Monday, July 8, 2019

Boss Battles with Google Forms and Sheets - An Update

I spent most of the last summer creating Boss Battles for my gamified classroom. Throughout the school year, I also shared with you a couple of tweaks I made to those original sheets, adding "first hit and first perfect hit", and then adding "shiny bosses".  My students really got into this whole idea of battling the bosses and I was really happy with the excitement they generated.

A couple of days ago, I began the painstaking process of clearing all of this work out in preparation for the new school year. While I would have loved to use them as they are, they no longer fit the game narrative that I am exploring for the upcoming year, plus, I reused Bosses across my grade levels. While this may not be a problem for most teachers, it is for me because I loop the students, so most of them would be re-battling the same bosses they already know. Perhaps they would not remember, but all it would take is one of them to check their student sheets (where the bosses are displayed), and the excitement of getting collecting the boss would be diminished. 

With all of this in mind, I started creating new bosses - we will be rescuing scientists - and clearing out the old forms/sheets tweaking the originals a bit, which is what I am sharing today.

Boss Battle Form (will auto copy)  - I have dummy-filled it with some data so that it is easier to explain. If you make a copy simply delete all the prefilled contents of "form responses 1"

Boss Sheet

While it looks basically the same, there are important things to note. 
  • Column L contains each of the Boss possibilities. Each is its own drawing (published to the web) and placed into the cell using 
=image("published address of your google drawing")
You may be tempted to make use of the new "insert image in cell" function. Don't. You will be calling the images into the boss battle pane and into the scores sheet. Google Sheets does not recognize images insterted that way as actual objects so until they fix that what will happen is that you get blank instead of the image you want to display.

  •  Cell F15 now contains a new formula:
=index('Form Responses 1'!$B:$B, match(true,isnumber(search("/",'Form Responses 1'!$A:$A)),""))
This formula looks at the timestamp looking for the first appearance of the slash symbol (/) in Form Responses 1 column A and reports the  matching contents of column B in the same sheet. This formula solves the problem of having to change cell references as the sheet is populated the first time around.

  • Cell F16 contains a similar formula:
=index('Form Responses 1'!$B:$B, match(true, 'Form Responses 1'!$C:$C=12, 0))
In this case, it matches the contents in column B with the first time the "perfect score" of 12 is achieved, and of course that can be changed to whatever number you is your "perfect score". 

Perfect Sheet

That sheet simply reports the contents of first hit and first perfect hit and assigns them a value. I bring that into my leaderboard using the Vlookup function as a way to give students an added incentive.
Formula that imports this into your leaderboard:

=IFERROR(VLOOKUP(A17,IMPORTRANGE("Boss Battle Google Sheet Identifier","Perfect!A:B"),2,0), 0)

Where the number 2 is the column number where those "extra points" are housed.
If you are interested in the Vlookup formula as it pertains to the leaderboard, visit my post "Assign XP automatically using Vlookup - Google Sheets"

Scores Sheet - AKA Where the magic happens

As originally, this is a pivot table that aggregates the data generated first by adding all the scores each student generates (Column B - Sum of Scores) and then by reporting the maximum score the student obtained (Column C - Max Score).

Column D (Counts the number of times a student achieved a Perfect Score)

I've been toying with the idea of having students "catch/rescue the Bosses". This collecting of the bosses had a great impact in engaging students to attempt the quizzes multiple times throughout a semester, regardless of whether it is an official Boss Battle day with the whole display of the Boss. In order to achieve this assigning of bosses I first needed to know how many times a student scored a perfect score. To do this, I added a Calculated Field to my Pivot Table:

If you click anywhere inside the already populated pivot table, the Pivot Table Editor opens. This already had the score summarization by SUM and by MAX.

The Times Perfect Score was added using by clicking Add values and selecting "calculated field". The formula is simply a COUNTIF, though you notice that the normal use of the quotations is eliminated.

=COUNTIF (Score, 12)

The number 12 obviously corresponds to the "perfect score" in this particular case and could be changed to whatever suits your needs.

If you are recreating your own, also make sure that you select Summarize by Custom and Show as Default.

That got me the number of times a student got a perfect score. You may be wondering why this was important. The answer is that I did not want to give out the Boss simply based on the number of points. My students are notorious for finding the easy way out and often would rather take a quiz 100 times scoring 1 each time than getting 100 the first time.

Column F (Where the Shiny Bosses come in)

With that number of "perfect scores" aggregated by student, it was time to move on to the "catching/rescuing" of the boss.

When working to pivot tables, you can still add formulas to the columns that are not being used by the pivot table itself. I added a title to Column F and called it boss obtained. To give the illusion of randomness to the catch, I decided on the following formula

=IF(D2>=10, Boss!$L$9, IF (AND(D2=9), Boss!$L$8, IF (AND(D2<=8,D2>=6),Boss!$L$9, IF (AND(D2<=5,D2>=1),Boss!$L$8," "))))

which gives the Boss in Cell L9 or L8 of the Boss sheet depending on the number of perfect scores. You would think that you could use the RAND (random) function, but unfortunately, it is what is called a volatile function, which means it refreshes each time and I did not want students to have a new boss catch simply by opening the sheet.

The formula is just copy/pasted down through the sheet so that each row gets its own student reference. The results of this column are again imported to my Leaderboard using VLOOKUP as mentioned in Perfect Sheet above. The key here is to remember that VLOOKUP references the column number:

=IFERROR(VLOOKUP(A2,IMPORTRANGE("your sheet identifier","scores!$A$2:F"),6,0), 0)

where the initial A2 - is what it is looking for (e-mail of my student),
"scores!$A$2:F"- the sheet and range where the data is housed
6 - really column F where the bosses caught were "assigned"

Column E - Maximum Possible Score: the end to "grinding"

Last year, some of my students greatly inflated their leaderboard standing by retaking boss battles over and over again. While in principle this would be OK with me, there is a point where enough is enough. I know that I can simply close the form, but that leaves the student who may need the extra practice out of the loop, and opening and closing a form manually means that I must remember to do so. Taking this into consideration, I opted for writing in a formula that reports a set number of points out to my leaderboard (again with the VLOOKUP formula) to my leaderboard once the maximum is reached.

=if (B2>40, 40, B2)

Looking at the formula, it simply reads if the contents of cell B2 (where the scores are added is greater than 40, report 40, otherwise report the number present in cell B2. The formula is copied down Column E.

That is it for today. I hope this inspires you to keep working on your leaderboards and perhaps make some additions or modifications. And as always a big shout-out to Mr. Powley who although has moved on to standards-based grading and may be letting go of the Dread Sheets inspired this whole Boss Battle process.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Embed a Live Google Slide into a Google Doc

This post falls under the "How did I not know this before" category...

Over the last few days, I have been updating my 8th-grade waves unit and will be using this performance task I found online. As I was working, I was going back and forth between the document and a slide deck "template" that I want students to use as a guide to organizing their work. My students tend to lose track of things so this was my way of ensuring that once they got to the end of the task they had everything they needed. Anyway, long story short I placed the document, which is rather long, into my preferred delivery site (WIX) and embedded the slide deck but was not particularly satisfied with the way it looked. I needed side by side and rather specific placements.
I definitely did not want to just give access to the slide deck since I know that my students would just make a copy of the template and use that instead of going through the instructions. I also did not want to add all the instructions to the slide deck. So then I decided that I wanted to add the slide deck to the instructions document.

I know that I could take a screenshot of the slides I wanted to reference and then link them, but while searching I came across the absolute easiest way of doing this:

How to Embed a Google Slide Into a Google Doc

1. Open your Google slide deck.

2. From the left side panel, click and select the slide you want to add to your Google doc. Go up to Menu and select Edit > Copy.

3. Open the Google Doc where you want your slide to be. Place your cursor in the location in the document where you want to add the slide.

4. Go up to the menu and select Edit > Paste

5. Choose "Link to presentation" to make it an active link.

Google docs will treat this as any other image, so you can resize, add borders, crop to shape or whatever you want. The absolute beauty of this is that the link not only directs the user (my students) to the specific slide, but also any changes made to the slide in the slide deck are updated in the doc by just clicking on update. You can see how this worked in the document I was talking about before:

I am thinking that this little trick can be used for hyperdocs, instructables or even lab reports. What do you think. What other uses do you see?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Reviewing Content with Shiny Bosses

By far, the greatest successful addition to my game this year was the Boss Battles. Piloted at the end of last year, and fully implemented this year, I've even had students present this form of testing during Student Exhibition Nights. This boggles my mind since the Boss Battles are in reality nothing more than the normal tests and quizzes I would normally have, but as we all know, beating the Boss, and even better, adding each to our collection of "perfect bosses", is so much better than simply taking a test.

My boss battles have undergone a couple of minor tweaks over the course of the year, with the addition of the first hit and first perfect hit, and Google Sheet's new (to me) shuffle question order, but other than that they have remained the same as when I first created them. 

With CASP dates approaching, I started to think about pulling questions from this already created "bank" of questions to create new battles for review. However, I did not love this idea simply because, I did not think this far along in the school year when I set up the individual student sheets, and thus did not leave myself extra places for more than a couple extra bosses. The other issue I had was that each unit is tied to a race of aliens we encounter through our narrative so it would not make much sense for a "robot" boss (matter) to suddenly ask questions about earth systems, for example. 

I was pondering this one morning while on my daily Pokemon Go walk (yes, I still play) when the idea to make shiny bosses came. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a shiny Pokemon is a variant of a regular Pokemon that has a slightly different coloration. It does not give anything new out nor does it have any special attacks, it is simply different. So I set about trying to figure out how to make that happen without having to recreate (copy) a multitude of forms and sheets and do a bunch of work with changing cell references in my evergrowing leaderboard. Most importantly, I did not want to touch the student ranking sheets. So here goes - Fullscreen link

If you are presenting the shiny boss battles as a stand-alone thing for review, you are done, but if like me, you were already pulling data into your leaderboard, you will need to make some other adjustments. 

 As with most of the gamification set-up tasks, the joy for you may be in creating the first shiny boss, and the rest of the process may become tedious, but remember, once done you do not have to do anything other than enjoy your students as they confront the shiny boss. As you see below, the figuring things out ends up being done by Google Sheets so there is no time wasted in looking up individual students to see if they got the shiny boss or not.

What do you think? Any other ideas to make review a part of your game or narrative? I'd love to hear about them.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Foldables or what to do when there are no devices allowed

I am sure that many of you are familiar with the foldable idea. There are books and blogs specifically dedicated to them, and the whole interactive notebook movement is still making the rounds. Although I love the idea, I am more of an #edtech teacher and tend to prefer to find opportunities for students to create digitally. That is until I am absent from the classroom, and I need to find an activity that ties into what we are doing and that will not need the use of devices. Too many times I've been burned by either my sub not knowing the rules of using tech with students or my students taking that absence as an opportunity to be off-task on their devices under the guise of "doing research".

So for those times, I find that foldables are "just right" in that they allow for a bit of scaffolding, but they are easy enough for students to handle without my presence. Unfortunately, every time I need one and do a Google search, I end up with several Pinterest hits that lead to TpT - a site that I prefer to avoid.

Today was one of those days, which spurred the idea of sharing the one that I created this morning for human body systems, along with some others, in case you are in need of them.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Experience Points for Student Goal Setting

A couple of days ago, I posted about using forms and sheets for student reflections. As I was pushing it out to students, I started thinking about how to make it easy for me to assign XP and leveled badges for its use. Ideally, I would have some sort of automation that:

1. Allowed me to see students' latest goal without having to open each individual spreadsheet, and
2. Assigned XP and badges automatically.

Students latest goals:

I created a new spreadsheet, copy pasted my roster in column A, and used the importrange formula to bring the timestamp and goal from each individual grade reflection Goal sheet. For example:

=IMPORTRANGE("", "Goals!$A$3:$B$3")


  •" is the URL of the individual grade sheet
  • Goals is the name of the sheet I am bringing over
  • $A$3:$B$3 is the cell reference for time stamp and goal

Painstaking in that you do have to change each cell reference, but you only have to do this during set up. It is worth noting that when you do this the first time, you will probably get an error telling you that you need to grant permission. Just click on the cell and allow access. Also note that the sorting by timestamp was already done in their individual sheets as explained under Form Responses 2 in my previous post.

Automatically assign XP for goals

This portion of the post assumes that you are already using spreadsheets to house your leaderboard, and works with any version you may have created. If you are looking for one, I offer mine, Mr. Matera's or Mr. Powley's.

As we all know, the faster XP are show/given out, the better. This posed a problem for the assigning of XP for this activity since nothing would replace the student/teacher conferencing about their goals or the student actually reflecting on them. However, I figured that if I could at least give out points and badges for some measure of completion, I could always go back and make time for those conversations. As I toyed with how to do this, I thought about making sure that some specific words were included, but quickly gave up on that simply because my list of possibilities grew rather quickly. I settled instead for a simple word count and figured that 30 words at a minimum per goal are sufficient. Letting Google spreadsheets do the work for me, I added a hidden spreadsheet to the grade reflection spreadsheet template I shared before. When you make your own copy of that document, simply unhide it

As displayed when unhidden, this sheet is simply the place where the counting and calculation of XP happens and can be modified to suit your needs.

With that in place, it is back to the leaderboard page, where you would need to decide where you would like to maintain the information and when to assign badges. 

The formula used to bring the XP from the student grade reflection sheet to the corresponding cell in your leaderboard is:

=IMPORTRANGE("", "Wordcount!C2")

As before, each spreadsheet reference is unique to the student grade reflection sheet, so it needs to be manually changed and the spreadsheets need to be linked.

Finally, the awarding of badges is done using the techniques described in my Leaderboard and Badges post, using a conditional formula that awards badges according to the total points accumulated from the word count.

And the badges are displayed on the individual student sheets which feed from the leaderboard as explained in this post.

In an ideal world, the badges would only be assigned if the student actually met the goal they set for themselves, but that is a conundrum that I have yet to solve. Perhaps you have some ideas?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Reflective Students with Google Forms and Sheets

It is the end of the semester, and like most teachers, my colleagues and I are currently under the barrage of with last minute regrade requests that should have been taken care of months ago. Like you, we published grades in our LMS as assignments were due, and the students received feedback with full knowledge that their grades are fluid. We have been encouraging them to take action on the feedback, make corrections, additions, etc. We have had individual conferences, sent e-mails, and clarified, but still, some of them are surprised when they finally log on to look at their grades, and the inevitable "What can I do?" question pops up. At this point, the reply is, "Go do what I've been asking you to do all along."

As we pondered this in our last PLC meeting, we figured that one of the issues our students have is that not only are they not looking at our LMS consistently, they are not opening the rubrics and comments left on their assignments. By the same token, they are not thinking about the work habits they are cultivating and forget about any type of goal setting related to their work or performance. The question then became, how can we set up a routine that will allow our students to do all of this consistently.

@judyzaccheo shared her use of Sown to Grow, a platform whose goal is to "Empower students to set goals, reflect on strategies, and learn how to learn.". While it looks awesome and an easy way to address these issues, if you have been here before, you know that:

1. I do not have the funds to pay for stuff like that ( even if it is inexpensive), and 
2. I do not like to use platforms that cannot "move" with the students. (I like to use things that my students can keep using even after they have left my class).

So, I spent the last few days coming up with a solution, and along the way, I learned some things about how to allow anyone to make a copy of a Google form, automatically sort form responses by timestamp so that the latest shows on top, and forgo creating charts within a spreadsheet using a sparkline instead. 

Before we get into the how-to, let me show you the final product.

We start off with a traditional Google form. The form is divided into sections that allow students to input their grades for each subject, discuss what made them successful (or not) in each class, and set a goal for the next week.

This feeds into a spreadsheet that then organizes the information so that the latest goal and information is at the top.  I figured that if we are doing this every week and things populated at the bottom, the students would never scroll down to find the latest entry. This is also why I needed the "Goals" sheet as the landing sheet. They need to see, front and center what they said they were going to do.

Finally the "Content Area" sheets, where students can see their grade trends, and notice when their grade changed, and the work habits that led to those grades.

Hopefully, you are still with me as I share just how to do this. First off, I started with the creation of a Folder with "Anyone with the link can view" permissions that would house both the master spreadsheet and form. This step is important when sharing the forced copy of the form.

Copy of a Google Form. 

In the past, I've shared copies with teachers by simply having them create copies of the spreadsheet linked to it. I tried to do the same with the students, first by making them copies in Google classroom and when that didn't work forcing a copy of a link I sent them. For some reason, this does not work when working with student accounts! Even when the Form button appears, once students click on it ends up creating a blank form. Yup, you guessed it, spent a class period with my pilot class trying to troubleshoot with them and then the bell rang... After some digging that still did not explain why it would not work, I came across Mrs. Drasby's post. Following her instructions, I was able to create a link that would force that copy of the actual form for my students. That was all fine, but now I had to walk my students through recreating the spreadsheet with all that sorting and tabs that I had painstakingly created.

Copy of the Spreadsheet 

While some of my students would jump at the idea of working with the different formulas and conditional formatting that make the spreadsheet work, I know that for many it would end up in frustration and me running around "fixing" it. So instead I created instructions that would allow the students to copy each of the sheets from my master with minimal possibility of error. 

Note, these start off with the copying of the form. Once the students had their personal forms and sheets, it was simply a matter of having them submit their sheets to me in Google classroom so I would have them all for an easy looking into.

How the spreadsheet works

While I have shared my form, spreadsheet and instructions in this folder for you to use "as is", I am under no illusion that it suits your needs perfectly. So a little explanation that would allow you to recreate or modify is in order. I do recommend that when you make your own copies, you house them in a folder with "Anyone with the link can view" permissions to ensure that you do not run into problems when students copy your form. Anyway...

Form Responses 1

This is simply the sheet created by the form. Notice the purple box indicating that it is linked.

Form Responses 2

This sheet sorts the responses from Form Responses 1 in ascending order. The only thing it actually contains is this formula in cell A1.
=sort('Form Responses 1'!A:O, 1,0)
If your form has more or fewer cells than A:O, simply change the cell reference.

Goals sheet

This sheet brings up the responses from the Goals column from the sorted Forms Responses 2, using

=ARRAYFORMULA('Form Responses 2'!A1:A) in cell A2 to bring up the timestamp in column A
=ARRAYFORMULA('Form Responses 2'!O:O) in cell B2 to bring up the goals typed in from column O

Column B has a set of conditional formatting color-coding the responses when they include the content area names. Here the idea was that students can look at how frequently they make a goal for a specific class and reflect on whether they are meeting their goal or not.

Content Area Sheets

Bring up the grades reported for each class to its corresponding sheet along with the "what made you successful or not answer. In each, the only thing that changes is the cell references. 

=ARRAYFORMULA('Form Responses 2'!A1:A) in cell A2 to bring up the timestamp in column A
=ARRAYFORMULA('Form Responses 2'!H:I) in cell B2 to bring up the grade and comment, which have adjoining columns, in this case, cells from column H and I. 

Column B in these sheets has conditional formatting as a visual for students to notice when their grades for a class dip or move up and reflect on the habits that took them there.

Finally, these sheets also contain a sparkline formula that creates the added "graph":
I toyed with the idea of adding an actual chart, which you could still do. Since it was really an added visual to show quick trends I opted for a sparkline. The one I used is
=SPARKLINE(B3:B, {"charttype","column"; "axis", true; "axiscolor", "red"}) - Using the information now housed in column B, but you could change it up with any of the other versions found in this support article from Google.

Using this with students

I basically just rolled this out a couple of days ago. The intention is that students will input answers in their forms weekly, during class time, giving them a moment to stop and reflect on how they are doing. I know, from the examples submitted that we definitely have work to do in the goal-setting department, but my hope is that with instruction, consistency, and practice we will finally get rid of those last minute "What can I do to bring my grade up?" requests. I am also thinking that it is a great resource to have at parent conferences and SSTs. It even helps address ISTE standard for students 1a "Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes".

What do you think?