Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Open Thinking Pays Dividends



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Last Wednesday I participated in a Google Educator Group Hangout with +James Peterson, +Jane Lofton and +Dan Imbimbo. It was meant to be an advanced sequel to the Google Edu on Air workshop about sheet powered Book Review Sites and it turned out to be much more. It was the kind of great conversation that keeps you up for a few nights while you work out what was discussed.


After the Hangout, James posted his hack of the advanced book review site and his thinking floored me. That evening I stayed up to 3 am incorporating his thinking into my own; I can truly say that the project is better and I am smarter as a result.

For background on the original book review site you can read this post or watch the Google Edu Hangout on Air. James took this site idea and brought it to another level:
  • He used HTML in the Awesome Table list to include an average star rating next to each book title. which was such a smart way to provide feedback to users.
  • He figured out a way to build a sheets function with “join” and “filter” to combine multiple reviews of the same book into an HTML snippet.
  • He uncovered the templates feature of Awesome Tables which isn’t in the official documentation


James did a truly excellent job documenting these improvements on his blog.


James’ book review system is targeted to teachers, not students, and his design has different requirements as a result. I needed to incorporate his improvements into my system where posts are moderated and submission notifications are sent to teachers and librarians. My system also asks slightly more of the submitter, including a plot summary. In the near future I’ll write an explicit post about how I incorporated James’ system, but you are welcome to copy the demo sheet to pull it apart now. Full disclosure - there are a couple of clunky things I’d like to streamline, but it still works as advertised.

I’m so thankful for my PLN who is a daily source of inspiration and support. Every once in a while I’m shown how powerfully good this network can be. This was one of those times.