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?

Friday, November 23, 2018

Drag and drop with Google Draw and Slides

This morning, as I was looking over my upcoming lessons on analyzing webs I found out that the app I used to create drag and drop assignments is no more. Since before we get deeper into what happens in a food web when the population of an organism decreases or increases I need to be sure that my students are able to track the different food chains within a web, and we have been struggling with what is known in my classroom as "the arrows mean something", this was not a step I was willing to simply forgo. So I turned to the trusty internet for something already made. As I was inputting different search parameters I stumbled upon Matt Miller's "Creating moveable digital activities with Google Drawings + Slides". I watched the first part and, being a Google Drawing fan I went ahead and created my drawing, stacking multiples of the same text boxes as needed by simply copy/pasting them on top of each other and placing them as a stack on top of an "empty" box.

I felt rather pleased with myself and called my daughter to try it out. Dutifully she did, and immediately two super important things became evident:

1. I needed to be able to lock the background
After another round of searching and watching Matt's whole video, I found out that while you cannot lock the background on Google Drawing, you can set an image as a background on Google Slides. 
2. I also needed to be able to "lock" the text the students were dragging so they could not modify it accidentally.
Instead of adding them as text boxes, I created the text and used the snipping tool to create them as images. While they can still be deleted as a "block" the content cannot be modified.
I am sharing the student template to give you an idea of what you can do.

I then started thinking, what else could we do with this? I love the idea of the drag and drop but also wanted this to be a little more challenging. Inspiration struck as I moved on to a different grade level, where I decided that students could use the traditional labeling assignment as a drag and drop that leads to a presentation. Using the same technique as before, but adding links to blank slides students could do more than just a simple labeling assignment.

For example, in this assignment where students will be asked to label a plant and an animal cell and use that as a springboard to create a presentation detailing organelle functions.

What do you think? What other uses of the drag and drop do you see yourself creating?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

First Perfect Hit - The Match Function

A couple of months ago I shared with you how to create Boss Battles using Google Forms and Sheets and assign XP automatically using the Vlookup function. I spent most of my summer creating all the Boss Battles I intended to use this school year and tweaking my individual student sheets so that if a student scored a "perfect" hit on the boss they would capture it and add it to their collection.

The response of my students to this whole idea has been very encouraging. They actually look forward to Boss Battle days, literally rushing to class to participate in what you and I would actually call a testing day. However, there were a couple of little nagging issues that my more hardcore gamers immediately asked for: Extra XP for "first hit" and/or for "first perfect hit". Apparently, this is a "thing", and while they were satisfied with my answer at the time "Don't know how to do that other than scouring the sheet, which I do not want to do. If you figure it out, we can implement it", it stayed in the back of my head. 

A couple of days ago, I once again sat down to try to figure it out, and it finally crystallized.

On one of my existing Boss Battle Sheets I added:

- First hit: Easy, since you only need to bring up the first entry on the form
='Form Responses 1'!$B$2
- First perfect hit: This formula looks up the e-mail of the student Form Responses sheet (column B) and returns the value found in column C when it equals 10 (the perfect score for this Boss battle). Once it finds the first one, it stops.
=index('Form Responses 1'!B:B, match(true, 'Form Responses 1'!C:C=10, 0))  
These two formulas made the students happy since at least they now had the "bragging rights". The addition of extra XP for those two instances can be done manually, or by adding a "Perfect" sheet to your BossBattle (as in the example), where you again report those two values and input whatever XP you wish for them. You can then use the Vlookup function explained in my previous post to have Google sheets find the value for you. That formula in your leaderboard would look something like:
=IFERROR(VLOOKUP(A2,IMPORTRANGE("GoogleSheetID","Perfect!A:B"),2,0), 0)
I now have to add those formulas to all my Boss Battles, but I know that it will be a nice surprise when we come back from break. What about you, any other tweaks to share?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Five ways to use Pop-ups

A couple of days ago, @JakeMillerTech posted a way to create a pop-up window on Google Docs.
I was intrigued by the idea, especially after a couple of messages back and forth with Jake and @dyerksjr1 revealed that even with the "must be editor of the document" limitation, it could work via Google Classroom using the create a copy for each student and insert "from Drive" options (link). So I set about finding out whether you could include links, change fonts, add images (not just emojis), etc. Two frustrating days later, it dawned on me that I've never seen these kinds of adjustments on Google's actual pop-ups, so while I still have hope that it perhaps can be done, I instead changed my focus to what I could use the pop-up idea for.

So let's start by referencing Jake's original post "Add a Popup Message to your Google Docs", where he provides step by step instructions on how to add the code to your document.

The code for a Google doc is:
function onOpen() {DocumentApp.getUi().alert(<head> "insert your message here" </head>)}
If you would like to add to Slides instead, you would use:
function onOpen() {SlidesApp.getUi().alert(<head> "insert your message here" </head>)}
and for Sheets, well:
function onOpen() {SpreadsheetApp.getUi().alert(<head> "insert your message here" </head>)}
With that out of the way, it is time to have some fun and think of ways of using it:

1. Reminders:

2. Provide links: Although the link itself will not work, students can always copy/paste it:

3. Give words of encouragement:
If you do not mind a little extra work, you can even provide individual pop-ups or even chose only a couple of random or carefully selected students for whom the pop-up appears.

4. Provide hints in a Break-out Edu activity:

5. In a gamified environment, perhaps even provide some hints about Easter Eggs. 

I'm sure you can think of some other awesome uses, and if so inclined tell us about them in the comments.

Thank you @JakeMillerTech and @dyerksjr1 for teaching me about this fun addition to my teaching arsenal.