Author: Sue Frantz

Google Docs: Use Forms for Short Assignments

I tried out a new assignment in my Psych 100 course this quarter. After students have done the assigned reading, but before we cover it in class, students are asked to reflect on what they found particularly interesting in the reading and why the average person on the street should know that information. They’ve been emailing me their responses, which has greatly increased the volume of email in my mailbox. I thought there must be a better way.

And then I remembered that you can create forms in Google Docs.

I’m not a heavy user of Google Docs, I prefer Dropbox as my cloud storage solution, but for gathering this kind of data, Google Docs is the way to go. I create a form and link to it from my website or LMS (e.g., Angel), students fill out the form, and the data is recorded in a Google spreadsheet. When I’m ready to grade, I just open the spreadsheet, and record the scores in a new column. To get the score to the students, I have several options. I can record the score in my LMS. I can open my email and email students one by one. Or I can download the spreadsheet to Excel, create a form letter in Word, and use mail merge to email my students. (See this blog post for instructions on how to use mail merge.)

Creating form.

In Google Docs, click “CREATE” and select “Form” from the dropdown menu.

That will call up this screen. Click on “Untitled form” to add a title. Google gives you two sample questions to start with. For question 1, I’ll change the question title and the question type, and then I’ll check the box to make it a required question.

Here I’ve named the form “Reading Assignment” and added some text that explains when the assignment is due. I want the first question to be about which class section the student is in. When Google Docs produces the spreadsheet, the first column will contain a timestamp. I want the second column (first question in the form), to be the class section so I can sort on class section, then time. That way I’ll be able to grade each class as a group, and I’ll be able to see which students at the bottom of the group turned their assignments in late just by looking at the column to the immediate left.

For the question title, I opted for “Which class are you in?” Next, under “Question Type” I clicked the down arrow to change the question type to checkboxes. I created a checkbox for each of the classes I’ll have next quarter. Then I checked the box to make it a required question.

Click the “Done” button to exit editing question one.

I’m now ready to move onto question two. On the far right side of each question are three icons. Click the pencil to edit the question. Click the squares icon to duplicate the question. Click the trashcan to delete the question.

I’ll click the pencil to edit it.

With the first column being the timestamp and the second column the class time, I’d like the third column to be last name and the fourth first name.

I’ll change the question title to “Your last name” and check the box that makes it a required question. Clicking “done” gives me this. But I obviously want more questions than this. In the top left corner, click “Add item”.

That gives me this drop down menu. I want this question to be the first name, so a text question is fine.

The “who are you” questions are done. Since this is a repeating assignment, I’m going to use the “Choose from a list” question type to enter all of the chapters covered in my course. Students can just click the dropdown menu and select the chapter they’re addressing in their assignment.

Now I’m ready for the assignment questions. For these I’m going to choose “Paragraph text” for the question type because I want to give students more space in which to write. The more space that’s available, the more people tend to write. In the “Help text” section of each of these questions, I’ve added “Click and hold on the bottom right corner of the box to expand it.”

This is what my final form looks like.

If you would like to reorder your questions, just click and hold on a question, and move it wherever you’d like.

Get the link.

At the very bottom of the screen, I see this.

Click the link to go to the form page. I’ll copy the URL and paste it on my course webpage.

When my students follow the URL, this will be what they see.

Alternatively, embed the form on a webpage. To get the code, click on “More actions” and select “Embed”.

Copy the html code and paste it wherever you’d like the form to appear. Within your LMS or webpage editor, you’ll need to switch to “html view” to do that.

The data.

However I get the form to my students, they’ll fill it out, and I’ll need to see what they entered.

When I go into Google Docs, my new form appears at the top of my list of documents.

When I click on it, it takes me to the spreadsheet. If I would like to edit the form page, I can just click “Form” at the top of the page. Notice that the chapter column is in the last column rather than right after the first name column as it appears on my form. That’s because I added the chapter question after someone (me) entered data on the form. If I had moved the question before data had been entered on the form, the column would have appeared in the correct place.

I clicked on the column and dragged it to the right location. I got a warning that the form may not work correctly if I do that, but for me the form continued to work just fine.

Rather than leave this data in Google Docs, I’ll download it to my computer as an Excel file. Once downloaded, I’ll delete the data from the Google spreadsheet. That will keep the data in that file manageable. With 80 students submitting something for each chapter, if I left all the data in the Google spreadsheet, I would have over 800 lines in the file by the end of the term.

To download, go to file, “Download as”, then “Excel”.


I’m going to ask Google to email me once a day with a summary if anyone fills out the form. Go to “Tools” then “Notification rules” to get this window. When someone fills out the form, I want Google to email me. But only once a day. I just want a reminder that there are assignments ready to be graded.

That’s it! It takes a little time to set up the form, but once it’s set up, you can use it term after term. If you have several sections you want to use this with, consider creating a separate form for each class. Or a separate form for each assignment. If you try it out, please let me know how it worked for you.

Decode a QR Code

On the “Tech Handout” page I now have two documents. One is my general tech handout; the other focuses on collaboration tools. At some point I’ll probably merge them into one big document, but until then I have two. Both have a QR code at the top. I noticed that they were different codes. I wondered where they went.

At this point I had a number of options. Leave them as is and continue to wonder. Go find my phone and scan them. Or search the internet for a QR code decoder. I opted for the latter and used Esponce as my decoder.

I saved both codes to my desktop, went to the Esponce website, then dragged one code into the box,

And it gave me this.

The other one, for the curious went directly to the tech handout page.

Want to try it yourself? Right-click on each of the QR codes above and save them to your desktop. Go to, and drag and drop each in turn.

To generate a QR code, on the Esponce website, select the Generate” tab. I’ve also recommended for such a purpose. For more on QR codes, see this earlier blog post.

Things I’m Grateful for

My personal laptop was no longer as useful as it had once been, so I took the plunge this weekend and bought a new one. Of course it’s never that easy. Oh, the purchasing was easy enough, it was the deciding what to buy part was hard. After much investigation, I found the one I wanted. With that out of the way, I steeled myself for the onerous process of setting it up according to my preferences. Turned out not to be onerous at all.

I’ve been using this password manager for several months now, and it has made my life so much easier. One password gives me access to all of my passwords. I use the Chrome extension, so I installed it in Chrome on the new laptop, and bam! All of my passwords at my fingertips.

Speaking of Chrome, I moved to this browser after my frustrations with Firefox 7. I haven’t had any reason to look back. I used the Chrome sync tool to synchronize all my bookmarks, extensions, etc. from my work laptop with my new laptop. Once everything got moved over, I turned synching off so I can add stuff on my personal computer without screwing up the settings in my work laptop’s browser.

And speaking of bookmarks, most of my bookmarks aren’t in my browser. I have them in Delicious (now accessible via where they’re tagged with key terms. I’ve even created a ‘stack’ where all of the web-based videos I use in teaching one of my courses are grouped together. See that stack here.

I installed Dropbox on my new laptop, entered my login info, and soon my 4 GB of files from my work laptop were there. What could be cooler than that? Wait, I know.

For keyboard shortcuts; works in any Windows program. (Read this blog post from 2009 on PhraseExpress; Mac users try TextExpander.) I use it for my most-commonly typed phrases, including entire paragraphs. Very handy for grading papers and emailing students who ask for extra credit after the term is over. PhraseExpress uses a file called phrases.pxp to store all of one’s shortcuts. Within PhraseExpress [v.8] on my work laptop I went to File -> Save as and saved the file to my Dropbox folder. Now that’s the file my work laptop’s PhraseExpress uses. I installed PhraseExpress on my new laptop, then went File -> Open, navigated to the phrases.pxp file in Dropbox, and just like that, all of the phrases I created on my work laptop are now usable on my personal laptop. And now whenever I add a phrase on one laptop, it will be available on the other one.

[Updated 1/21/2013: In PhraseExpress v.9, go to File ->New File -> Dropbox file. Navigate to where you want to save your phrases.  If you’ve upgraded to PhraseExpress v.9 from an earlier version, navigate to where your PhraseExpress file is located.]


QTT: Download TED Videos

Quick Tech Tip: In a previous post (November, 2010) I suggested using Zamzar to download TED videos. Since then TED has added this functionality themselves. Below the video, click the “DOWNLOAD” button.

That will call up this window.

Right-click on the version you want, and select “Save link as…” Choose where you want to save the file, and the video will be saved on your computer. No need to have an internet connection to watch it. Save it in your Dropbox folder to have it available on all of your devices.

Dropbox: The Founder

A colleague (thanks Craig C.!) recently sent me a link to a Forbes article (10/18/2011) about Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox. (Disclaimer: Craig swears he doesn’t usually read Forbes; he was in the waiting room of his dentist’s office.)

At a recent presentation before 100-or-so psychologists (educators, researchers, and practitioners), I asked how many used Dropbox. About 90% of the hands went up. I confess I was surprised at the number. But in case anyone had any doubts about the widespread use of Dropbox, read this excerpt from the Forbes article:

The opportunity in front of Drew Houston revealed itself again a few months ago during a booze-fueled lunch at VC Ron Conway’s Belvedere, Calif. bayside villa. As Houston carefully explained what Dropbox did, he was cut off in the exact way that Steve Jobs had so many years ago: “I know, I use it all the time.” Rather than a tech CEO, his drinking buddy was rapper of the Black Eyed Peas, who told Houston he used Dropbox to collaborate with producer David Guetta on the hit “I Got A Feeling.”

Such tipping point anecdotes now pour in. After his laptop crashed during final exams one law student wrote in: ”Without Dropbox I would have failed out of law school and be living under a bridge.” A watch design firm just outside of Venice, Italian Soul, uses Dropbox to create new pieces with a designer in Mendoza, Argentina, the hulking 3-D files living painlessly in the cloud. Haitian relief workers kept up-to-date records of the deceased and shared those names with Miami and other cities. Professional sports teams inventory videos of opponents’ plays, accessible wherever the team is playing. 

While others are nipping at Dropbox’s heels, e.g.,, iCloud, and Drive (a promised product from Google), Dropbox has quite a head start. As of this writing it has 50 million users. And new users are joining at the rate of about 1 per second.

What is Dropbox doing to keep the hounds at bay? “Houston must combat a MySpace-like implosion by spending a lot of his war chest on ubiquity. He’s protecting his flank against Google via a new deal with phonemaker HTC, which will make Dropbox the default cloud storage option on every one of its Android phones. Deals with six other phone firms are almost inked; PC and television makers are next. Houston has hired a team to tailor Dropbox to businesses. A couple hundred outside developers are making apps for Dropbox.”

Keep an eye on Dropbox. If you’re one of those 50 million users, how has it changed how you work? Not a member of Dropbox yet? Now’s a good time to join.


QTT: Using Folder Favorites

Quick Tech Tip.

In my last two posts I’ve addressed ways to get to the folder where your open Word document is located. Folder navigation in general can be a hassle – unless you’re the kind of person who just puts everything in the same folder, in which case you have other issues.

For Windows 7 users, you have a quick way to access your most-used folders. Open any folder. Here I’ve opened my Dropbox folder. On the left, see the favorites area? You can add any folder here. No matter what folder I navigate to, my “favorites” will always be listed here.

To add a folder, navigate to the folder you want and open it. Below I’ve chosen my syllabi folder. I right-clicked on the word “Favorites”. Now I can select “Add current location to Favorites”.


Now no matter what folder I’m in, I can get to my syllabi folder.

Open Containing Folder in MS Word

I have an open Word document. When I hit CTRL+ALT+O on my keyboard, the folder that contains that document opens. This is very handy if I want to attach the open file to an email message by dragging and dropping the filename onto the message. It’s also very handy if there are other files in that folder that I want to open.

Tip: Always save your file before attaching it to an email message. If you attach without saving, only whatever portion that was already saved will be sent.

In my last post, I discussed four options for opening the containing folder of an open Word document. The first two required navigating the folder system. The third option required a little programming, and the fourth option (Office Tab) required $25.

For those who are interested in free option #3, here are the programming instructions courtesy of Tina Ostrander in my college’s Computer Science department. (Thanks, Tina!) The original code comes from the Code for Excel and Outlook blog. While it may look scary, it took less than 5 minutes to set it up.


Tina Ostrander writes:

In Word, select the View tab. Then Click Macros, View Macro…  Type a Macro name, then click Create:

Copy this code:

Declare Function ShellExecute Lib “shell32.dll” Alias _

  “ShellExecuteA” (ByVal hwnd As Long, ByVal lpOperation _

  As String, ByVal lpFile As String, ByVal lpParameters _

  As String, ByVal lpDirectory As String, ByVal nShowCmd _

  As Long) As Long

Sub OpenContainingFolder()

  On Error GoTo ErrorHandler

  Dim currentDocPath As String

  currentDocPath = ActiveDocument.Path

 ShellExecute 0, “open”, currentDocPath, 0, 0, 1



  Exit Sub


  MsgBox Err.Number & ” – ” & Err.Description

  Resume ProgramExit

End Sub


Into the macro window, like this [Note from Sue, highlight any existing code in the box, delete it, then paste in this code.]:

Click Save and close the window.

To run the macro, select Macro View Macros, and click Run. OR, you can assign a keyboard shortcut to the macro under File Options Customize Ribbon Keyboard Shortcuts: Customize. Scroll down to Macros on the left, select the OpenContainingFolder macro on the right, then select your keyboard shortcut. [Note from Sue: To choose your keyboard shortcut, click in the box labeled “Press new shortcut key,” then just press the keys you want to use. Tina pressed ALT+O, and you can see that in the screenshot below. I chose CTRL+ALT+O. If you choose a key combination that’s already in use, such as ALT+1, nothing will appear in the box. (ALT+1 activates whatever is in the first slot of your Quick Access Toolbar at the very top left corner of your Word window.)]

Click Assign, then Close, then OK.


That’s it! Open a Word document. Use your keyboard shortcut. The folder that contains that document will open.

Office Tab: Added Functionality for Word, Excel, PowerPoint

I ran into a colleague today who posed an interesting question. (Shout out to Tina O. and Eric B.!)

Paraphrasing, “I’m replying to an email message in Outlook, and I open a file in Word, and edit that file. Now I want to attach that file to my Outlook email message. Is there a way to do it?”

There’s the save-and-send option in Word, but that will attach the file to a new email message, not attach it to a reply, so that’s not going to work here.

Option 1 (least desirable). In the Outlook message, click the Insert tab, then click “Attach File,” and navigate to the file.

Option 2 (less desirable). Open the Documents folder, navigate to the file, drag and drop the file onto the message to attach it.

Both options 1 and 2 require you to remember where you saved the file. My colleague explicitly said that she doesn’t want to have to remember where the file has been saved and then have to navigate the folder system to find it. Fair enough. I don’t want to do that either.

Option 3 (not that great unless you’re a programmer). You can write a little code that will allow you to open the containing folder of any Office file. See this blog for instructions. Fortunately for my colleague she is a programmer. I suspect she’s going to take this route. I’m normally the adventurous sort, and I briefly dabbled down this path.

And then I remembered something.

Option 4 (for those who have $25; try it with limited functionality for free). A couple months ago I read about an Office add-in that opens files as tabs, and I’ve been trying it out. Appropriately, it’s called Office Tab (works with Office 2003, 2007, and 2010). In the screenshot below you can see I have two files open in Word 2010. Just like most web browsers, I click on the tab to switch documents. But here’s the cool part. Right clicking on a tab generates a menu.

From here I can create a new document, open an existing document, close this file, close all of the other files open in this program, save this file, save it as a new file, or save all of the tabs I have open.

Now I get to the answer to my colleague’s question. I can “open folder”. Yes, this opens the folder where this particular document is saved. Now just select the file and drag it onto the email message to send it as an attachment.

To finish out the nifty stuff in this menu, I can also choose to open the file in a new window, rename the file, or lock the file.

Office Tab works with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. If you go with Office Tab Enterprise, it will work with those programs plus Publisher, Visio, Access, and Project.

Appointments Off by an Hour?

[Update 12/15/2012 : Given the issues with Google Calendar Sync, I wasn’t surprised to hear that it was being sunsetted.  Use gSyncIt instead.]

To users of Google Calendar Sync (synching Google Calendar with Outlook)
[Everyone else can safely ignore.]

Warning: Appointments added to Google Calendar may show up in Outlook one hour off for the next week.

Possible solutions:

  1. Free option: Double check your calendars to make sure the times are correct.
  2. $19.99 option: Switch from the free Google Calendar Sync to the $19.99 gysncit for synchronizing Google Calendar and Outlook.  (


Why the federal government is to blame:

It all started when they changed the dates for daylight savings time.  Apparently Google Calendar Sync is coded in such a way that it recognizes the old dates for daylight savings time.  Between the last Sunday in October and the first Sunday in November, it will sync appointments one hour off.  You’ll have the same experience in spring when we do this again.

Why Google is to blame:

You’d think it would be simple to do a little recoding in Google Calendar Sync to recognize the new dates that have been in effect since 2007.  But apparently not.



JustBeamIt: Transfer Large Files

As you all know, I’m a Dropbox fan. But what happens when your Dropbox capacity is 2GB and you’re sharing a folder with someone who has 16GB, and that person puts a 3GB file in your shared folder? (Shout out to the attendees of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s Best Practices conference – especially to the person who raised this question!) Well, Dropbox chokes.

Here’s an alternative. (via LifeHacker) lets you transfer large files others. How it works? You go to, drag your file onto the webpage.

Copy the URL (CTRL-C), and send it to your collaborator.

You have to stay on the page until your file has completely uploaded and until your collaborator appears. Your collaborator needs to stay on the page until the file has been completely downloaded.

See the “waiting for recipient” message in the bottom right corner? Once the file download is completed, it changes to “transfer complete!” The file will be in your recipient’s browser’s download folder.

That’s it.