By Nicole Long
When most teachers begin using Google Drive, they start with the basics: Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides. These most commonly resemble the Microsoft products we’re accustomed to, so the natural progression is to bring these popular trends immediately into your daily routine.
However, what most teachers are missing, with a simple “show more” swipe of the cursor, lies one of the most essential tools for productivity Google can offer to teachers: Google forms.
Google Forms isn’t just a new medium for the same tool; it’s a brand new item that can integrate with ease into any classroom with widespread and sweeping purpose. Check out how Google Forms will change your classroom—for the better.
1. Classroom Organization
When I first started using Forms, my original idea was to create a sign in/out sheet for my classroom. My inner organized teacher had such a hard time grasping the usefulness of the traditional sign out sheet (more like sheets!) of student signatures, scribbling in/out times in what was often illegible scratch.
How did this suit me in the long run? Who was organizing this mess, and keeping up with the copies? I know it had to be easier, so I combined the power of two irreplaceable tech forces: a Google Form and a QR CODE.
Once I made my sign in out sheet, I used a QR CODE to bring it to “life.” Since our school was BYOD, I knew most of my students carried a cellphone and I took full advantage to go paperless with my class records.
At first I was afraid it wouldn’t be accepted, and students would rebel, but it was surprisingly (and refreshingly) simple. It was even easier than the paper sheets because it turns out many kids would rather click a button than handwrite anyways.
By default, there was another benefit to going paperless: cutting down on time. Gone was the need for a student to have a discussion or even a question/answer session, or to stand by the door for several minutes looking for a pen and scribbling their names on paper. Because every entry is time stamped, there’s no need for a half dozen questions holding up students from getting where they need to be, and back, swiftly.
With Google Forms, all I need is their name. I provide a list of options for them to explain where they’re going. The ease, functionality, and time this saves in the long run is irreplaceable.
2. Professional Accountability
Every time someone in my building sends out a group email asking for our staff to respond to a question, I think to myself, “Why isn’t this a form?” where data is organized and stored in one place.
When it comes to polling staff or co-workers, asking questions, or gathering feedback, turn to Google Forms. Since the entries to every Google Form are stored in a spreadsheet, all you have to do is consider what information you want to gather and leave the rest to Google.
You can ask text questions (both short and long answer), allowing your staff or peers to uniquely respond however they wish, or you can supply multiple-choice questions to gather specific information. Once done, simply send out one link and wait to watch the responses come in real time. In the teaching profession, where time is one rare element that we can never get enough of, Google Forms will make a world of difference.
One of my favorite “advanced” uses for a Google Form is to collect student work. There are a number of different ways to use Google Forms as a means of assessment, from creating written response questions to multiple-choice items.
If you create multiple-choice tests, or tests with specific written responses, you can use the Google add-on Flubaroo to automatically grade and assess the work. Flubaroo will generate a report listing any low scoring questions, a roster of student performance, and percentages of each item, along with the option to email this report to students.
In just a few minutes, with the click of a button, Google Forms gives you the ability to grade any number of tests and analyze the data in a meaningful way.
4. Student Work and Accountability
This isn’t where your options for using Forms with student work ends. Students can also use Forms to turn work in. For this, students simply need to copy and past a link to their work—they can get links to their Google Docs or other Google projects, blog post, etc.—into the Form.
This not only helps to organize assignments for you, but creates an element of accountability that cannot be reproduced in the classroom—students have to turn the work in, and they have to turn it in on time. Within the form, date and time of each entry is recorded, and you can sort, search, or organize any of the information included.
To get even more from Google Forms, check out more add-ons, including a notifications app, which will alert the student and the teacher, depending on your preferred settings, if there is a security concern. You can also get a notification once the submission is received, encouraging a sense of independent accountability for students of all ages.
5. Polls and Surveys
As mentioned briefly earlier, add-ons allow you to capitalize on every function for Forms. For instance, there’s an add-on called “choice eliminator.” This feature allows users to “delete” options once a form has been submitted. How would you use this in your classroom?
Suppose you’re sending out requests for parent-teacher conferences and use the multiple-choice question on your form to create time slots. Once a parent selects a time slot, and hits submit, this slot will remove automatically from your form. When the next parent views your form to choose a time slot, the option previously selected is no longer visible.
Use this feature when asking for volunteers or assigning jobs and topics. Allow your students to sign up for a job or assignment topic, which is eliminated after each selection, effectively taking over the organization for you.
There are so many times in our classroom when we poll for interests or to collect data, what Google has done for you is create an option where you no longer have to sort through all that information—it can be done for you, with ease.
The reason most teachers get behind innovative classroom technology is because, in some shape or form, the tool maximizes our output by minimizing our workload. Whether the tool saves us time, takes a step out of the process, or redefines the experience altogether, effective technology integration doesn’t just change our habits, it enhances the ones we already have.
The problem often lies in finding a tool that doesn’t fade with time, or take longer to learn than is a worthwhile investment. Google Forms is one of the rare web tools that can reach—and benefit—teachers regardless of curriculum, ability or need.