Boost views on your blog with Google+: A Thriving PD Community!

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 8.23.01 PMWho says no-one is using Google+?

Since I started using Google+ to share my posts on Google Apps and educational technology, hits on my blog have exploded!

The chart above shows views on my blog in October and November.  OK, so I was very busy in school in mid October, but I started posting on Google+ on November 6th, and every day since them my blog has broken it’s ‘best ever’ record.  My wife is getting tired of high five-ing me every time the blog breaks through a new 100!

OK, so many of my posts have discussed Google Apps for Education (surely the most useful educational and ubiquitous tools available?), but to jump from 30-50 views per post when I was only sharing on Twitter to 400-600 when sharing on Google+ is remarkable.  In fact, in the week starting on November 4th, my blog experienced growth of 2188%.  Yes, that’s two thousand percent growth!

However, my stats show that readers have not only viewed posts on Google Apps, but have viewed many other pages on my blog.

Clearly, I have done a little more than share my posts with my family and friends on Google+.  I joined a few communities such as Google Apps in Education and the similarly named Google Apps for Education (this reminds me of the “Judean People’s Front” and the “People’s Front of Judea” in Monty Python’s Life of Brian!).  When I share, I make sure to share to one of these groups.

I have spent months trying to grow my Twitter follows, and I have tried to build interest in my blog through a presentation at a large education conference (AIMS in Baltimore).  I have even written a free iBook.

Like many of you, my motivation is to share successes I have had in the classroom using technology to increase student motivation, communication, and learning.  I also would like to build an online presence and grow a community of like-minded thinkers to develop my own craft.

And with 632 views today shows that there really is a thriving community of people out there who want to talk about about Google Apps and streamlining everything in the classroom.

Thanks to everyone for viewing and the great feedback!


Self-Grading Quizzes: the Flubaroo Script for Google Spreadsheets

Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 9.14.06 PMLike most teachers, I am always looking for ways to lighten my grading load without diluting the quality of feedback that I provide my students.  I don’t know about you, but it seems that I spend almost every waking hour either grading or worrying about it.

As as English teacher for tenth and eleventh graders, most of my assignments ask students to write, explain, present, record, video, and create; there are few occasions where they are asked for a ‘correct’ single word answer or to select from a multiple choice list.

However, there are some occasions (may I say “necessary evils”?) where a self-grading quiz could be helpful: vocabulary quizzes, grammar drills, or even quotation identifications from Hamlet! Moreover, standardized tests loom in the future for most of our students, and while not wanting to feed this juggernaut, I do feel some responsibility to provide at least some exposure to this kind of testing for my students.

For those comfortable with mathematics, a self-grading quiz can fairly easily be created using a statistical formula.  However, as I’ve said, I’m an English teacher comfortable with technology, but I am mathtose intolerant.

Luckily, there is a neat script in Google Spreadsheets called Flubaroo that takes care of the formulas for you.  Simply create a quiz in a form, answer the questions yourself, install the script, and then run it.  The script is free, the instructions are clear, and so far, it has been bug-free for me.  More complete details are available on the Flubaroo site:


Doctopus: Automatically Create and Share Individualized Copies of a Google Doc or Template

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 8.31.15 PMOften, I want to provide my students with a template to guide them through an assignment.  Of course, I can share a document which they can then cut and paste into a new Doc and then share this new Doc with me.  Unfortunately, that means not only a cluttered and disorganized Google Drive and email inbox, but also many headaches when students forget to share the Doc properly.

Fortunately, there is a relatively simple app that allows you to create and share individualized copies of a Doc which each student can edit and then simply close out: you are already the owner so there is no need to mess with share settings.  What is more, each student’s individual Doc is collected in a spreadsheet for easy reference.

I have used the app, oddly named “Doctopus” to distribute quizzes, writing prompts, tests, and even waivers needed signing.  My students love it as the Doc appears both in their inbox and their Google Drive folders: they only need open it, edit it, and close it out – no sharing, no submitting, no emailing.  Doctopus was created by Digital Instructor Andrew Stillman in 2012.

The presentation below will walk you through the ten steps; this seems like a lot, but in fact, it only takes about 3-4 minutes and is very straightforward once you have done it a couple of times: