One of my favorite aspects of conducting training sessions is that I typically learn so much for the participants in my sessions. On a recent training trip I learned from a participant about an extension in Chrome titled Event Merge for Google Calendar. This extension is designed for users that either manage, or have access to, several different calendars within their organization. The extension merges duplicates events into one event with the color of each respective calendar represented on the event. This is excellent for educators because often times there is the rabbit hole of Google Calendars that exist and can become hard to manage. Try it out and cut down on the clutter that accumulates in your calendar.
One of the most beneficial, and popular, uses of G Suite among school leaders is leveraging Forms and Sheets in order to move to a paperless office. This can include building paperless referral systems, check in/out systems, and streamlining communication. Embedded above is a Slidedeck that highlights how you can create your own referral system, or paperless system, using G Suite for Education. In addition to the Slidedeck itself, I also wanted to provide a few points to go along with the presentation.
Defining the System
There are essentially two parts to the ground work in preparing to move your system to a paperless system. First of all, you have to have a solid definition of the system and the purpose the electronic service will serve. For the example that I have, we had to first do work in regards to defining discipline for our school. When I first implemented our current system at our school, we began with taking time to line out what discipline is for our school. Meaning, we had to develop our own common language or understandings of how discipline and behaviors are translated in our school. This is an important step because a philosophy and common understanding has to be established first before any meaningful progress can be made.
Build the System
After you have laid the ground work, then it is time to construct your paperless system. Important considerations are making sure that your common language and understandings from your definition phase have to be reflected in your new system. Then once you also have to determine how do the key players fit into the system? If you are building an automated system for referrals, you need to make determinations as to who will be notified without your organization. Using the Sheets Add-on Formmule will help you accomplish this very easily.
My favorite feature in Sheets is coming to Docs…the Explore button! The research tool is being replaced with the Explore button and brings some added feature to the table. It has some of the basic search tools that were accessible with the Research tool, but it adds additional features and recommendations to your project. Also, the addition to add your Drive to the search is a big bonus feature as well. This feature may not be available yet in your school domain, but it has been released to personal accounts. Explore will also be coming to Slides along with a total make over for this app as well.
The concept of teaming is great and can produce some outstanding work from educators. However, as we have moved to a PLC type model for our school, I have noticed that keeping track of notes and documentation from our teachers can become a bit of a jumbled mess because many people have their on forms of how they document. My goal was to create on system that the entire school could use for documentation and then separate out the notes to specific people. So using an add-on in Google Forms call docAppender, I was able to achieve this goal.
It is worth noting that there are also additional add-ons in sheets that can help you with your documentation and reporting purposes as well, such as Formmule.
There are no shortage of add-ons when it comes to various applications in Google Drive, but there are several add-ons that are my standard “go-tos” for getting work done. I wanted to share 3 of those applications that tend to reoccur as I lead and attend training sessions on a regular basis.
In my opinion, this is the granddaddy of them all. This is the one add-on that I by far use the most. It proves useful for me because it allows me to generate reports via a mail merge that is pulled from a spreadsheet. This can be used in any situation in which you wish to generate an automated report based on a response sheet. For me the most powerful use of this add-on is through the use of integration with our discipline referral system. It allows me to receive automatic referral reports on the fly and allows my teachers to easily fill out an outline form without the hassle of having to keep up with paper referrals or carbon copies. This add-on is also great for generating canned responses or automated replies to any designed email address.
I discovered Choice Eliminator last year but did not immediately find an application for it as an administrator. It wasn’t until this past year that I was saddled with the task of having to create a system for scheduling our parent teacher conferences that I found it’s great use. This add-on is great if you are making any time of appointment and will eliminate time slots from the choice menu as they are selected. This add-on is available in Forms and works with sheets to complete this task. A great companion add-on is the RowCall add-on in Sheets. This add-on is a great companion because it helps you separate out responses onto their own sheet based on the response, e.i. teacher’s name so that they could go to a tab with only their appointment slots. One word of advice I would offer though is to NOT use this with a large group. It is best if you keep it to a smaller group and runs more efficiently.
One of the more recent add-ons that I have discovered is Attendance Sorter. This add-on allows you to keep a running log for attendance that uses conditional formatting to help display attendance in a Sheet. I have found that an useful application of this add-on is keeping track of professional development attendance. Once all names of possible attendees is loaded into a sheet, actual attendance could be done during the PD session by having participants sign-in with a Form and the attendance sorter does the rest. This could also be used for any type of volunteer or other meetings that might be held.
I have been able to use Google Apps to streamline many of the processes that I use on a day to day basis at my job, but probably the most beneficial application of these apps has been through our current discipline system. By utilizing Google Forms, Sheets, and the Formmule Add-on I have been able to go to a paperless system that makes reports readily available. Through the video above I give a quick explanation of how to utilize Formmule with your discipline referral system in order to create automated reports.
The real benefit to using this system is not only the documentation that is created by having a running discipline referral system, but also the reports. The reports help me in my job by being able to keep everyone informed at all times. Depending on what report or action is taken based on the report, I can then notify my attendance secretary, special education designee, upper administration, counselors, in-school suspension supervisors, school resource officer, and anyone else that may have an educational interest in the report. Feel free to check out the video and explore the form that is discussed in the video by clicking on the link below.
I’m very proud to say that the Arkansas Chapter of Google Educator Groups is up and running. While this is still extremely early on in the process, I am working to help spread the word and recruit Arkansas educators to join our Arkansas GEG.
GEGs are independently run communities of educators who inspire and empower each other to meet the needs of students through technology both in the classroom and beyond. Via face to face meet-ups and online activities, GEGs provide a way for educators who are passionate about education and technology to meet like minded people and share, learn, and collaborate together.
Just received excellent news this morning, I was approved to present at the Google for Education Arkansas Summit this fall in Conway, AR. This has been a year in the making for myself since I attended my first summit last year and because interested in pursuing training opportunities with Google Apps for Education. The conference will be November 14-15 at Conway High School and I cannot speak highly enough about the quality of the professional development. If you are in Arkansas, I would strongly encourage to come join us in November for a great professional development experience. For more information about registration, click here.
On another note, one more project that I am pursuing is starting a Google Educator Group in Arkansas. Google Educator Groups (GEG) are communities of educators who learn and share new ideas with each other. There many GEG around the world and can serve as a valuable tool for educators. I was recently nominated to lead a GEG in Arkansas and am hoping that I am selected to get it up and going soon. I am very excited about both of these opportunities and can’t wait to continue working and growing with Google.
One of the most commonly shared Chrome features that I share with colleagues is the multiple user sign-in feature. Many people have multiple Google Accounts that they use between their personal and work/educational accounts. Normally you would sign out and sign in within the browser that you are working in. This way does work, but having multiple accounts associated with one browser can confusing and leave you signed in to the wrong account if you’re not careful. By using the “Switch Person” feature that is detailed in the video above, you can open a new browser window that is only associated with the Google Account that you have switched to.