Well . . . if you know me at all, you know that this post could go off in a multitude of directions. I'm obsessed with a lot of things, including coffee, caramel, scarves, learning, and lime-green. BUT this time, I'm obsessed with finding new ways to use "old" things.
I have had the idea to use Forms or Sheets for a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Style activity for a long time, but didn't really have the motivation until recently. While in Las Vegas for a Google Summit last month, I got to watch a Demo Slam where Googlista Michelle Armstrong showed this very thing: she presented a story that took off in different directions depending upon which option the reader chose at the end of each page. Each "taker of the form" could potentially end up with an entirely different story, depending upon how he or she navigated through it. Interesting! This got me thinking . . .
So what if I conducted a Professional Development day in this manner? Goodness knows there are myriad options for things I could present on a given day, but how am I to know which of those is most relevant to my audience? Who says they want to learn what I have to share? I over-plan anyway, so why not use that to my advantage? That's just what I did:
Even though we only got through about 2/3 of what I had planned, I felt like this day was super-fun and extra-productive! Instead of "Ann the Leader" calling all the shots, the participants used Mimio Votes to select where we would go at the end of each adventure. When I guessed my group would want to learn more about Gmail Love, they actually chose Chrome Tips & Tricks. When I figured they'd opt for 10 Ways to Use YouTube, they decided they were more curious about Iteration in Drawings. Because the group directed the day, they were more engaged, more motivated, and more curious. They asked great questions, and experienced a lot of "OHHHHH!" moments that they may not have had if I had simply set the agenda and told them what we were doing.
I do have to admit, however, that this wasn't a typical throw-it-together type of agenda. This one took me a while; not because I didn't know what I was going to do, and not because I'm not savvy with Forms. The planning itself was the lengthiest part of the process. For any multi-page form you ever create, there is a bit of pre-planning that needs to take place before you ever dive in; think, "If this, then that." If my group gets through our morning tasks early, when will I give them the option for lunch? If the morning tasks take longer than I think, how will I direct them back to those opportunities after lunch? Speaking of lunch, what are we having for lunch? My advice for this endeavor, should I ever choose to pursue it again (which I will!): WRITE IT DOWN FIRST! Map it out on paper, and draw arrows from THIS to THAT. Make sure you don't forget anything because it's challenging to go back and fix it once you realize you've linked something wrong; one mistake usually leads to two, which in turn lead to two of their own.
After seeing the students of a brilliant 4th-grade teacher, Alissa Gray, use Google Slides to create multiple-choice math quizzes last year, I started to think about new and different ways to use Slides. Actually, I could have done the same PD agenda (described in the section above) with Slides instead of Forms, but remember: I'm obsessed with using old tools in new ways. This one was pure iteration for me. Here was my thought process:
About 45 minutes later (because I decided to make them pretty in Canva first), I had my 14 slides ready to start linking.
About 4 HOURS and 5 SECONDS later (see what I mean by obsessed), because I thought I was so stinking smart, I had my 41 slides - yes, that's right - FORTY-ONE SLIDES - ready to be tested. I shot the link over to my husband who could try it with an objective set of eyes, and it wasn't but a minute before he very politely informed me (after clicking outside of the transparent boxes on slide 3), that he didn't get to answer slide 3 because it automatically moved him onto . . . normal slide behavior . . . SLIDE 4. AAAAGGGHHHH!!!!!
SO. After many hours, and many iterations, I finally came up with THIS:
Perfect? No. If the user attempts to navigate with the arrow keys, they will still get all messed up and the experience will be ruined. BUT, if I make sure to tell them to JUST CLICK their way through . . . success. (If, by the way, you would like a copy of this ridiculous thing to pull apart and see how it was done, just click here!)
My point here is that I did choose my own adventure. My journey involved more than a little bit of cussing, along with healthy doses of coffee and caramel, BUT I learned a lot along the way:
I heart my Contacts. Ok, yes, I love the people I contact, but here I mean that I love having lists of people to whom I can quickly send a message, share a document, or invite to a Calendar event. This tool is also AWESOME when working with students. You can set up Contact Groups for your classes, for your parents, for differentiated groups, and even for groups of your colleagues. When I have several groups of people I frequently contact (as groups), I set up Contact Groups and save myself a bunch of time, not to mention memory power and visualization in trying to remember who might have been sitting in which seat around a table in a meeting or gathered around in a group at a training.
How to make it happen:
I have adorable children. Yes, I know I'm biased. Yes, I know that one is 19 and past the point of adorable. Yes, I know that the 10-year-old suffers from crooked teeth and permanently sticky hands. Still, adorable. I love them both dearly, BUT when it comes to using my computer, I feel the need to draw the line (it's pretty adorable, too, as a matter of fact).
The solution for the 19-year-old was to set him up his own account on my device, which was really a pain if he forgot to sign out because, hey, those seconds do add up! For the 10-year-old, it was easier to just set him up in Firefox or Safari because, even though I know you can sign in to multiple accounts in Chrome, it always seems to confuse other sites, like Nearpod, where I sign in with my Google account, because it wouldn't know which of the two signed-in accounts I wanted to use! Ah . . . first world problems.
Then, about a month ago, I noticed a new "thing" in my Chrome window. Up there in the top-right corner, I saw my name. What used to be there? Hmmmm. I'm pretty sure it was a little face. Or maybe it was my face. I don't remember. But suddenly, there was my name. What did it do? What was it for? A button, perhaps??
Well it turns out, that if you are a Chrome user, YOU WANT TO CLICK ON THAT BUTTON. Those sticky 10-year-old hands will still be a problem, but no more switching between computer user accounts, and forget Firefox - you can now manage multiple users in Chrome!
Plus, now you have an excuse to use of one of my favorite keyboard shortcuts:
command + ~ = toggle between open windows within a program
Off to wash my hands and oversee the brushing of an adorable set of crooked teeth!
I noticed a new button in my Sheets toolbar yesterday:
Just a few days ago, if you wanted to wrap the text within a cell or range, you would have to make your selection, then click on the Format menu to find "Wrap Text." Not horribly inconvenient, but just annoying enough if you use it very often. This new button allows you select between "Overflow" (where the text flows into the adjacent cell if it's empty), "Wrap" (where the text will all show within the cell), or "Clip" (where the overflowing text is hidden). Cool - thanks, Google!
Hello, McFly! You know when you know something, and YOU know you know it, but you don't know that others don't know you know it and therefore they don't know it? Welcome to my life! I got to be on the receiving end of this recently (ok, well more than once) when I learned this super-awesome handy little trick from Michelle Armstrong, who learned it from Kasey Bell, who learned it from Alice Keeler, who probably invented it because she's just that smart! See? This is how and why we share - so others can know what we know, you know?! Let me set this up for you:
I'm going to show you 3 options:
Let Him Preview It
Copy the URL from the document you want to share. It looks like this:
Change the word "edit" at the end of that line of gobble-de-gook to "preview," like this:
Now when you send him the modified URL, what he will see is a version of the document that looks like your version, but he won't have ANY menu options at all. He can read it and print it from his browser's File menu, but no editing or messing shall he do.
A word on this one (and the next): Depending on the file you are sharing, that "edit" word may come in a different place within the URL. It is always near the end - just be sure to only change that one word and leave the rest to do its job.
Prompt Him to Make A Copy!
Just like with option 2, copy the URL from the document you want to share. This time, instead of changing the word "edit" to "preview," you're going to change it to "copy." This is my FAVORITE! Click on the image on the left to see it in action:
Like magic, Mr. Blankety Blank will be prompted to make his very own copy of the document, which will save him those few extra clicks, and you those few extra instructions. It will go directly to his Drive, where he can move it, rename it, and edit it to his heart's desire.
Think of how handy this will be when you want to share copies of documents with students, or spreadsheets with your principal, or presentation templates with your teaching partner, or . . . !