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4 Things You Need to Know about Google Forms and Spreadsheets

1. What Is It?

Google Spreadsheets is one of the applications available in the Google Docs suite , web-based applications. It’s functions and capabilities are similar but scaled down compared to those in traditional spreadsheet products such as Excel. Access to spreadsheets is done through a web browser.

Like all other Google Doc applications, users are not only able to create and edit these spreadsheets online but also share them with other users in order to collaborate. Collaborators can be given view-only or full editing privileges, and chat in real-time within their shared spreadsheet. Google Spreadsheets can be published as a webpage or can be embedded within an external blog or website.

Google Forms are an extension of the Google Spreadsheets application. It allows users to quickly create a web-based form, such as a survey, and deliver it via the web. Like Google Spreadsheets, Google Forms can be shared with others for collaboration purposes not only for creating and editing the form but also for reviewing the survey responses.

2. How Does It Work?

Users can create a spreadsheet from scratch or import an existing spreadsheet from other file types in a web browser. The original spreadsheet creator can share this file with other Google account individuals and can allow them ‘view only’ access or allow them to view and edit the file. Collaborators can be simultaneously signed into a spreadsheet to do normal activities such as entering data, creating charts and making edits. They can also use the built-in chat feature to communicate in real-time.

 Spreadsheets can be instantly exported from an online location to a local machine in spreadsheet compatible formats, as well as HTML or PDF. Additionally, users can publish the content of a spreadsheet as a webpage with its own unique URL that is viewable by anyone on the web. Forms allows you to create survey-style forms with questions of all different types of data in the answer fields. These forms feed directly into a spreadsheet that is automatically populated as entries are made in the form.

The forms can be embedded in email or can be published out as a web page. Like the overall Google Docs suite, these applications and resulting files are hosted outside an organization’s technology infrastructure. They are maintained and supported by Google at no cost with up to 1 GB for storage of files (all Google Doc types). Users and organizations with additional storage needs can purchase it from Google. 

3. Why Is It Significant?

 At a high level, implementation of Google Apps within an organization means it can cost effectively outsource software hosting and maintenance as well as the resulting data storage to Google. Internal IT organizations would no longer have to be responsible for these services and could be reallocated to other strategic tasks. Functionally, the ability to share documents on a common platform and be able to access them from any computer that has a web browser and internet connectivity is particularly significant in higher education. The ability to “work in the cloud” fosters collaboration because individuals do not have to manage versioning issues that often hamper current methods of document collaboration, such as email attachments not arriving properly or access to enterprise networks becoming unstable.

Educators may soon utilize the collaborative and sharing nature of these tools to create innovative pedagogical strategies both in the classroom and beyond it. Forms in particular may provide a unique opportunity in the classroom. Because they can be created and delivered so quickly, instructors may find ways to deploy surveys to students and then view the results in real time as responses come in. Currently, these type of survey/response offerings are done through specialized hardware (“clickers”) and accompanying software. The free, web-based nature of Google Forms could replace these existing systems as mobile personal computing capabilities continue to be the norm for students.

4. What are The Implications for Teaching and Learning?
Google Spreadsheets and Forms has a great deal of potential in the educational space. Its obvious strengths lie in supporting collaboration and allowing access to documents from any device with an internet connection. The shared nature of the tool can facilitate student collaborative efforts on a variety of course projects. For example, students in a physics lab could enter data into a form or directly into a spreadsheet shared by the entire class. The data could generate a graph of the data in real time as it is entered by students. This would allow the instructor to follow data entry as a form of formative assessment. 

If anomalous data appears, the graph would immediately indicate this and the instructor could find the group and discuss the outlying data point. Because the spreadsheet is shared and online, it means that the entire class has access to all the data collected for the day, or even over multiple sections or multiple years. The larger data set makes for more accurate conclusions from the data. The students also have access to the data from any device with with a web browser, thus making it impossible to forget their data at the lab or at home. Students can do lab write ups at anywhere they have internet access.

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