keyboarding and outdated project presentation methods, insufficient technology support or professional development for hardware or software application

The paradigm is shifting, and the change does not originate from the schools. And that’s a scary thought for teachers, myself included. Because what is my role in this new world that neither my formal education nor my ongoing professional development have prepared me for?

Well, do I want to “reach out with a hammer or a curious mind” (Wehrli, 2009)? Do I draw a line in the sand and say thou shalt not pass…or else? Or do I recognize my new and powerful role as a facilitator, modeler, and collaborator?

It has occurred to me that there is a bit of a negative feedback loop in place, one in which I too have unconsciously participated.

In the absence of specific class assignments, students will generally default to using computers for social interaction, gaming, etc. –>

As a teacher I am mad, because the students are wasting valuable technology on useless purposes. –>

I don’t trust students to make good decisions using technology. –>

I don’t develop assignments or activities around technology. –>

In the absence of specific class assignments, students will generally default to using computers for social interaction, gaming, etc.

I think that there are two key, and related, assumptions in this cycle that must be recognized and addressed before it can be transformed.

  1. As a digital immigrant, I incorrectly believe that my students, as digital natives, automatically know how to use the Internet and social media for any desired application, including education purposes.
  1. My students mistakenly assume that the primary power of the Internet is in distraction or casual social interaction.


In other words, the kids don’t know any better, and the adults are too intimidated to inform them.

I don’t know the latest cool game, I don’t communicate primarily by chat, and I am never going to be as comfortable using digital technology as my students.

But so what?

  • I can teach you how to perform a proper search function.
  • I can teach you how to filter out the useful information from the static.
  • I can show you how applications can be used to gather, organize, process and share information.


I am still a teacher. I have the skills and training to find the answers if I don’t have them. My skills are still relevant IF I don’t spend valuable and limited resources trying to hold back the ocean.

The tide is coming in. Swim or die folks.

Reference: Wehrli, B. (2009). Technology as a Fence and a Bridge. Horace, 25(1).

Mental Models

As I have been exploring the use of technology to create more effective classroom environments, I have noticed a stark dichotomy in my teaching experience. One the one hand, I have facilitated dozens of independent study projects my gifted enrichment students. These projects were heavily dependent on using technology to gather, organize, and present data. On the other hand, I generally taught Algebra and Geometry with almost no use of digital technology.  We did  a lot of hands on projects with manipulates, measurement tools, etc., but the laptops stayed safely in the cart during math. 

So basically, I am comfortable with using technology to teach a process (project planning, research, organization, etc.), but I don’t instinctively use it to teach content.

Why is that?

The thing is, I am a pretty good teacher. I structure my planning to allow for a lot of exploration activities and real world applications. I am steadily increasing the amount of structured reflective activities that I use for myself and my students. I always assume that I can improve the lesson, or dig deeper, or make assessment more authentic and meaningful. I believe very strongly that students can and should self-select topics of interest to explore at a rigorous level. My entire enrichment program is predicated on that model, and it is commonly accepted as a best practice for working with gifted and high ability students.

And with all that, I am still operating from the framework of traditional instructional models. Teacher. Students. Textbook. Classroom. Even if I am really good within that model, and I can envision spending the rest of my career getting better and more innovative, there are still inherent limits. I am still driving the car, even if I know when to speed up and slow down and go the scenic route, everything has to filter through me.

I am the one that is in the way…but I am still the one that has to lead to way too.

I need to change my mental model. But along the way, I will need to address the mental models of my students, my parents, my administration. Not everyone is going to think it is a good idea (even the students).  Why rock the boat if everyone is “getting A’s?”  That is not an irrelevant question, and each stakeholder group wants a slightly different version of the same answer…because it is worth it to provide a meaningful and appropriately challenging education.

I think this also demonstrates to me the need for a strong professional learning community. I need to see, concretely and in detail, how others are implementing similar ideas, how well it is working, and how people are responding. The more that I explore the digital options that are available, and the vibrant community of teachers that are using them in the classrooms
(including math!), the more I am forced to accept the fact digital applications are the means to the end for both myself and my students.

Excellent (part II)

The kids took their test yesterday for the solids unit using their custom-built Excel spreadsheets to help them do the calculations. They had complete discretion as to whether or not they used the spreadsheet. A few students preferred to do it the “old fashioned” way, but most used Excel for at least part of the exam.

Most of the kids needed extra time to finish, which I certainly did not anticipate. But in retrospect, it makes total sense. They were basically taking a test in a completely new way, and it noticeably slowed them down. In addition to the normal processing time needed for the content, they were not yet proficient in using the spreadsheet…how and where to enter the data.

By far, the most interesting thing was realizing that they were learning and adapting on the fly. Multiple students had to make adjustments to their formula cells during the course of the test as they caught errors in the calculations. Even better, some students modified the very structure of their spreadsheet, or added completely new formulas to streamline or improve their calculations.

It was a pretty cool experience.



I had a really cool experience today with my Geometry class. My students were supposed to take their test today for surface area and volume of solids. The year is rapidly winding down, and I definitely do not have time to teach another unit. The problem is, I definitely have two or three days where I should be doing “something” before we start the review for the final exam. I really didn’t want to do lame filler work or some sort of pseudo-interesting (to me…) activity.

They were really caught off guard when they came to class, expecting a
test, and I said, “Change of plans! Grab a computer!” You have to
realize that, until this point, I have never used computers in this

I am not totally sure where the idea came from to do a lesson using Excel.  Maybe here.  (Check it out…it’s totally awesome.)


Ok, don’t worry, I didn’t bust out the mullet wig (You shoulda read the link…). But Mr. V did casually mention using Excel during the lesson to run some numbers, and I guess it stuck with me.

Anyway, the grand idea was for the students to learn how to build formulas into a spreadsheet that can solve all of the problems on the test by simply entering the given data. Also handy, they could use the review guide that they already completed as the sample problems

Long story short, the lesson was great. They were totally into it. Exclamations such as “Awesome” and “Wow, that’s really useful” were heard repeatedly. Most of them had never been taught anything more than the most basic functionality of Excel (sum, sort, etc.), which was completely shocking to me, by the way.  I mean, they have had computer classes for at least three years now.  Another example of the danger in assuming that someone, somewhere is actually steering the ship.

But I digress. The lesson was great. The students were engaged. I felt like a rock star. And they learned something that they immediately and instinctively recognized would useful beyond the 40 minutes of class time.

Of course, we didn’t get through it all. One day was barely enough time to model and troubleshoot. Monday during class they will work together to finish building and testing their spreadsheets.

Ultimately, it will probably take them 5-10 minutes to complete their test, and I will be surprised if the don’t all get 100%. Who cares? How often do you really have to calculate the surface area of a hexagonal prism anyway?

Twitter Ninja

 I am a believer folks. #twitterisamazing

This is definitely the breakthrough that I have been looking for to expand my professional network.

Plus, based on my “expert” knowledge garnered from a measly few hours of tooling around with Twitter, I had several really engaging conversations in two different grad classes tonight.

Lessons learned:

1. Just go for it. If you don’t understand it, Google it.

2. A lot of people feel the same way I do about this stuff…interested…but don’t know where to start.