I was a little skeptical about using an automated script to provide feedback to parents about their students, but as I prepare to send out the letters required for my students to have GAFE accounts I found myself investigating a little more.
If you want to set up an automated workflow yourself, you are going to need a Google sheet with both formMule and formRanger installed. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I suggest that you spend a little time reading about scripts with Google Apps. You can find the script gallery under Tools > Script Gallery.
The system will allow you everytime you submit a form to send an E-mail, SMS or Text to Voice message. Imagine that you want to tell parents that a student did good work in class, instead of having to lookup their e-mail address, open the e-mail system etc… you can open a form, and choose the options from a drop down list, provide a comment and click submit. On clicking submit your form will then send an e-mail to the parents of the student, send an SMS or a text to voice message, not just with what you put in the form, but essentially having mail merged your comments and options into the email or message.
The possibilities of this are endless. You could use this in replacement of praise postcards (instead of a message taking a week to arrive and costing $0.60 to send a letter, it cost the school $0.0075 to send an SMS! You could use it to provide feedback to teachers when something has been updated, or it could be used to provide individualised feedback to students using just drop downs, but sending a detailed e-mail.
Keep reading to find out how to set it up…
The next step is to sign up with Twilio (http://www.twilio.com). You can get a free trial but it is going to cost you if you want to send SMS and voice messages to parents. You can try it out for free but it will only send to numbers that you authourise (i.e. phones that you have access to). You can send e-mails out for free, and it doesn’t require that you have signed up for Twilio either.
Once you are all set up, you design a form which will collect the feedback that you want to send off to the parents, you need to have a good think about how this is going to work best for you – I just put Student, Feedback reason and comment on the form.
In a sheet in your GoogleSheet you will need to add all of your student information, If you want to use the sheet as a lookup then you are probably going to give each student a unique key, (I concatenated their First Name, Last Name and class together [=A2&” “&B2&” [“&C2&”]”]), You will then want to copy the sheet so that you have it in alphabetical order, else your VLookup (=vlookup) won’t work. You can add your lookup into your FormResponse sheet, you will probably want to pull in the E-mail, Phone or parent name into here.
With all your data set up and your form designed, you can use formRanger to push all of the students names into a drop down menu in the form. You just link the drop down in the form to the student column in your sheet.
If you are confused about what to do with the formula in the lookup on the form page, in the formMule menu (Advanced Options > Copy Formula) you can copy down the formulas every time that you submit the form!
Once you are all setup you can follow the instructions in the formMule options to setup any of the communication options.
I would recommend this to anyone – it really is a foolproof method of communicating. My only tip is to try it out in a sample sheet with phoney data before trying to create something which works live!