Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘google forms

Talks are the least effectiveness way to effect change, but they are a necessary evil because people still organise them and the talks can have extensive reach.

But when I conduct talks, seminars, or keynotes, I ensure that I interact with my audience richly in a few ways.

Why do this? Most speakers will use an “e” word like engagement or even entertainment. I do not play these games because I know my participants are smarter than to fall for that.

I use tools to interact so that my audience (listeners) become participants (thinkers, doers). I do not wish to merely engage, I want to participants to take ownership of learning and responsibility of action.

Beth Kanter shared some ideas last week. I am weighing in on my own and I suggest free tools combined with basic principles of educational psychology.

A backchannel is an online space for participants to comment, discuss, and ask questions while I am speaking or after I have asked them to consider an issue.

My favourite backchannel tools are Twitter and TodaysMeet.

Twitter is great when an organiser already has one or more event #hashtags that participants can use. This presumes that a sizeable number of participants already use Twitter or are willing to get on it quickly.

Twitter backchannel.

TodaysMeet is better when participants have not committed to any particular platform. If they can text or SMS, then can use TodaysMeet.

With my own free TodaysMeet account, I can create an online text-based interaction space and define how long it will be open for. I then invite participants to it by sharing the access URL. (Pro tip: Create a custom URL with and a QR code with this generator.)

One of the most recent versions of Google Slides lets you invite questions from the audience. The URL for participants to submit questions appears at the top of your slides and they can vote up the best questions. (Read my review of Google Slides audience tool.)

Audience Tool URL as overlay.

This is not quite a backchannel because it is not designed for chatter. It favours focused queries. This tool might be better for less adventurous participants who are not used to switching quickly between tasks.

Whatever the backchannel tool, its use must be guided by sound educational principles. You might want to provide participants with a space to be heard immediately instead of waiting till the end, or you want to monitor their thoughts, sense their doubts, or get feedback.

The visualisations I am referring to are not images and videos. These are show-and-tell elements which are attempts to engage, but have little to do with interacting with participants.

My most common strategy of participative visualisation is to incorporate data collecting and collating tools like Google Forms and AnswerGarden.

Both these tools require user inputs that can be visualised. For example, I could ask the room which major phone platform they are on: Android, iOS, other in a Google Form.

The data they provide is collated in a Google Sheet and can be visualised in a pie chart or bar graph. The relative proportions are more obvious to see than asking the participants to raise their hands.

There are many tools that do what Google Forms and Sheets do, possibly a bit quicker and slicker. But these normally come at a premium. The GSuite is free.

One way to visualise a group’s grasp of concepts is to use a word cloud. For example, I am fond of asking participants what they consider the most important 21st century competencies.

AnswerGarden word cloud.

I invite them to share words or short phrases in an AnswerGarden in brainstorming mode. The most commonly cited concepts appear large while the less common ones become small.

The purpose of such illustrations is not just to leverage on the fact that we are visual creatures and the visuals make an immediate impact. I want participants to get involved in real time and this helps also me illustrate how the technology enables more current forms of learning and work.

One of the worst things I could do as a speaker is talk about something that the audience has no interest in. As it is, some or most of the people there might be present as an obligation and not by choice. So I try to find out what they might want to learn.

I often use Google Forms to find out beforehand and present the popular suggested topics in the form of a chart.

With smaller seminars, I might use Dotstorming to determine which direction to take midway through the event. I ask participants to suggest areas to explore and they vote on topics each others topics.

Dotstorming is similar to Padlet in that users input ideas on online stickies. However, Dotstorming allows me to let them vote on the best ideas and arrange the notes by popularity.

Dotstorming example.

The idea here is to give the participant a say in what gets covered or uncovered. It is about providing and fulfilling user choice instead of focusing on a potentially irrelevant curriculum or plan.

My perennial favourite for quick-quizzing participants is Flubaroo, an add-on to Google Forms for auto-grading quizzes as well as providing feedback and answers to my learners.

Google Forms has since upped its game to offer quiz-like functions, but it still lags behind the leader, Flubaroo in some ways. This site provides a detailed breakdown of a Forms quiz vs a Flubaroo one.

Quiz is coming!

The point of quizzing is not just to keep participants on their toes. Some might be driven by such a challenge, but all benefit from evaluating themselves in terms of learning. The results can also be an indicator of how much my talk was understood.

I am fond of using Padlet and Google Forms for pitstops and one-minute papers.

Pitstops are pauses in my sessions for participants to collect their thoughts and think of questions. They are an opportunity for them to see if they can link the negotiated outcomes with their current state of learning, and to see where they still need to go.

A takeaway or “dabao” (in local vernacular) is a terminal activity in which I ask participants to tell me their biggest learning outcome from the session.

In both I find that there is an even mix of planned and unplanned learning outcomes. This is a good thing because the internalisation and ownership of learning is important, not just the blind reception of information.

I do not only like to connect with participants before and during a talk, but also after it. I do so a few ways.

I leave my social media information in one of the final slides.

Contact me.

If I use a backchannel, participants can contact me indefinitely on Twitter and up to several days or weeks after on TodaysMeet.

I also use my blog to reflect on the events and to answer questions I might not have been able to address during the session.

In describing how I might design for interaction during what are normally passive talks, I mentioned how I used Google Forms for a quiz, AnswerGarden to crowdsource ideas, and Google Slides’ Q&A tool for a keynote I delivered yesterday.

This is my reflection on how things panned out.

I used Google Forms to get participants to use their mobile devices to take a five-question quiz. They had to Google for information to answer the questions.

Google Forms quiz.

Of the roughly 200 people there, 107 managed to take the quiz in the time I gave. The quiz scores ran the gamut, but that was not important.

What was important was how a low-bandwidth activity could get everyone involved (imagine if each person shared their device with someone else) and that it served as an introduction to the recurring themes of my talk on 21C: Mindsets, expectations, and behaviours.

I think that activity went well as did the AnswerGarden activity.

I used AnswerGarden to get participants to suggest what they thought were important 21C competencies. This is a screenshot of what they suggested.

AnswerGarden word cloud.

The word cloud that emerged highlighted the popular concepts. For example, 33 people suggested communication, 33 creativity, 28 critical thinking, and 21 collaboration. With that information, I was able to make the point that such 21C competencies were not unique to the 21C; they are timeless and it is more about how we model and make these happen with today’s technology.

I opted not to use my go-to TodaysMeet backchannel or close with a one-minute paper on the same platform. Instead I opted for Google Slides Q&A.

Google Slides Q&A.

This tool allowed participants to ask questions and vote them up. The URL to do this was at the top of every slide. However, I found it to be too unwieldy.

The URL kept changing based on the instance of the presentation I ran. This meant I could not prepare a QR code and short URL in advance. Participants had to type in a URL that, while not terribly long, was not very convenient either. It was no surprise that there were fewer than ten questions.

When I first tried this tool a few months ago, Google Slides kept track of the questions. Now I do not know exactly how many there are and what they are. I do not have this problem with any other tools I have used before.

I mentioned in a pre-keynote reflection that I removed three of four chunks of content. I think this was a wise move as that not only provided focus, I had almost 30 minutes for Q&A which meant that I could provide more specific answers to those who had questions.

I normally reflect on my preparation for consultancy services and do post-mortems like this one. I often have one more follow up in the form of unanswered questions, either from a pre-event poll or a backchannel. But since this was a whirlwind engagement, I do not have those closing tasks. So tomorrow I will reflect a travel experience instead.

I started using Padlet when it was the new kid on the block named WallWisher.

I have used it for several years for classes and workshops in a variety of ways. My favourite is exit tickets. This is where I get participants to share what they are taking away before they walk away.

However, I am wondering if I should continue this strategy with Padlet. Why? The experience is uneven when participants access a shared space simultaneously.

Some participants seem to be able to edit their sticky notes just fine. Others, typically those on Android mobile devices, seem to struggle. So far I have discovered that they 1) have problems creating a note, and 2) find it difficult to edit a note once they have created it.

For example, during a seminar I conducted for almost 50 participants recently, only 32 managed to leave notes. Two of the notes were empty except for the participants’ names or initials.

The issue seems to be the concurrent adding and editing of notes by other users in the shared space. As notes are added, the space scrolls or moves and this seems to take the control away from the user.

However, the benefits of using Padlets for those that manage to leave their reflections and takeaways are:

  • The learning is made more visible.
  • Shared thoughts might cross-fertilise.
  • The feedback and subsequent processing of their sharing is more immediate.
  • The process models an important practice that is not often done in most classrooms.

I also rely on their Padlet notes for post-session evaluation instead of the typical Kirkpartick Level 1 evaluation form.

One alternative I fall back on for exit tickets is using Google Forms and sharing the Google Sheet that collates their responses.

I do this if the participants are somewhat hesitant to see everyone’s thoughts projected immediately on screen. There is also no lag or interruption because there is just one Google Form on their own device.

With a bit of quick formatting and link sharing, I can show their collective thoughts in a Google Sheet. However, it still looks like a spreadsheet and the cells cannot be moved around as easily if I need to make contrasts or comparisons.

The Forms and Sheets process also starts like a private and closed process and then becomes more public and open. This might be jarring to the participant and is not as impactful as if the process was open to begin with.

So I still am in two minds about whether to make the switch. My only criteria for favouring one over the other is the type of participant. Most of the time Padlet is the default for the younger set. They are more adept and rarely have problems even with the tiny mobile phone screens and keyboards.

The older set run the gamut of struggling to create a sticky to completing the task in no time flat. As I deal with older adult learners most of the time, I constantly face this design decision.

By rising above these design decisions, I remind myself of the interplay of technical, social, and pedagogical affordances of a technology tool.

A tool may be strong technically and its use may be negotiated socially, but if it is not also designed from a pedagogical point of view, it use will falter.

Padlet has evolved strongly and its mindshare is good among educators. However, if it does not address where it falls short in the different affordances, it risks frustrating users who spread its name by ineffective use.

So far my EdPsych2 classes have been using Google Docs as a platform for collaboratively written articles, personal notes and activity templates. We have also used Google Presentations for (duh!) presentations, and Google Forms and Spreadsheets for surveys and class administration. Everything has been “held together” by a class wiki hosted by Google Sites.

The going has been good so far, so good that I am tempted to jump ship from PBworks. I like how well integrated elements like YouTube and Picasa are with Google Sites (they are Google’s after all). There is less lag with Google than with PBworks. But I long for page-level access control (admin, editor, writer, reader) and more templates to jazz up wikis or forms. In the latter case, a Sites-hosted wiki looks like a boxy, cream-coloured PC while PBworks looks more like a curvy Mac.

But I digress…

This week’s content, Managing Teaching and Learning Activities, is heavy and I have opted to refrain from lecturing. Instead I set up four learning stations, designed a Google Doc template for note taking and created a self-checking quiz with Google Forms. I learned how to do the last one by visiting

To clarify, the self-checking quiz is one that checks the answers, scores each answer and totals the marks. It does not help quiz takers check their answers. But it does help me see who has taken the quiz, who got which answers right or wrong, and what their final scores are.

Tools aside, the rationle for including the quiz at the end stems from the fact that learners might wander from station to station and still not learn anything. I want my teacher trainees to see the forest (activity management) and the trees (specific management strategies).

The big picture is that the lesson is designed to model some aspects activity management. It’s easy to see that forest. But they must also know the different trees that make up the forest in order to appreciate it or find their way about. The quiz (name that tree!) is a means to that end. It is just another management strategy to promote learning.

But whether they do well or not in the quiz is immaterial. I believe that teachers teach the way they are taught. So I try to use different strategies every week.

Typically I discuss technology-mediated strategies with my trainees during my ICT course, but as the content and emphasis are different in EP2, I have not done this so far. Perhaps I should find a way to work these in overtly rather than covertly…


Click to see all the nominees!

QR code

Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

My tweets


Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: