I saw these both featured on freetech4teachers.com and thought I would try them out. Richard Byrne has a quick description and a handy video on how they work which is nice. You can view that video with this link.
These are both add-ons for Google Forms. They are not stand alone form makers, you have to add and then enable the add-on to make these work and I’ll walk you through and let you know how well they work (or don’t). I figured since the Form Ranger (part 1 & part 2) is a bit involved, then I would check to see if these simpler add-ons work just as well.
This add-on will remove an option once it has been selected. There is no way to configure it to remove after a certain number has been selected. It is always set to one.
The first thing you need to do is create a Google Form. There are a lot of ways to do this which I won’t get into here and the process is usually pretty easy. Here is what mine looks like:
This is super bare bones and obviously, this will only work with Multiple Choice questions (it might work with a drop down, or checkboxes but I didn’t take the time to explore that).
Now I will get the add-on. To do this click on the three dots that are next to your icon, then select Add-ons from the menu.
A new window will appear – search for Choice Eliminator. Then click on it and go through the install process. It will ask you for permission to use this add-on and then you can go back to your form.
Now when you are back on your form, click on the puzzle piece near the top right hand side of the screen and select Choice Removal from the menu.
A tiny little box will appear, click on Configuration to get going.
When you do this a configuration pane will appear on the right side of the screen. Now, before it starts to work you need to click the little arrow next to the question and then turn on the Remove Choices feature.
Now it is nearly ready to go. The last option you may have is to have placeholder text when all of the options have been taken. To get to this click on the three-line menu and select Settings.
Type in whatever text you would like and then be sure to hit the Save button.
OK – this worked pretty well. Does it work as well as Form Ranger? Well, if you want to limit only one choice and you’re not expecting a huge onslaught of submissions right away, then yes. Yes, this works fine.
If you need to reset the form, you can do it in the add-on settings. Click RESTORE ALL OPTIONS.
Choice Eliminator 2
This was the other option Richard selected. This one is a little different in that you can set limits. Much like Form Ranger, you can set limits with this add-on. Form Ranger is a bit involved and takes a little bit of time to set up, so can this work just as well? No – the short answer is no, but that may not be a deal breaker for some. Let’s take a look.
To get started, make your Google Form and then install the add-on (the exact same way as above).
Once it is installed, you will activate the Add-on by clicking the puzzle piece and selecting it (just like before).
Again, a little window will appear and you will need to click on Configure to get started.
Again, a configuration panel will appear on the right hand side, but there will be a “Note form the author” (that is a direct quote, please see the screenshot below.
OK – so I need to change my multiple choice question to a drop down – got it. I don’t have to retype it, I just change the question type and this is what it looks like now.
Now that is ready, let’s get into the settings from the configuration panel on the right hand side. It will probably be populated with From Responses 1 – leave that alone, then click the arrow next to the question that has the choices you would like to limit and click the box Limit Choices. It will think for a little bit.
Once it is done “Creating” go ahead and click the gear icon. When you do that you will see all the choices for that question and you can add limits to each one.
OK – lets start testing. Like before, I opened up the form in multiple browsers and tried to break the form. What I wanted to see is will it strictly enforce the limits like Form Ranger. The conclusion is that it is not too bad.
If someone picks the last available choice for a time and another person has the form open at the same time, they can obviously see the time. If there has been some time (5-10 seconds) between the first person hitting the submit button and the other person, they will receive this error.
Not too bad. I was able to consistently get it to break, but I had to be very fast. I think the drop down menu causes a slight delay in a person making the choice giving the form some time to update to see what is available or not.
I didn’t have a lot of hope for these two, but they’re not too bad. Again, I wouldn’t use this for parent/teacher conferences or setting up a sign up sheet for After School Activities where limits really mean something, but if you’re looking for an easy way to set up some office hours and want students to set up their appointments ahead of time – this could work.
I’m a little excited about this – not going to lie. I’ve always been intrigued with what certain online “containers” can offer. I love the idea of these containers keeping my digital life in order. Helping my categorize and organize important bits of information. While sites like Apple Notes, Google Keep and Evernote offered this type of organization I always felt they were all lacking.
Now I am introduced to notion.so. This isn’t a new company, its been around for the past 7-8 years, but it is new to me. Upon first looking at it, I was unsure what it was. Was it a Microsoft Office replacement? Was it an Evernote replacement? How about an easy database replacement? Well it does all of those things, but does it do them well enough to keep me here?
Getting started & price
Like most websites these days, you need to log in/create an account before you can start using it. Notion offers single sign-on (SSO) with Google and Apple accounts, you can also sign up with an active email.
The free account is pretty robust and what I will be using here. What is missing from the free account compared to others is you do not have access to version history (so no rolling it back several days) and there is no real-time collaborative options (again fine for just the individual) and there are some limits to how many individuals you can invite to your page(s) and a limit to 5MB file uploads. I believe that last one applies to the individual file sizes. I think you can have more than 5MB in total uploaded, but an individual file cannot exceed 5MB in size.
What can it do?
When I first logged in, I was taken aback of what it can offer.
They offer an app that can create databases – offer lots of ways to input text (like using Markdown). The ability to embed PDFs, Google Docs, Word Docs – hell if it can be uploaded or is already online, you can probably put it on a page in Notion.
I quickly started to realize that this was not just a notetaking app. It was more. It could flex to be what you need/want it to be. Want an online grocery list? Done. Want a way to keep track of your contacts and keep notes on them? Done. Want a place for all your lesson plans/notes for a class? Done. How about a simple to-do list? Done. Need a place to manage projects and who is working on what? Done.
Not only was it powerful it works on anything that has an Internet connection. There are apps for Android/iOS devices, there is a dedicated app for Mac and Windows, but honestly, it works great in the browser on all of these devices anyway.
The layout is very simple. On the far left you can organize all of your pages. Below that is the option to create a new page and the majority of the white space in the middle is where you actually do the work. In the top right hand corner is where you share and your page options. Pretty straightforward.
This is not as straightforward. There is a learning curve here and I am going to be the first to say that I am far from fluent with everything you can do. Let’s start with these basics.
Arranging your content
If you are a user of WordPress.com then you know what a block is. It is a piece of content. I honestly think that WordPress is trying to achieve what Notion has with its blocks. The blocks define what type of content you are adding. Is it text, images, header, video, lists, checkboxes? Those are all different block types. To see what Notion has to offer, just type a “/”
Not only can you add all those types of blocks, Notion gives you lots of felxibilty with how it can layout on a page. For example, I can take 4 text blocks and place them side by side. Check out the GIF below.
The fact that you can layout just about anything, super easily in different columns give people a bunch of layout options which is something you do not see too often in services like Notion.
Adding text is pretty easy, you can just start typing in a new block – no need to have to pick a text block. What is also pretty fantastic is that you can convert the block to another type. So if it is a text block, you can change it to a todo list. When you move your mouse onto a blog you will see these six dots show up. You can grab and drag that block anywhere you want, but if you click on it, you get a menu that shows up allowing you to change the block type.
If you link websites, you get a little preview like you see below.
OK – now here are the big guns. The feature that I think really makes Notion stand out. It is the ability to create or to make it a database. Now granted, this isn’t going to replace a school information system or help you organize a conference of 400 people, but if it is a fairly simple need, this will work quite well. Let’s take a look at their database for a CRM (customer relationship management).
It’s like a contact list but much, much more. Since it is a database you can filter it (unlike most contact apps). You can filter it by last contacted, associations, just about anything you want. Also, since it is a database you can also add your own custom fields. For example, I wanted to add “Colleague” to Associations. I just open up the contact I want and in the association box type it in. That’s it. Now when I add a new person to my CRM, that option is available. Since it is a new field in the database, I can sort by it or create a new view.
Yes, Notion has a great number of templates to chose from, but that is not the only place to find them. There are plenty of people out there who have made their own that you can bring into your account and use as your own. Some of free, some cost money, it just depends.
Here is website that has an inventory management system template you can use. In short there are lots out there to chose from and a lot that you can pick from. Again, this goes back to how flexible Notion is for the end user. It really is up to you to decide how best Notion can suit your needs.
This is as simple as you would think.
You hit the Share button in the top right hand corner, type in their email address and their level of access:
Full access (can edit and share – only with a Pro account)
If I had shared it with a bunch of people (I think the limit is 5 for a free account) then I couldn’t see who is making what changes in real time, but if I click on the block it will show me who made the last edit and when but not what that edit is.
One thing I like about it, is that there is no public link you can give anyone. A person has to be invited or at the very least have a Notion account. No anonymous viewers really.
Organizing your pages
This is super easy. You just drag and drop them. You can make new categories and drop them there and even reorganize them within. This could be handy when taking notes or making lesson plans and keeping it all organized by units or even units inside grading periods.
One thing I discovered is that if you drag a page to a database the page kind of disappears as you can see in the GIF above when I drag Just another page into the Travel Plans section. It just kind of goes away. Not sure where it goes or how to get it back but it is something to know about.
Using it with students
One thing you need to know is that most students will use Notion for taking notes. It certainly lends itself to this task and with its easy organizational and sharing tools a motivated student can make very good use of Notion.
One thing to keep in mind is that students should know how to take notes before using this. I cannot stress that enough. If you take your students and dump them into Notion and expect them to take good notes you will find a class that will quickly devolve. Taking notes on a laptop/device takes practice and skill. I personally prefer a notebook myself, but for there are certainly good arguments for taking notes digitally and being able to easily share those notes.
If students are not practiced note takers, then they will have trouble keeping up with with a discussion or lecture. They will become frustrated and that will certainly show in their attitude in class as well as their work, or they may be used to taking notes with paper and pencil. Taking notes electronically is a different beast. People can easily get caught up with the formatting or trying to fix small mistakes and end up missing important content. It takes practice and time.
On the other hand, if they are seasoned note takers, then Notion should be worth their time. The fact that it is easy to organize and even go back afterwards and organize and customize make it very powerful. The only drawback is that you cannot use a stylus with it. I don’t think that will make a huge difference for most, but it is worth noting.
I would consider using this with a high school class, maybe an older middle school group, but not much younger. There is just too much freedom here and that can lead to its own type of distractions.
Teachers using it
I mentioned earlier that this would be great for lesson/unit plans. They have a timeline template so you can layout your entire year here. Then you can even link your individual units to those timelines making it a good place to keep everything in one place.
Of course you can type up all your lessons with all its links and resources right here in Notion, then organize those lessons into units. It is super handy. It may be a little easier to use than a curriculum mapping software since it works on every device you can have.
It also makes it a lot easier to share those units with colleagues for cross curricular opportunities or for others in your department if you are working collaboratively on units.
I really, really like Notion. I think its upsides are nearly limitless, but with a tool that is this flexible and this powerful, I think it could intimidate teachers and students alike. I suggest people (like myself) ease into Notion. Don’t try to jump into the database stuff right away. Start with what tasks you are familiar with like a todo list or maybe taking notes. Once you get some shortcut keys down and get into the flow of what it can do and how it works I think you will like it too.
There are even workspaces for teams but I believe that is in the paid version. Give it a try, get comfortable with it and then introduce it to your students and see what they have to say. I am curious of what you think about Notion, please leave your comments below!
The other day a student walked into the Tech office and politely asked if we could whitelist a site for him: bitpaper.io. He uses this site with a stylus and a touchscreen computer at home to do his homework. For a worksheet, he will upload it into bitpaper.io and then use the stylus to write his answers. Basically it is a digital way to do his homework. I thought it was pretty interesting so here is a review.
In 2020 I wrote a review about LucidSpark and then made a quick tutorial video. If you’re not too familiar with it and want a quick summary of what LucidSpark does, it is a collaborative tool where people can share and organize their ideas on a near limitless canvas. It is simple and easy to use and I like it.
Then I saw this comment on the video.
Well, I have no loyalty to one product over another and so I thought I would check out Milanote and write a quick review.
We have a pretty nice conference room at my school and it gets a lot of use too. It has a great 80″ display, nice tables with power built into them and comfortable chairs. We also have integrated speakers in the ceiling, lots of natural light and easy connections to the display. There is one thing that it has always been missing and that is a good video conference option.
We have tried to bring in a VOIP phone but unless you were sitting right next to it, you couldn’t hear the person. We tried hooking up a smartphone to the speakers with an adapter, but that required someone to sit at the front and they would always have difficulty hearing people in the back of the room or if a group of people were talking it was difficult to hear any of them clearly, then we tried hooking up a computer and run a Zoom meeting. The problem was the camera was not a wide angle camera and so it only captured 65% of the room which usually means we sit a bit far from the camera or we reposition the tables. Then the microphone on the laptop was difficult to hear, even if there were only 8-10 feet away especially if they turned their head away from the mic.
We reached out to some vendors and one recommended we try out the Bose Videobar VB1 (that’s quite the name I know). We had a demo unit for two weeks and it worked very well.
I was reading Freetech4teachers and saw a quick article about Brainstormer.online and thought it might be interesting to check it out. As you can guess from its unusual URL it is a brainstorming website that allows people to pose a question and a number of people brainstorm about that question and then vote on those ideas. That pretty much sums it up. It is easy for students to join and pretty straightforward. The question I am posing, is it worth your time? Let’s find out.
This website is geared for middle school students and up and unlike block programming (like the super popular Scratch) this has students working with actual code, but it does it with a lot of hand holding which I like. Just to be clear I am no programmer. I have dabbled here and there with mostly Python but with this review I was learning right along everyone else. Let’s see if it is worth using.
So I saw a comment on my TeacherMade review. It felt like a bit of advertising for Teacheasyapp which is fine. Apps and services have to get their name out there so I don’t mind too much. After taking a quick peak at it, I figured to do a full on review of it. It basically is a way for you to annotate and leave comments on PDF files that students share with you. It has some interesting features and I will be looking at the online app that you use with your computer and the Android app (it has an iOS app as well).
Not too long ago I wrote a review about mote. To sum it up, it is a Chrome extension that will allow you add voice comments to Google Docs, Google Slides and Google Classroom. I like it, it works well. When giving feedback to students sometimes a voice is better than a short comment. It allows you to really emphasis what you liked or to give criticism. It works well, it’s easy to install and easy to use.
OK – I am skeptical about this. Apparently you can turn all of your WordPress.com articles into a podcast on Anchor.fm. I like Anchor and I am still worried that Spotify has purchased it and others that could share that same space (looking at you Soundtrap.com).
So I thought I’d give it a try. I mean we have over 700 articles on IT Babble so let’s connect the two and see what happens.
Dear GOD!!!! So I created an Anchor.fm account and there was nothing to connect my blog. I like Anchor because it is so straightforward and simple. So I did some research and found this video. It’s a short video and they give an email link at the 6 second mark. The narrator says a URL. The address she is saying is “anchor.fm/wordpress.com” or so I thought.