Saturday, November 9, 2013

Building a teacher sharing reposititory in Google Sites using scripts

My district uses Google Apps for Education, which is an amazing platform to support teacher communities of practice.  That said, creating a culture of collaboration is hard - there are all sorts of things that get in the way. Teachers often question whether what they have is worth sharing, they are concerned that their work will be judged by peers, but most of all, they don't have time.  To help build the culture in my district, we are promoting a mixture of Google Plus and physical "meetups" to encourage teachers to share practice. But while Google Plus is great for conversations, it's less useful to share "stuff." 

We thought Google Drive might help so we organized folders by subject and grade level.  It was important to us to make the process democratic and we gave the whole faculty edit access to the folders. Unfortunately, this had unintended consequences. Teachers accidentally edited the work of others without making copies. Folks who installed the local Google drive accidentally deleted work that they didn't need - not realizing it deleted the work for everyone.  This didn't help win over the cause of sharing.

When Andrew Stillman released the formFolio script I realized that there might be an alternative.  Using a combination of formFolio, formMule, formRanger, and some custom script, I am creating a Google Site that will do the following:
  1. Create Google Sites pages automatically on teacher form submission.
  2. Add the teacher's resource to a neutral folder where people can access but not edit.
  3. The form will create a page that contains a link to the resource, a description, attribution, and custom tags created by the user that link to similar resources.
  4. User created tags that will, in turn, re-populate the form to keep it relevant.
  5. The Google site will include analytics to point teachers to the most popular submissions.
  6. User will be able to promote useful resources via Google Plus.
  7. When teachers submit a resource, they will also receive a thank you email with a link to their resource page and a link to suggestions of similar resources.
The pages created by the Google form will create pages similar to this mock-up. Ultimately, we need the system to be easy to use.  My teachers are already using Apps and I hope to reduce cognitive load by using tools that already familiar. Furthermore, building the site in Google keeps the system free and consistent.  That's the plan, anyway! 

I will document the journey here in parts.  My first post will describe the custom tagging system.  I know it can be done, whether the system will be successful remains to be seen. I'm going on the "If you build it..." theory.  

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