Using Google Forms in the classroom

I use Google Docs just about every day, as much of what I need on a regular basis is there and I often flit between computers. I was pleased to discover (or at least what I assumed to be a discovery!) the Forms tool as part of the sharing feature in a Google Spreadsheet. For a fleeting moment I thought I had made a first ascent, seen a new island, found a new species, stumbled upon a hidden civilisation! But, alas, my RSS feeds told me otherwise (of course what was I thinking?!) so I got down off of the table and began to think about ways to use it in the classroom.

We are soon to be delving into some data handling work from the new Primary Framework for Maths. One of the aspects is to plan, carry out and present a data handling investigation. There is a possible link with the Google Forms tool.

Creating an online form is not particularly ground breaking for data handling, so why the excitement? Google Docs is such a straight forward set of applications, there are very few bells and whistles (yet). The apps are being developed all of the time and personally I appreciate the simplicity it currently has, the slow approach to new features and the gradual emergence of those features. I feel like I know the app very well and I am not overwhelmed by a cacophony of whistling and ringing.

The Forms tool inherits that straightforward template – making it ideal for children to use. Compared to many other online survey tools Google Forms is raw and almost rudimentary in it’s functionality. But I like that. Short learning curve for all. Just the sort of tool we need for the classroom.

Here is a couple of screenshots showing how to create a form and what happens with the data. Click on any of them to get a closer look.

One of the most important aspects of using G Forms in the classroom is that the data remains dynamic once it is collected. It is not a static graph, automatically created – the data is as raw as the tool. It is conveniently added to your spreadsheet ready for you to manipulate and analyse accordingly. As a teacher this is ideal – for there is much to learn about what you should and could do with data in it’s raw state.

As I mentioned before, after I stopped congratulating myself for finding this tool I began exploring ways it could enhance what is going on in the classroom. I began a Google Form of my own, as a simple example and asked people on my Twitter network to take a look. One of the questions I added was about what classroom uses they could envisage for such a tool. I have summarised some of the responses I received below. (Thankyou to all of you who have contributed your thoughts)

  • How about using Forms to get students to rank the factors that they think make a good piece of work, e.g. in English or using it for short multiple choice (objective) assessment? The automated entry into a spreadsheet would make marking easier!
  • I’m thinking that it would be a non-patronising way of collecting traffic light information from pupils.
  • Site technology survey
  • I use informal surveys and such all the time… might be a simpler way to do it than my current method….
  • This will be invaluable for any research project, the data goes with you.
  • Surveys
  • Sports lists
  • Staff responses
  • Multiple Choice answers – test, revision, quiz
  • I set one up today to poll the staff about professional development needs. I can see amazing possibilities with students.Imagine you could check for prior knowledge and have everyone’s “starting point” be pushed to a spreadsheet. What a great way to use data to shape instruction.
  • I need to survey a whole year group. I was going to try and use Kaleidos, but I still can’t access it from my laptop. Love the idea of using this instead!
  • Evaluation of their work.
  • My “class” is actually made up of teachers. This will be a great “feedback” tool!
  • Feedback on learning
  • Beginning/end of term surveys, data collection for grad school, immediate feedback when I finally have a laptop in each child’s hand…
  • You could use it at the beginning of the year to get a snapshot of their profiles (likes, dislikes, multiple intelligence questions, other views … so that you have a group profile and individual profiles to start lesson planning. Note: of course for schools that have computer facilities.

The release of this tool is timely for me due to the nature of our maths work we will be doing very soon. But the tool does have to be the most appropriate for the data investigation. I will introduce this as a way for children to collect data but I will also expect children to choose it carefully. Is it the best data collection tool for the investigation?

This sort of awareness of whether a tech tool is the most appropriate is central to what I am doing in my classroom.

I am looking forward to including this tool as part of our data handling work over the next few weeks. Hand in hand with making the most of Google forms is an understanding of the use of Google Spreadsheets too, so that will need to be thought about. It is appealing to know it is all in one place.

One of the ways I have been tracking the responses to my demo survey is to add the Google Forms gadget to my iGoogle page.

It is a simple no fuss way (if you use iGoogle) to keep tabs on what is happening – you can even create a form from the direct link.

Here are some of my offerings to the melting pot of ideas for the uses of the Google Forms tool in the classroom.

  • Book review database of your library area – invite the children to complete a standard form for a book they have read. Questions could be on genre, a rating etc.
  • Peer or self review of writing success criteria for a completed piece of work.
  • Creating databases is something that many UK primary teachers are doing in ICT- this would be a great data entry method. It could work for all sorts of topic areas – Egyptians settlements, world rivers, habitats, minibeasts, musical instruments, rocks and minerals…
  • School/parent questionnaires or even feedback on reports.
  • Question by question analysis on test papers. We have just completed some progress tests and the most time consuming aspects is always (if you choose to do it) the analysis of questions. A form could be created with each question from the paper as a separate question. The children could have time to go through their own paper recording their correct/incorrect/omitted responses.
  • Website reviews – similar to the book reviews above- could be linked to the class links.
  • As yet there is no way to embed the form in another site – but with Google presentations going down that path I am sure it will not be long before you can drop a Google Form into your website or class blog.

The release of this tool does offer an interesting twist to how Google Apps can be organised in the classroom. I have been working with my children on pooling data in a spreadsheet for some time in various ways – using a single user login, everyone editing the same spreadsheet. This is clearly a very open approach and requires multiple logins on multiple machines. Or it requires you to share the s’sheet with many recipients via email.

However if you were to use the Forms tool to collect data instead of using the spreadsheet itself then you would retain the pooling of data to one place but restrict access to the data once it has been submitted. Children could view the responses but not alter, delete or overwrite anyone else’s.

Google spreadsheets refreshes approx every 30 seconds so many machines doing so does chew the bandwidth – especially if working on wireless machines. Now with numerical and text data that is not massive but I can vouch for it slowing down access to other websites that are usually rock solid. A Google Form for data entry would not create such a problem. There is no such live updating and the only time data would be moving about is when the “Submit” is hit. It would also produce the scenario that allows a teacher to login to the Google account for the spreadsheet that is pooling the results on a main PC with projector and the other machines just following a link. This would dramatically reduce the setup time as there is no need to login everyone through a Google account, in turn cutting the chances of having problems logging in.

I hope you get an opportunity to use the tool – please let me know how you get on and how you have used it to support learning in your classroom. Perhaps leave a comment with your thoughts or better still complete this form.

19 thoughts on “Using Google Forms in the classroom

  1. Excellent post, Tom.
    Good to see the many ways that people are thinking they can incorporate forms into their teaching, all this is just a few days! Thanks also for the graphics, really helps show how not to lose an evening with trial and error.
    I’m wishing I hadn’t gone down the surveymonkey route with traffic lighting this term now that forms has arrived. This is going to change both the quality of my analysis and the time it takes to crunch the responses.

  2. Great post Tom, love all the detail in it and especially its applications to the classroom. Will be looking into it closely as I am a great fan of google docs.

  3. Great post, Tom. Inspired to give it a go in class next half term. Love the way Forms links with Spreadsheet, so many applications! Can’t wait for the forms to be embeddable.

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  5. This is a really helpful post Tom. Thanks for all the time you have put into it. The instructions are easy to follow and the suggestions you have included for utilising it are great.

    Much appreciated


  6. Tom,
    You explain so well with lots of examples of educational uses.

    Bill Gaskins

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  11. Hi Tom,

    Could you use this for simple exams or tests?

  12. @Stephen – Yes of course there is no reason why you couldn’t use them for simple assessments. All submitted results populate a spreadsheet.

  13. Hi,
    This is a great tool.Students can enhance their knowledge by using this tool.

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  18. I followed the stpes as given.. but the option to ‘fill out the form’ is not given..

    I just have share in the spreadsheet page, where the options shown in the post above has discuss, share and publish. Probably I don’t have this version? It would be real useful if I could share my survey..