Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tis the Season for Scripts

Time is our most valuable commodity. We often forget that in the push for creative lessons, there is much creativity to be found in efficiency. If we become creative leaves us more valuable time to invest in improving how we teach and how we learn.

After attending Jennie Magiera’s (Teaching like its 2999) Google Scripts session at IntegratED SF, I found myself realizing how many of the actions we do each and every day that could be automated in order to give us time to delve deeper into our passions.

As the district technology coach, I meet with teachers throughout the day. This poses a scheduling nightmare, with long email chains back and forth figuring out times that work for both parties. Therefore, I wanted to automate setting up meetings. My first attempt looked something like this: every time a person wanted to meet with me, I they filled out a form with three possible meetings times.  Then, I would email them back, add the event to my calendar and confirm with them.

As you can see, this was still taking a considerable amount of time even with some automation. So, inspired by Jennie’s session, I created a form, ran Andrew Stillman’s Formmule script on it to create a calendar merge as well as an automated email. I embedded the form into a Google Site with my calendar next to it, set to busy/free view. This way people would be able to look at my calendar to see when I was busy or free, and then fill out the form to set up an appointment with me. Additionally, I wanted the email to cc the principal of the school the teacher selected. However, I didn’t want them to have to type in the principal’s email. Therefore, I learned, through extensive YouTube video watching, how to perform a vLookup function nested in an array function so that it would work in the Google form spreadsheet (check out my how to video!)

Bottom line, it took me a while to automate, but now it works like a dream. My meetings are automatically added to my calendar. Principals are in better communication with their staff so they can follow up with people who have met with me on a variety of topics. Finally,  it is easier for those setting up the meetings because they simply choose a time they’d like to have.

Take a look at the following ideas that came to me as I extrapolated application of scripts in other areas of improving efficiency. Two great sites to check out for scripts are Jay Atwood’s and Andrew Stillman’s:

Administrators scheduling meetings with staff:

Taking this further, I thought about administrators and how they spend a needless amount of time bouncing emails back and forth with teachers to set up meetings. Why not use the format I just talked about for scheduling meetings with staff?

Administrators giving authentic feedback:

Another big issues for administrators is giving authentic and timely feedback to teachers. Many administrators drop by rooms and want a quick and seamless way to provide quality feedback. I worked with an administrator to create a simple form on Google forms linked with autocrat. She and I developed a quick certificate with call out fields that corresponded to the form. Autocrat is able to fill in the fields on the certificate based on the principal’s answers to the form. Then, there is a quick personalized email sent out via autocrat as well as a nifty PDF certificate, the spreadsheet contains the email template and links to certificates.

Signing up for multi use spaces

With many teachers at school sites and quite a few events, scheduling the use of multi use spaces at a campus can be daunting. Rather than good old paper and pencil, by using Formmule, we can do a calendar event merge. Couple that with a Google form where teachers or administrators fill out the date and time while cross checking with the space calendar, and you now have an automated way to take care of scheduling. Formmule will add the event to a shared calendar for that space as well as email the person in charge of managing that space that someone has requested to use it.

Professional Development Choices

Running a professional development session? Need to limit the number of people who can sign up for certain choices? Try using Formranger and a simple script that will allow you to close choices on a form when enough people have signed up.

Document Ownership and Organization

Have kids who accidentally delete items or forget to share them with you? Check out Doctopus which is a virtual copier that allows you to choose who get a copy of a document while keeping you as the owner.

Doctopus add on for inserting rubrics and grading work--Goobric

Working with Doctopus is fun and exciting, but grading is also an important aspect that would be great to add onto this. Goobric works seamlessly with Doctopus as a way to insert a pre-made spreadsheet rubric into a Google Doc.

Grading a form with conditional formatting

Fubaroo is a quick way to grade multiple choice google forms, but another nifty way to grade them as well is with conditional formating. Check out Jennie Magiera’s YouTube video on grading forms with simple color rules.

Monday, December 9, 2013

LASD Joins Hour of Code

This week (December 9th-13th) is Computer Science Education Week, a week dedicated to showing students K-12 the importance of computer science education.  Organized by code.org with the goal to get 10 million students of all ages (and adults) to participate in the hour of code.  

According to code.org, "90% of K-12 schools in the U.S. do not teach computer science."  Los Altos School District, thanks to funding from LAEF, is fortunate enough to be in the 10% of U.S. Schools that are offering every student the opportunity to learn computational thinking through the STEM and CSTEM program.

During this week every LASD student will be given opportunities to engage in activities that will teach them to code.  A big thank you to all of our teachers that are making “Hour of Code” a reality across the district.

Here are a few sample lessons/activities being planned across our district this week

This week would be a great time to ask your child about what they have learned.  Perhaps you can help stretch the “Hour of Code” by engaging in some coding fun as a family.

To learn more about the the LASD STEM program, take a look at two articles written and published just this week by Sheena Vaidyanathan, CSTEM Teacher:
"Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer…because it teaches you how to think."- Steve Jobs

Contributed by: Alyssa Gallagher, Director of Strategic Initiatives & Community Partnerships