Keep Calm and Use Google Forms…

Scheduling 1600+ students?

No problem!

Allowing students to choose their schedule?

We got this!

Making sure grade levels don’t go rogue and sign up in another level?

Don’t see an issue with that!

Limiting sections within the schedule to ~30 students?

I have something for that!

These were the parameters that I was working with to help pull off a school-wide unconference. Sound crazy? Here’s the thing, when two of your amazing colleagues come to you with an idea that promotes student choice and student voice, you do everything possible to make sure it goes off without a hitch. So, when Matt (our high school’s Student Council advisor) and Chelsea (our Student Assistance Counselor) wanted the students in our 1600+ student high school to talk about issues that mattered to them, I was on-board. So, what did we need to do?

In order to get 1600 students to self-select a topic to attend on that day, we used Google Forms, with response validation and an add-on. For logistical reasons, students needed to remain with their grade level. Therefore, we created four grade-level-specific Forms that required students to go through a verification process before viewing and selecting a session.

Check out the steps (and reasoning) I followed to setup our Student UnConference Topic Selection Form:

    1. Turn on the setting to collect email addresses.
      1. Why? This would ensure that only our students, using their verified school accounts, were signing up.
    2. On the first page of the Form, we asked a “short answer” question-type for students to manually input their network ID.
      1. Why? All of our network IDs within the district follow a pattern. The ID begins with the student’s graduating year, followed by their initials, and then 4 randomly generated numbers (8 characters total). For example, for the 2018-19 school year senior, “Jane Doe” could have the ID 19JD1234
    3. Turn on response validation for the question above, so that only students with an ID from that graduating year can proceed to the next page. The validation I used for students with “19” as the graduating year was: regular expression → contains → ^19……$
        1. Why? ^ means the text input has to begin exactly with the information that follows, in this case 19. The 6 periods that follow indicate the next 6 characters can be any alphanumeric combination. The $ symbol is the end of the expression, so a text input cannot go over the total of 8 characters.
        2. This input could then be verified on the response spreadsheet with the email address collected on the Form, which should match.

    4. Add two short answer questions for First name and Last name.
      1. Why? We needed to be accountable for the whereabouts of all 1600 students with a self-selected location. Having this information available in 2 separate columns on the response spreadsheet allowed administrators to easily sort the information needed to quickly find a student.
    5. Add a section.
      1. Why? We wanted the response validation verified before students could view and select the topics.
    6. Add a dropdown question with all of the topics students can select.
      1. Why? We used dropdown as the question type because that type aligns best with the add-on used in the next step.
    7. Configure the Choice Eliminator 2 (updated version) add-on
      1. Why? We wanted to limit the number of seats in each room to ease the facilitation of conversations (especially for student facilitators), and also because of the logistics (size, chairs, etc.) of the spaces. After 28 students selected a topic, it was automatically removed from the dropdown question.
    8. Turn on response receipts → always in the Settings.
      1. Why? This would provide the students with a record of their choice.

And then the day came when the Forms were going to launch to each grade level through their class Google Classroom. No pressure. Matt and I tested the validation, and the Choice Eliminator, and we just had to have faith that it was going to work. And it did!

Students validated with their network IDs, and topics dropped off the list as the maximum number was reached. During this process, we realized that we needed to inform the students of room locations (information we did not have when the Form launched). Therefore, we decided to also run the FormMule add-on, which sent an email to the student (because we collected email addresses in the Form) that contained the additional information of room location. Matt and Chelsea also had a contingency plan for those students who (inevitably) did not sign up for any topic. All in all, it was a great day (I know I had fun hosting my conversation, “What’s Your Brand, Using Social Media to Influence Your Future” with students), and hopefully by showing we could easily account for all students, we will be allowed to do this type of activity again!


Meet the Author

Kim Lowden is an instructional technology coach at a NJ high school. She is a big fan of working smarter, not harder, and believes technology can help her achieve this goal. She often appears like she knows what she’s talking about, because she has already gone through a trial and error process (multiple times). She would like to thank Google for their support and guidance… wait this isn’t an acceptance speech…. Dan, you aren’t giving me an award….??? 😂

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