Linking Google Slides

I had teacher walk into the IT office with a good question. She wanted to make a slideshow about a topic and have each student in her room create one slide to add to the slideshow. Here is what you need to know.

  • She is using Google Slides
  • This is 4th Grade
  • She didn’t want students modifying or messing around with other slides
  • 4th grades don’t always make “wise” choices

OK – now you are caught up and messing around here is what we stumbled upon. I don’t think this is a new feature but it was one that I was not aware of. Before we get to the solution here is what first sprung into our minds.

One Slideshow

She would have one slideshow on her Google account and she would share it with one or two at a time and then once their slide was done, she would take away their permissions and assign new students. Or she could just let them work on a computer that is signed into her account under her supervision as they directly added it with no sharing at all.

Obviously this is extremely cumbersome and not very manageable unless you were dealing with 4–6 students, so this would not work

Loads of slideshows and some manual labor

Each student would make their own and then they would share it with her. She would then cue up a bunch of different slide shows to show or she would re-create the slides on her own slideshow.

Again, lots of work and not very practical. I can hear you, the good reader, screaming at the screen now about copy and pasting.

The best solution

So the teacher make one slideshow to rule them all. Then each student makes their own and shares it with her. She will then copy and paste the slide(s) necessary from the student slideshow to the teacher slideshow. So check out the overly simplistic screenshots below.

Teacher Slideshow
Student #1 Slideshow
Student #2 Slideshow

So, what our teacher needs to do is copy the slide from the thumbnail view. Click the thumbnail and then copy it (ctrl+c or cmd+c or right click and select copy). Then once it is copied go to the teacher slideshow and paste it in the thumbnail area. When you do this, you will see an option to link the slide or not to link the slide.

I went ahead and chose to link the slides. When I do this this little icon shows up on that particular slide on the teacher slideshow.

Now here is why this is cool. Let’s say Student #1 decides to add a little more info. Maybe a picture in this case.

Student #1 Picture

Now let’s check back with the teacher’s slideshow and see what has changed.

As you can see – very little has changed, but when you look at Student #1’s slide you will see that it says UPDATE near the top right hand corner.

Update

So when the teacher clicks it the slide will update with the latest changes. Very, very cool.

Updated!

Now, let’s say a fourth grader shares this with their “best” friend who decides it would be hilarious to replace the computer picture with a funny picture and then the teacher hits update. All the teacher needs to do is hit Undo (ctrl+z or cmd+z or hit the Undo button) and the latest changes will be undone. Simple as that.

So, if you’re ever in this situation of making a single slideshow based and want the class to contribute then give this a go. It seems to work very well.

Google Forms and Sheets – Olympic Scoring – Reflection

Alright! The day of the big event has happened and here is how it shook out. Overall the day was great due to the awesome planning from the PE department. So the day went well but how did the Google Form and Google Sheet hold up? In short it did fine but there are still some issues so let’s get into it.

The set up

We do not have WiFi outside at my school. Originally I envisioned that teachers who were manning the station would open up the form on their phone and enter the results. The organizers weren’t thrilled with this idea. First, we are asking teachers to use their personal phone and their own data which is admirable but maybe not the fairest thing to do. Then there is the possibility that their phone could be damaged and well … that is not a fun scenario. Then there is the possibility that the teacher will enter the information incorrectly causing problems.

So we have the organizers putting inputting all the results. The people running the event scored everything on a score sheet and then turned it in at the end. The problem is that the form was meant for individuals to input the results for a single team per event. For one person inputting all these at once is a problem. It just takes too long. It got done but it was a bit of a rush.

In the future I will make the Google Form so the organizer can input all results for an event at one time. The spreadsheet part will not change too much. The math will still work the same way.

Damn ties

I mentioned before that ties are a problem with the spreadsheet. The vlookup function does handle ties well. Check out the image below to see what I mean.

Now the problem here isn’t that Denmark got all of those points because they did not. Check out the image below for proof.

The problem is the other teams get the shaft a little. Even though the four other teams did just as well as Denmark they receive progressively less points.

I need to figure this out and if you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments below.

Overall

This is a fun event and really the winner(s) is not the most important thing. We have two weeks until school is out and everyone is stressed and this is a great way to help get some of that energy out and forget about your worries for a day.

The Google Form and the Google Sheet did hold up very well. It seemed to have no issues recording and then handling the data. Overall, it worked and worked fairly well. I just need to tweak it and try to make it better.

The good news is I have 12 months to work on it 🙂

Google Forms & Sheets – Olympic Scoring – Part 5

It has been a long road and we are finally at the finish line. This post will talk about how to total everything so you can see who wins without calculating anything! We will also talk about limitations to this form and how it is not perfect. If you are new to this series please check the first 4 parts.

Now open up your worksheet and let’s get into the fun!

Make a new worksheet

We are going to make a new worksheet. To do this click the )+ button in the bottom left hand corner of your Google Sheet.

It will make a new tab and a blank worksheet. If the tab is not where you would like it to be simply click and drag it to the desired location. I am naming this worksheet totals

The first thing I will do is set up the worksheet. So there will be no functions (yet) just typing some text into some cells.

Now I left Column D empty for aesthetic reasons – no other reasons. The other columns are set up for a specific reasons which we will soon see.

Referencing the points

In column E we will be referencing the total points. You could just type them in, but I like referencing them back to their original cell. Here is how we do that.

  • Type in the = sign
  • Click to the Team 1 worksheet
  • Click on the link with their total points
  • Then hit the Enter key

Check out the video below.

Named range

Now that we have all the teams and their total points we need to name a range. I will highlight from E2 to F5. Then I will select Data from the menu bar and click on Named ranges…

I will call this data totalpts. Remember when naming data you cannot use spaces.

Large function

Now that we have that done it is time to start using some functions to rank the teams. In cell B2 we will be using the large function. This does the opposite of the small function we used in Part 2. So basically this will show us the largest value in a set of data. Here is what we type in cell B2:

=large(totalpts,1)

  • The totalpts is the set of data we just named
  • The 1 means to show the largest of the set of data

Now we will repeat this function for cell B3 and type this:

=large(totalpts,2)

And so on all the way dow to cell B5. When you’re done here is what you should have.

vlookup

We are nearly done. Now we will utilize the vlookup function again and we will be using this in column C. What this will do is to look at the number in column B and then match that number up with the team name.

In cell C2 here is what we will type:
=vlookup(B2,totalpts,2,0)

  • B2 is the value vlookup is looking for
  • totalpts is the set of data where vlookup is looking
  • 2 refers to the second column of the data, in this case column F
  • 0 Means we want an exact match.

In cell C3 here is what I need to type:

=vlookup(B3,totalpts,2,0)

Here is what mine looks like.

Uh? Patrick? What happened to second and third place?

OK, here is the time we will talk about imperfections. Obviously ties are not handled very well with the vlookup function. I have no idea how to solve this simply (or even complexly). If you are well versed with spreadsheets please leave solutions below! 🙂

Ties are a problem with this set up that is obvious.

Another issue here is testing the form. You could build this entire spreadsheet, all the worksheets without any data. It is possible, but I prefer to add a bunch of bogus data, build the form so I can see that it is all working properly and then wipe the data out. Not ideal but you want to make sure your hardwork has been done correctly and that once real data gets in there you know it will be handled properly.

Well that is the scoreboard in all its glory. If you have ideas on where it can be improved or what can be added let me know by adding in the comments below!

Google Forms & Sheets – Olympic Scoring – Part 4

Please check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 to get caught up. If you are just jumping in now and have little spreadsheet experience you may feel a little lost.

Last post we made all the worksheets for all the eventa. In this post we are going to make worksheets for each country or team. Lucky for us, there is a lot less “moving parts” here. These sheets will simply compile all the results for all the events for each team and then total those points up.

Named Ranges

Before we start making worksheets for each team or country we need to name some ranges and we will do that back in the event worksheets. So I will open up my spreadsheet and go to the Event 1 worksheet.

I am not going to add or change anything. I am simply going to highlight some data and then give it a name. So on the Event 1 worksheet I will highlight G2 to I5.

Now I will click on Data from the top menu and select Named ranges….

Now I will call these range event1fnl which stands for Event 1 final but you can call it whatever you want just remember to have no spaces.

Now I will do it again for the Event 2, Event 3 and Event 4 worksheets.

Make a new worksheet

Just like in Part 3, we will make one worksheet and then duplicate it for the other teams making the amount of work we have to do a lot less.

To make a new worksheet click on the + icon in the bottom left hand corner.

This will create a new sheet and to rename it just double click the tab.

Now we are going to simply type in a bunch of information. No functions yet. So here is how I set up my sheet.

Again, I just typed this information directly into each cell. Now we are ready for some functions. We are only going to use two today: vlookup and sum.

In cell B3 of the Team 1 worksheet we will type this function:

  • =vlookup(A1,event1fnl,3,0)
  • Here is what is happening in this function.
  • vlookup(A1 is looking into cell A1 (which is the team name)
  • event1fnl is where it will look for the team name
  • 3 means it will look in the third column of the event1fnl data which is how many points were awarded and display that in the cell.
  • 0 means that we want an exact match.

So now in cell B4 we will write this formula:
=vlookup(A1,event2fnl,3,0)

We use event2fnl to show that we want data from Event 2

Then we go on down the list and this is what it should look like.

Believe it or not we are almost done with this post!

sum

No we want to add all those points up. We only have 4 teams and 4 events but imagine you have 7 teams and 14 events! Calculating the totals can take a lot of time. So we will let Google Sheets do the heavy lifting.

In cell E1 I am going to write this formula – it’s very simple.
=sum(B3+B4+B5+B6)

Now there is another, shorter way to type this formula which is:
=sum(B3:B6)

It does the exact same thing. Some people like the longer way that way they can see exactly what it looks like, but it is totally up to you.

Guess what my friendly reader, we are done with this worksheet!

Duplicate

Now we just need to duplicate for each team and then change data in one cell per worksheet. To do this go down to the Team 1 tab at the bottom of the worksheet. Right click the Team 1 tab and then select Duplicate.

Now rename that worksheet to Team 2.

Now you have to make one change, just one and it is easy. In cell A1 on the Team 2 worksheet is the name of the team. Change it from Team 1 to Team 2. That’s it! That’s all that needs to happen and the rest of the worksheet should update.

Now go ahead and duplicate that sheet for teams 3 and 4 and make that one change and you’re done!

In Part 5 we will work with the Totals Worksheet where it will collect the total points for each team and rank them.

Google Forms & Sheets – Olympic Scoring – Part 3

*NOTE: I ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED THIS ON MAY3 BUT THERE WAS A MISTAKE WITH BASIC ORGANIZATION OF THE WORKSHEET/ I HAVE CORRECTED THIS AND SINCE UPDATED IT TO WORK AS PLANNED.

The journey continues and this marks the hump point of this series. Just a quick recap. In Part 1 I wrote about how I was using Google Forms and Sheets to create an auto calculating scorebook and the services and skills I used. In Part 2 I talked about how I created the Google Form and got it to do what I needed it to do. We also had Google set up a spreadsheet with our data from the form as well.

Here we are in Part 3. Here we are going to set up specific worksheets for each event. Before we start adding functions to a worksheet let’s take a look at the data we have. I went ahead and filled out the form. I have 4 teams and 4 events.

That may be a little small so click this link to get a view only peak at the data. Again, this was all organized by Google automatically. The data is nice, it is organized and it makes perfect sense. What we are going to do now is create additional worksheets in this file to help us filter the data and allow us to organize it for each specific event.

Just a note. If you get stuck and frustrated don’t worry – especially if you have never done any work in a spreadsheet. Stick with it, be patient with yourself and reach out if you need any assistance. Learning something new isn’t always easy.

OK, now we’re ready.

Naming that data

From the Form Responses 1 worksheet we are going to name all this data. This makes it easier to reference it back when using functions in other worksheets. To do this click the empty box below the fx symbol near the top left hand side of the screen. This will select all the data.

Now we need to name it. To do this select Data from the top most menu bar. Then select Named ranges…

Now give it a very simple name with no spaces. Spaces apparently will break it. I also like to keep it lower case. I don’t know why, maybe it is just me but I always make my named ranges lower case.

I called this data olympic. It is simple, easy to remember and hard to misspell.

Create a new worksheet

This might sound like we are going to create a whole new file but no. Spreadsheets have the ability to add different worksheets. Not being a spreadsheet master I feel this is a way to reference other data from other worksheets while at the same time filtering or showing specific data in a particular context.

Doing this is super easy. Open up your spreadsheet. You can get to it through the Google Form Responses page by clicking on the Google Sheets icon (see Part 2 of this series for a screenshot). Then click on the plus button down in the bottom left hand corner of your screen.

If all goes well you should see this! You can rename any sheet by double clicking on its name in the tab. I am calling mine Event 1.

Now to go to that sheet (if it didn’t do it automatically) by clicking on the tab, like a browser tab. You will see a blank worksheet but that will change shortly. You will notice that the columns are labeled as letters and the rows are all labeled as numbers. This is used so we can reference specific cells known as cell reference.

We will start our journey in cell B1. Here we will add a Query function.

Query

The Query function will allow you to pull specific data from the From Responses 1 worksheet. There is a reason we are putting it in cell B1 and not A1 but that will become clear later on. So we only want the Event 1 data in this worksheet.

Here is what you will need to type in cell B1:

=query(olympic,"SELECT B,C,D,E WHERE B='Event 1'",0)

Let’s break down this formula so you can understand what is happening.

  • The = sign is what is needed to start all functions. This lets the spreadsheet know that it is performing an action and not just holding data.
  • The word olympic refers back to all the data on the Form Responses 1 sheet.
  • The comma breaks the function into a different part.
  • Select B,C,D,E tells us that we are only going to display the data in these columns.
  • WHERE B=’Event 1 tells us that column B must have those exact words and based on that will show the information in those rows corresponding to columns B,C,D,E

When all is done here are the results!

Total seconds

I am sure there is a function that will sort based on two columns but I do not know it. However, I do know how to sort values in one column. So what we are going to do is convert the minutes and seconds to seconds in Column A.

To do this I typed in this function in A1:

=D6*60+E6

What this does it take the value in cell D6 (the number of minutes) and multiplies it to 60 (converting minutes to seconds) and then adds the value in E6 (the number of seconds) to that total.

Now copy that formula for the other teams. Be sure to change D6 and E6 to D7 and E7 and so on and so on.

Here is what you should have now.

Ranking with the small function

Now we need to rank them or put them in order from fastest to slowest. I am sure there is a way to do this more efficiently but as I have mentioned earlier, I just don’t know how and so I am working with what I know and what I can do.

First I want to highlight the total seconds column and name that range, I don’t want all the data in this worksheet just the total seconds in Column A so that is all I highlight. I called this data event1sec.

Then in Column G (I want to leave column F alone just for aesthetics) I will type this formula:

I’ve made a mistake – we need to put this in column H1 not G1. I’ve updated the post and pictures to reflect this change. Everything up to this point is correct.

=small(event1sec,1)

  • The small function returns the smallest value in a set of data.
  • event1sec is the data it is looking a.
  • 1 this means I want the smallest set of data

So for the next row down here is what you would type:
=small(event1sec,2)

The 2 means it wants the second smallest number in that data set.

So this is what your spreadsheet should look like now.

 

vlookup

We are nearly done!

In column I, I will simply add the scores. I just type in the numbers into the cell manually. There is a way to write an if statement to get this automatically but this seems a little simpler for me.
H1 = 4
H2 = 3
H3 = 2
H4 = 1

Now that we have the numbers ranked you could look back and match up the numbers mentally but it would be best if the country is next to its score. We will be using the vlookup function here and we will be putting that function in cell G1.

Before we add the vlookup we need to name another range. Here I will be highlighting A1 to C4.

I will name this range event1pts. The process is the same as before.

Now let’s add the vlookup function in cell G1 (as I mentioned before).

=vlookup(H1,event1pts,3,0)

Now here is what is happening with this formula.

  • H1 is the number it is looking up.
  • event1pts is the data that vlookup is looking at.
  • 3 is looking at the third column (so in this case column C of that data set) and that is what is will be shown depending on the value in G1
  • 0 means that it wants an exact match

Here is what that should look like.

Now for the next row (G2) you will want to type this function:

=vlookup(H2,event1pts,3,0)

Then use G3 and finally G4.

Now I went ahead and inserted a row at the top and here is the final worksheet.

Duplicate and update

This is the last step and it is pretty easy. We can duplicate this worksheet and only change one function to make it all work for the different events!

Here we go, in the worksheet tab at the very bottom left hand corner of your screen right click the tab for Event 1.

You should see a menu appear. From here select Duplicate.

A new tab will appear and it will contain exactly the same data as the Event 1 worksheet.

From here I will rename the Copy of Event 1 tab to Event 2.

Now I will go to the Event 2 worksheet and find my Query function. It should be in cell B2.

In this function I will change B,C,D,E to B,G,H,I. B stays the same because that column holds the which event it is in the Form Responses 1 worksheet.

Then I will change WHERE B=’Event 1’ to WHERE B=’Event 2’.

Here is an image of the new formula.

=query(olympics,"SELECT B,F,G,H WHERE B='Event 2'",0)

And magically the data should update! Awesome.

Now let’s do it for Event 3 and 4.

Duplicate Event 2
Rename it to Event 3
Change the query function to this:
=query(olympics,"SELECT B,I,J,K WHERE B='Event 3'",0)

Duplicate Event 3
Rename it to Event 4
Change the query function to this:
=query(olympics,"SELECT B,L,M,N WHERE B='Event 4'",0)

Parting notes

If you’ve been able to follow along and all of your sheets look great well done. If not keep at it. This is a lot to take in and again, if you’ve never dabbled into spreadsheets this could take a while to wrap your head around. I’ve tried to write this post in a way that I feel most people can follow but again, it is almost 2000 words and there are a lot of steps. If there is something you don’t quite get please email me at: patrickcauley@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to help.

Part 4 – Setting up the team worksheets coming soon!

Google Forms & Sheets – Olympic Scoring – Part 2

In Part 1 we talked about the broad strokes of creating a scoring system for my school’s Olympics games. We talked about the services to utilize, how it was basically set up and what skills I used to make everything talk together to accomplish our goal.

This post is all about Google Forms. This is the easiest part of the whole shebang. We willl make a form that lets you pick an event and based on that choice will take you to the event to enter their score or time.

You just need to think about who needs access to the form, how easy will it be for them to fill it out and all that good stuff. When I talked to the organizer of the event he said that he was going to be the only one using the form. This makes a lot of sense for a couple of reasons.

  1. All the events are outside and our campus does not have outdoor WiFi set up. Staff may not want to use their personal data for a school event.
  2. Since he will be the only one entering the form, this is smart as it will cut down on mistakes or duplicate entries.
  3. Some of our events deal with water and some staff may feel a little uncomfortable using their smartphone where there is a chance it could get doused.

So he and the IT team will be the only people with access to the form and the spreadsheet. Again, the fewer people who have access the better. Less chance of any screw ups or unwanted changes to the form or accidental deletion of formulas.

Making the Form

Obviously having a Google account is necessary here. Your school does not need to be a G Suite school but it does help when it comes to sharing it with other staff members.

To start a new form head on over to https://forms.google.com and sign in. Once there click on the plus symbol in the bottom right hand corner to create a new Google Form.

Once you get in, you will find it is pretty straightforward.

I suggest making all your questions either multiple choice or from a dropdown menu.

DO NOT LET THEM TYPE IN THE EVENT OR COUNTRY

Allowing people to do this will break your form GUARANTEED! People will accidentally misspell the country, abbreviate it or not type the whole name. All of these variations will make tracking the data impossible.

By making all questions multiple choices you eliminate this nightmare situation. They must select a choice provided. This will make all the Google Sheet work possible.

Sections

Rather than have all the questions on one page I decided to make a section for each event. A section is probably what you would imagine. It is a separate section that holds only certain questions. That way the organizer doesn’t have to scroll and scroll and scroll to find the event he needs to enter.

Instead, he clicks on the event (which is question 1) then the form goes to that section for that question. This is known as branching.

So here is what my form looks like right now.

Now I want to make a new section. This is very easy. Just click the new section icon on the toolbar next to the question editor.

Now that the section has been created here is what it will look like.

Response validation

Now I want the person entering the form to enter a number for the event. I want that to be an integer (not words) and I want some limitations. I don’t want someone to enter in a negative number or say 3 minutes and 62 seconds. 😦 That just doesn’t work for me.

Luckily Google Forms has something called Response Validation. This can let you put some restrictions on what is inputted into the fields.

Google Forms is pretty smart. For me it automatically knew I wanted a number and went ahead and added the data validation, but if it doesn’t here is how you enable it. Click the three buttons icon in the bottom right hand corner of the question.

Then select Response validation.

A new area will be added to the bottom of your question.

Now that it is there I can set some restrictions. For minutes I will make it a number between 1–30 (I know that is the limit for each event).

Where it says Number and Between – those are drop down menus and can be changed.

Now I will add another question to ask for how many seconds it took.

OK that section is done. If you have only races (most of our events are races) then you can just duplicate each the section to how many events you have. Doing this is very easy just go to the top of that particular section, click the three dots and select Duplicate section option

Branching

This is very easy. Now that the sections have been duplicated it is time to do the branching. Basically in section one, depending on what event the person filling out the form answers, we want them to go to that section and skip all the other sections. It sounds complicated but is super simple.

Let’s go to the very top in section 1. Now to enable this feature click the three dots in bottom right hand corner of that section. Then select Go to section based on answer.

Now the multiple choice question will change a little. It will add drop down next to each question. This is a drop down menu and you simply select the section you want it to go to.

Now go to each section and at the very bottom change it to Submit form. This will make sure that the form submits after that section is complete and you can start the process over again.

Make a spreadsheet

Last step. Click on Responses tab at the very top of the Google Form. Then click on the Google Sheet icon. This will create a Google Sheet where all the data is stored.

That’s it. It seems like a lot of work but it is really not too difficult especially if you have experience with Google Forms.

Next post will be Part 3 – Google Sheets – Setting up the event

Google Forms & Sheets – Olympic Scoring – Part 1

What is with me and “multiple part” posts?

OK and just a fair warning this series is going to get a little technical with formulas and linking multiple worksheets together to get a scoreboard of sorts for an “Olympic” event our school is putting on. I’ll do my best to break this down and try to help you connect the dots but if you need some help reach out to me and I will be happy to assist

This first post is just the background info and some basics that you should know or need to learn about Google Forms & Sheets before going forward. so let’s dig in.

Olympics

A lot of schools do this and call it different names. I’ve heard it called field day, activity day, royal rumble and so on. Basically it is a day where the school breaks into teams and performs events, either head to head or individually and then at the end of the day a winner is awarded based on their performance.

So this part in itself is busy enough and has a lot of moving pieces and it takes a certain person with good organizational and leadership skills to pull this off. My hat is off to those people.

At the beginning of the year those people came to the IT department and asked for a way to automatically calculate points for each event. What was happening was that calculating and organizing the results was taking too long at the end of the day, and, well, when you have an event like this, 30 minutes of downtime can spiral out of control real quick, so they needed a better solution and we have created that.

Our set up is pretty simple. We have 15 countries (teams) and 15 events. That means that each team will do each event individually. So we need to be able to capture those results and have a real time calculation of these events. The team that performs best at an event is awarded 15 points. Likewise the team that performs the worst is awarded 1 point.

Google Forms

The solution is Google Forms. I’ve made a very simple Google Form. The first page asks what event is being scored.

Then the second page asks for the country (team) name and how they performed.

 

We will get into making the form itself on the next post but even if you have never used Google Forms before then you should have no problem figuring this out. It is pretty simple.

For those who do not know, the results of a Google Form can be saved onto a Google Sheet. Google Sheets is a spreadsheet program (like Excel). Here is my example I worked on to give you an idea of what a spreadsheet looks like.

Google Sheets

This is where the real magic happens. To put it simply all the results from the Google Form are saved on a Google Sheet. All the heavy lifting is done here through a variety of different Google Sheets functions.

So I have four different types of worksheets. A worksheet is a different spreadsheet within the same file. So in the picture below you can see seven of the worksheets in this file.

Here are the four different worksheet types I use.
1. Responses – This one worksheet is where all the form submissions are saved. They are sorted by time but really you will not be touching this data much at all.
2. Event types – I made a worksheet for each event. This data is fed from the Responses worksheet. So in total I made 15 total events but really it is a lot of copying so not a bunch of work. Each event will house all the results for each country in that event
3. Country totals – I made a worksheet for each team. This will house (you probably guessed it) all the results for that particular country. Again, I made 15 worksheets of this type but again, it was a lot of duplication so not a bunch of work
4. Totals – This last type is just one sheet. It shows all the point totals for each team and then ranks them.

Skills

  • When researching this I saw a number of examples but many had people inputting their own scores directly into a spreadsheet which helps a little but was not enough of a time saver for us. I saw others that wrote their script for Google Sheets. This is a bit beyond me at the moment so I decided to try and build my own (which I did) and here are the skills I used to build it.
  • Google Forms
    • How to create a form that “branches.” This is very basic and took very little time to learn (15 minutes)
  • Google Sheets Functions – Functions are commands that tell the sheet to do various tasks like add a column of numbers, look up other cells and report them back into another cell and so on.
    • Named ranges – This is very simple. You select a range of cells and then you can name that range. So when you want the data from cell A1 to cell D30, you can highlight all that data and name it. Then you no longer need to type out that range over and over again. This is especially helpful when working with multiple sheets (15–30 minutes)
    • Query – This pulls and filters data from the Responses worksheet onto a new worksheet. It is one function per sheet and updates automatically when a form is submitted. This is a little tricky but definitely learnable to someone with little spreadsheet experience (1–2 hours).
    • Vlookup – I learned Vlookup when teaching Excel. It basically looks for a reference number in one column and then reports back a value in a different cell. Confused – so was I. This takes a good a little while to learn if you’ve never done it before (1–1.5 hours)
    • Small and Large – These functions lets you “order” by smallest or the largest. It is very easy to learn (30 minutes).
    • Sum – Super duper simple. This will add the numbers up in a variety of cells automatically. It is usually one of the easiest and first functions most people learn.

Now take these times with a grain of salt. You may be pretty good with Sheets and these times may be 0 minutes for you. Also understand I am not an expert here. I had some basic knowledge, a goal and determination and I was able to learn how to create this. I am sure there are more efficient and better ways to do this and I look forward to learning those.

Part 2 of this post will be setting up the Google Form. It’ll be out tomorrow or Wednesday. So look out for that.

Tech Support Problems, Apathy, & Solutions

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Recently I was reading a Technology Directors’ forum, and noticed that a few very well established schools were explicitly looking for people to assist them in improving their technology support system (Help Desk, Help Tickets, etc.)

Reflecting on how I design and implement such systems, I began to wonder if these schools have looked at the core foundation issues that cause problems in systems that support a variety of tech-ecosystems and networks.

Why Does Anyone Need Tech Support in 2018?

The question may seem obvious, but this question should be asked every year: Who actually needs support and why?

Why do teachers need someone to come to the classroom to help them? Is the equipment old and/or inconsistent? Is the classroom design too complicated? Does the classroom equipment not work well with the teacher’s issued device(s)? Are students unable to use or manage their devices? Are the deployed software and services too difficult to master?

For example, if a school is running Google Apps for Education or Office 365 for Education, is the school running these newer solutions using and old model? That would cause many problems for end users. End users would be trying to follow an internal plan, that conflicts with the external supplier’s solution. Google and Microsoft are external suppliers, and they do have  recommended implementation plans. In this case, the school has created a problem that will now need support.

The truth is, tech support and training are not the same thing. Asking support staff to execute tasks that an employee is required to do is a massive use of support time. The support staff is not the end user. Meaning, the support staff person is not a teacher. This means they will be very mechanical about explaining how things work, but possibly not very practical. Many issues are strictly job related, and require training from peers, not IT support staff.

The goal of anyone who is planning technology support, or facilities support, should be to eliminate the need for support. Expanding support around problems, will simply make those problems worse. Problems need to be eliminated to reduce the need for regular support.

 

Read More at The International Educator

It’s Time to Regulate Social Media in Schools

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

It is spring time, and once again I am planning a new network security plan for a school. The same issues as always, and the same questions.

All questions usually have answers with a price tag attached. Value in such planning is very subjective. After all, we spend money every year managing free apps on iPads, how does that make financial sense?

One question cannot be answered. Regardless of my due diligence and the school’s willingness to fund a comprehensive plan, students will still have phones. Those phones will have data plans. Those data plans circumvent all the work we do. Parents do not seem to care, because they are worried about having that device for logistics and emergencies.

These devices are addictive, and the applications are purely for entertainment and dopamine-driven feedback loops.

Yes, the network can manage the problem when students are on Wifi; but not when the students are on their own network.

Jamming signals is not legal in most countries, and localized jamming seems to cover very large spaces. Even if it was legal, it would impact other services.

I believe all problems can be solved, and I believe I have a solution for this one. Generically, I like to call it Social Media for Education.

Social Media for Education Explained

The core concept is simple. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., would offer an educational package. I firmly believe this should be a paid service for schools that can afford it, and free for schools that can demonstrate hardship. If you consider the cost of properly  blocking Apps on Wifi ($10-50 USD per student per year), this service would be viable if priced appropriately.

The social media companies would follow a Google Apps or O365 model for schools to join. They would require any person under the age of 18 to register as a student connected to a school.

For example, schools who sign-up would be given a school code, and could provide a student ID based roster for cross-referencing. Any person under 18 would be required to connect their profile to a school or education program of some sort(some students are home schooled or have other types of educational plans).

Unless they are connected to some type of educational plan, they simply cannot use social media until they are 18 years of age.

Schools who join would receive these benefits:

  1. Social media profiles are deactivated from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm everyday, in the timezone set by the school. This prevents VPN access from spoofing the clock.
  2. Schools could centralized a two steps homework system. Teachers would use Social media to circulate messages related to the school, and unless students confirmed all messages have been received (read), their profiles would not be activated. Although confirming a message has been seen does not equal work completed, it does mean the student acknowledged receiving the message. Blocking all other activities until all messages are cleared would prioritize the school’s notifications.
  3. Since all students can be identified and connected to a school or program, cyber-bullying would be easier to manage. Schools would need to make a request for data, but that data would connect to a student ID (most likely), and a verified location.

I have thought of more options, but, I would consider the above a tier one solution.

It Cannot Work Unless There is Regulation

It is clear from current practices, such as not enforcing the age restrictions for users, that social media companies will not offer services to schools that help disconnect students during their academic day.

In places like France, the government is physically banning phones from campuses. Other schools follow strict device confiscation policies. These measures only create a black market for phones, theft among students, and a burden on families who are victims of theft.

Trying to regulate property, and potentially facing liability issues related to property, is not the path to follow to solve this problem.

Governments need to simply require social media companies, or any company making a communications product, to provide the an identity and connection management system for those under the age of 18.

Those over 18 already have to use multiple methods to verify themselves when making new accounts. However, students seem to be able to join social media using devices and phone numbers that are not even legally in their own name. Think about that? I give my child a phone and number, they use it to join Facebook? How is that legal or even verified?

Not Enrolled in School = No Social Media

Compulsory Education around the world varies. Very few countries report having no compulsory education requirements.

No Requirement Based on Previous Data
Oman 0 2007
Solomon Islands 0 2002
Cambodia 0 2008
Holy See (Vatican City) 0 2007
Tokelau 0 2007
Bhutan 0 2008

The world-wide impact of adopting social media regulation of this caliber would equate to those under 18 not being allowed on social media, if they could not demonstrate they were enrolled in some type of educational program.

Likely, many countries would not participate in such regulation at all. However, it really only has to be country by country. As international as these platforms seem to be, connections students have are usually very local. Most students have their primary social network within the school they attend. That means their social media time is literally just interacting with people they could easily look at and speak with.

If Facebook in India were not participating, that would not impact a school in Korea. If students were to move from country to country (or school to school), they would have to re-register. The meta data from that behavior alone would help confirm drop-out rates, possible issues within school districts, etc. I believe the unknown benefits of the data would be substantial. Observer effect issues and data manipulation by school administration would be reduced.

I have been working with teenagers since 2005. I have worked with students from over 100 countries. I have been a technology disruptor, more times than I have supported the status quo. I believe in BYOD programs, and any students I have worked with will confirm I empower them to lead and make decisions. I know when I see a problem in the plan and the patterns. I know when students are not engaged, and when they are not learning. Mobile devices with addictive applications are a real problem. The design is an addictive design, and the effects are powerful. I hate regulation, but unfortunately, I think we are there.

 

Student Passwords – Live and learn

If you use G Suite or Office 365 with your school – those students must have a password. If you work with high school students it is easy – they can manage their own password. Heck even middle school students can manage their own passwords (most of the time). What if you want to use these services with elementary students? Now there are some questions. I’ll let you know what we have done and what seems to work for us.

Early childhood – Preschool – Kindergarten

OK – this is pretty easy. Of these two, we only give kindergarten an “account.” What we have done is made a general account (one per class) that the teacher and the teacher’s assistant use. The account has no Gmail and only access to drive for certain projects (mostly slides) that they work on. When they do work on projects the teacher usually logs into the computer or iPad and then lets them work. It takes a little time but it ensures no one has the password and the students aren’t working on it at home.

We haven’t had any issues about accounts or kids doing anything bad since they only use Google Drive while being supervised. If something does happen (a document deleted or a student working on the wrong document) it is usually caught quickly and remedied.

Grades 3 – 4

Now onto grades three and four. This is different. Each student has their own account. Gmail is still turned off but they have access to Google Drive and they have their own password that they know unlike grades K–2.

We used a simple combination of numbers and words and we recorded the passwords down into a chart and we kept a copy and the teachers had a copy. That way teachers could remind students what their password is or we could. Also, if a teacher ever suspected a student was up to some tomfoolery she/he could log into the student’s account and check it out first hand if they need be.

Things worked fine for a while and then the students started talking to one another and started figuring out the password conventions. Can you guess what happened next? I bet you can.

Some brave students then started to log in as other students, create documents and use these Google Docs as a kind of messaging board. It had some mean stuff about others but it wasn’t as awful as you might guess. Due to revision history we could see who wrote what and when. Those particular students were spoken to by administration and their parents were informed. Of course the file was deleted.

The fix

After the administration and the teachers sat the whole class down and talked about treating others with respect and how their Google account is not actually theirs but the schools and that they should expect no real privacy with it.

I then disabled the entire class’s Google access and rolled in and explained that impersonating another person in Google is illegal and tell them about the story of a student from my university who hacked into a girl’s email account, sent her cryptic messages (from her own account) and was investigated and arrested (true story).

Now it was time for them to create their own and unique passwords. We stressed that the only people they should is their parents, their teachers and the IT people. DON’T TELL YOUR FRIEND! Since then we haven’t really had any issues outside of a few students who have forgotten their passwords.