Friday, July 25, 2014

One Word Form Responses

Want a one-word answer to a Google Form question? I do.

But I have trust issues. That is, I don't trust people to follow instructions on a form.

Here's a quick hack for Google Forms when you want a one-word answer, but you don't want to restrict people to a multiple choice or choose from a list option.

  1. Create a question with a text answer.
  2. Turn on data validation.
  3. Choose the text option.
  4. Choose the "does not include" option.
  5. Type a single space in the box.
This will check for any spaces, and kick back an error if the user has entered more than one word. Easy as pie.

Now excuse me, but I think I need to go eat some pie.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Free Time" is a Lie

Free time in my life is illusory. I suspect it's the same for teachers all over the world. I have a problem with the term "free" time, in both senses of the word. Adjective (free as in speech) and adverb (free as in beer) ideals of time as being unconnected to context or intent irk me. Here's why:
  1. My time is valuable, no matter what I'm doing. Work, play, sleeping or daydreaming, I'm always using my time, even if it might appear that I'm wasting it (yet another concept I'm not a fan of)
  2. I'm always spending time. How can you spend something that's free?
  3. Time that I'm not actively engaged in a task directly is usually spent on supporting that kind of time, whether it's commuting, eating or sleeping, it has a purpose.

I find that free time is like extra money.
I have lots of plans for both, but I don't think I've ever had any of either.

So let's stop talking about free time as if it's something one can posses, okay?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Failure: We're Doing It Wrong

"You shall not pass!"
I was watching my daughter today in lego land. She built a tower using these really cool, large size rubber bricks. She was building a tower, trying different combinations and configurations of bricks. The interesting thing was that she was engaged in it so much that whenever something didn't work, she took it apart carefully and restarted, trying a different strategy.

I was proud to see her so intent on her task amid the chaos of children running around, and it got me thinking. Failing isn't a terminal diagnosis. Messing up, making mistakes, and learning from them is a skill in and of itself. Having the confidence, persistence and focus to continue even in the face of obstacles is something that needs to be learned (and it can be taught).

What needs to change in our schools so we can foster this type of attitude? 

How can we get kids to see the value in continuing to work at something when they haven't had any success yet? I don't think it will be easy, but I don't think it's impossible, either. We need to find ways to get kids engaged in difficult or challenging tasks that they want to do.

Get them hooked in something they like. Show them the value of persistence and hard work. We should never have to say that something isn't good enough yet, or that it needs more work before they're done. We should find ways to be standing aside and getting our kids into things that are challenging and rewarding. Sports programs. Maker clubs. Reading or writing clubs. Dance troupes. Ultimately, the medium isn't as important as the message:

You can do it. It might not be easy, and you might fail. That's okay. Don't let it stop you. If you can't do it yet, that means you need to put in a little more work. Solve some problems. Try a different strategy. Try again. Think about it. Keep at it until you get it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Host Files in Google Drive

This is something I came across recently, and I think it's a pretty cool little "easter egg" that's a part of Google Drive. You can create a public folder, and anything you put into that folder will have a live URL, which can be useful for linking, hosting files, and so on. This comes in especially handy if you want to use those images in other places on the web, but have one master copy. Any changes made to the master will automatically be transferred to all its locations.

1. Public Folder

First, you'll need to create a public folder in your Google Drive. That's pretty simple: create a folder, then click on the sharing button, and share it as "public on the web."

2. Folder Key

The next step might sound confusing, but it's actually not that challenging. You need to get the folder key of the folder you just created. In Google Drive, navigate so that you're looking in the folder you want, then look at the URL in the address bar. The folder key is made up of a bunch of nonsense characters that are the last part of the URL, directly following /#folder/
Copy the folder key by highlighting it and pressing Control-C (or Command-C on a Mac).

3. URL

Now comes the easy part. Your folder already has a public URL. To find it, type in and then paste your folder key directly afterwards. You should end up with something that looks like

Not all file types can be hosted this way. Images, website files (html, xml and javascript), and possibly videos (I haven't tried yet). You can click on the link above to see the folder I created and shared for this blog post.