If you haven’t yet signed up for Google Docs, it’s really about time you should. It offers a range of online applications including word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and best of all, a really simple form designer that automatically puts the results into a spreadsheet for you. And the form is incredibly simple to put into a blog post. Here’s an example from my triathlon blog, and there is a further example at the foot of this post.
I’m not going to discuss all the other incredibly useful and powerful features of Google Docs here – I’m limiting myself to Google Forms in this post, but if you want to find out more, check out this fantastic series of posts on Tom Barrett’s blog (including posts on using Google Forms).
Important note: You only need a single Google Docs account to embed a Google Form in a blog, and everyone can access the spreadsheet if you make it public. However, teachers like Tom advocate setting your whole class up with Google Docs accounts in order to make full use of the powerful collaborative features that it offers. If you wish, you can sign up your school for Google Apps which gives you your own webspace and the ability to control and edit users yourself. Again, this isn’t the place to start discussing this and I’ll assume you are signing up for your own Google Docs account to try it for yourself.
What can I use a Google Form for?
You could use a Google form to answer almost any question you might want to ask. Simple examples might be:
- Means of transport to school;
- Collection of variables such as eye colour, hair colour, height etc;
- Collection of preferences;
- Creation of homework tasks answering a series of questions (because you can create questions with free text for answers, you could create comprehensions, research questionnaires, anything really).
You could even use it for parental surveys etc. However, there is a limitation, it can’t recognise multiple answers from the same, so if you want to create statistically reliable sets of data with validated responses, then go for something like Survey Monkey instead (again, it’s really simple to use and cheap). If, however, you want to do a quick survey on favourite pizza toppings, then Google Forms is your choice.
Using Google Forms
Once you’ve signed up, simply click “New” and select “Form”.
Enter the title of your form and a few words on what the form is about. Now put in the first question title and any advice you want to give. Then choose the type of question from the drop down list. Finally add your possible answers, if appropriate. Note: it’s worthwhile doing all this live with your class on your whiteboard as you can get them to gve you the different questions and variables. Once you’ve completed the question click whether you want to make the question mandatory, then click “Done”. To add a further question, simply click “Add question” at the top of the form.
Questions can be edited by clicking on the pencil when hovering over a question on the form.
Once you have finished your form, click “Save” at top right.
Embedding a form into a blog
One of the best bits about Google Forms is how easy it is to embed the form into a blog post. In WordPress, load up a new post and click on the HTML tab above the toolbar.
In your Google Form, click “More actions”, then “Embed”. A window will pop up with some embed code. Copy this code and paste it ito the HTML screen in WordPress and you’re ready to publish.
Simple really. Once you’ve mastered this, it’s the sort of thing you could do on the fly in the classroom whenever someone comes up with an interesting question.
Google Forms automatically creates a spreadsheet of any responses you get, so you don’t need to worry about collecting the data – and because the spreadsheet counts the responses in real time you can even run it live in the classroom and watch the sheet grow.
One last point that I’ll add: if spreadsheets aren’t your natural environment 😉 and you can just about manage the basics in Excel, then Google thoughtfully allows you to export your spreadsheet into an xls file (Excel’s format). Simply click “File” > “Export” > “xls”. So, you can just use Google Forms and Spreadsheets as a data capture exercise and use your knowledge of Excel to do the number crunching. Note: it really is worth finding out more about Google Spreadsheets: only yesterday I was looking at a shared spreadsheet online watching it being updated by teachers around the world, live.
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