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This is not going to be a lesson on how to create a Google Form. It is about how to design and use a Google form.

For the impatient, here is the lesson upfront: Design not from a provider’s point of view, but from a seeker’s perspective. The extension to teaching is this: Teach not just to deliver without learner concerns; seek to educate by empathising with the learner.

How did this lesson emerge?

An ex-colleague tweeted an open invitation to attend two talks at my former workplace, NIE. I was excited to attend because:

  • The first talk was by another ex-colleague who had also left NIE for greener pastures overseas. We graduated from the same Ph.D. programme and have not seen each other in years!
  • The second talk is relevant to a group of teachers I am guiding in the area of crafting narrative-driven research reports. Serendipity!

Naturally, I wanted to sign up for both since they were relevant and generously open. However, I stopped — or rather, the Google Form stopped me — when I hit this barrier:

A compulsory option in the Google Form that I did not agree to.

I could not submit the form unless I allowed my personal information to be used beyond contact for the talks.

Now one might argue that organisers are entitled to do this. They might be, even under the current PDPA law, but the consent should be an option instead of a must-have.

The move might be an oversight. But it could also be symptomatic of an authoritative, provider-driven approach, i.e., we provide a service so we tell you what to do or make demands of you.

The alternative approach is also a progressive one. It focuses on the seeker, participant, or learner. I am grateful for the opportunity and am willing to share information logically, but not at the expense of being marketed to. Being empathy-driven takes user privacy, space, and effort into consideration.

The difference in drive and design lies in mindset. In the age of social media, you can still operate in transmission mode, e.g., talking, telling, ordering others, etc. But you will not be as effective as if you are interactive and learn to negotiate.

The same could be said with old-school teaching that is dictated only by blind standards and context-free curriculum. The world is embracing educational experiences that rely on social constructivism, constructionism, and connectivism.

Those might be unexpected lessons from a simple Google Form. I offer my services on educating with learner empathy and perspective. I will not require your email address indefinitely to do so.

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I was glad to note that the conversion of old to new Google Sites is now automated.

I have been waiting a long time for this. It has been almost a year since I started using the new version after years of using the original Google Sites for courses, workshops, events, etc.

Last year, I had to manually create new versions of old Sites. Now I can automate the process.

New look
Converted (new) site

Old look
Old Google Site.

I have tried the conversion process in four old Sites and here are some observations:

  1. I had the option of retaining the original URL. This is useful for users who have bookmarked the URL and wish to return to the old site with the new look.
  2. Only a few old Sites were available for conversion. I have a very long list of Google Sites and only those going back to 2014 could be converted.
  3. The conversion was not seamless. One obvious wrinkle was how pages were rearranged in alphabetical order in the navigation bar. I had to manually rearrange them.

I hope that more of my old Sites become available for conversion before Google sunsets the old versions. It would also be helpful if the conversion tool is more intelligent in that it learns to retain the page order and navigation.

While editing a Google Site last week, I was pleasantly surprised with this on-screen notification.

Add scripted embeds in Google Sites.

I had not been paying attention to when the new Google Sites was going to bring non-Google domain embeds back, so I was keen to try it out.

So I tried the embed tool with a Padlet and it works like it used to in the old version of Google Sites.

Example of embedded content in new Google Site.

I do not know yet what limitations Google Site has on non-Google domain or owned resources. There will probably be some embed codes and scripts that will not work.

But for now, I am happy that this critical function that made the older version of Google Sites so good is now available in the new Google Sites!

 

About a week of intensive creating with the new Google Sites interface have left a few more impressions on me (read my first impressions).

The create and edit interface has less obvious but useful drag-and-drop features. I discovered one when I brought page elements together to group them.

Drag and drop to create nested navigation links.

I found another when I wanted to create nested items (a sub-menu; see screencapture above) in the navigation bar. I only had to drag-and-drop page titles so that they stood alone or were associated with one another.

It was also very easy to embed Google-hosted elements, e.g., YouTube videos, GDrive items. I could either insert by URL or select from the item bar on the right of the editing interface.

Embed GDrive elements.

However, there was no proper embedding of non-Google elements, e.g., Padlet, AnswerGarden. I use those two alternatives because Google does not offer the equivalent of these tools.

Inserting (not embedding) non-GDrive elements.

The lack of proper embedding of these elements in Google Site pages means my learners cannot use them immediately. They have to click to open them in a new browser tab first.

The editing interface sports a “Publish” button to save changes, but there does not seem to be a publish reminder. As the page editing is WYSIWYG, it is easy to click away in the navigation to another page and start editing the latter. I have not determined if there is some sort of auto save when jumping between pages or if changes are not saved when doing this.

The new Sites seems optimised for desktop editing only. Trying to load new Sites in a mobile browser results in this message (see screencapture below).

New Google Sites not editable in phones or slates/

The old version of Sites could be edited on a phone or slate. While this was not ideal, you could make changes in a pinch.

The new Google Sites is slick and relatively simple to use. But its walled garden approach to its embeddable resources reduces some usability. Its coders might cite security as the main reason for not allowing embeds of non-Google ecosystem elements.

The recent GDocs phishing attempts showed how vulnerable sticking with a popular moniker can be. Perhaps the compromise in usability is a tradeoff for user safety.

Yesterday I shared some visual design considerations I take for my talks. Today I focus on interaction design.

My latest effort is a step down from what I normally do. I am designing for lower grade interaction by leaving out a backchannel throughout the session and one-minute paper at the end.

I am doing this because I understand my overseas audience. It is a place I have been invited to every year since 2013 and the mobile connection is unpredictable. It is not that they are unresponsive; they just cannot reliably connect to the Internet.

That said, I am still relying on two online tools that require low bandwidth from the participants.

My go-to presentation platform is Google Slides because it is free, flexible, and online. I can edit the content up to the last minute and share the slides with my audience.


Video source

In terms of interaction, I intend to try Google Slide’s “new” Q&A tool since I am not relying on my preferred tool, TodaysMeet. The audience can participate by suggesting and ranking questions.

I will also use Google Form’s quiz and auto-grading feature (similar to Flubaroo). I will create this experience for my participant as an introduction to being information literate and to establish the themes of my session.

Mobile access to online quiz and themes of my session.

I anticipate that most participants will be armed with their own phones and this will also be message about leveraging on BYOD and personal forms of learning.

Most talks seem to focus on the talk. I plan mine with lessons from educational psychology and visual design principles. I try to focus on listening as I talk in order to change minds. This is effort that often goes unappreciated, but I know that it matters.

Most technology companies that manufacture computers and phones typically focus on hardware and have little or no say on software development.

There are exceptions like Apple that create and control both, i.e., Macs and macOS, iPhones and iOS.

Google used to only be in the online software business. Then it partnered hardware companies to create Chromebooks, and Nexus (and now Pixel) phones.


Video source

So I was not surprised to read about Google’s new TV-sized interactive whiteboard (IWB) called the Jamboard. This device is designed for blended and creative boardroom meetings. It takes advantage of G Suite and Google tools to connect, share, and store artefacts.

I was disappointed actually. Or rather, I am going to be disappointed because this might be another round of IWB snake oil vendors selling to schools and education institutions.

I hope that schools and other education institutions have learnt the painful lesson that IWB means Irrelevant White-Elephant Board because it is largely a teacher’s tool.

If tools like IWBs allow teachers to just teach the way they were taught, the teachers do not get pushed out of their comfort zones.

If the technology is not in the hands, minds, and hearts of the learners, it will do little to change teaching. When this happens, the technology ceases to be mere tools and become instruments instead. When this happens, the rhetoric of paradigm shifts, 21st century learning, and empowered students becomes real.

I have heard this uttered in speeches in years past and will hear it in years to come. It is that we live in an age where information is at our fingertips and that we need to change how we school our children.
 

 
If my eyes were like bowling balls, you would hear them roll slowly down the lane. I strike with these questions:

  • How often to those speakers practice what they preach?
  • How much has teaching changed to take advantage of this?
  • How relevant is “teaching” if this is the case?

The “you can Google anything” rhetoric needs to be challenged with these unGoogleable questions.


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