Shrewsbury EdTech

Tech resources for Shrewsbury Public School educators

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Sending “canned” emails with GMail

Do you ever find yourself sending the same email, over and over again?  In the course of my teaching day, I often send the same email out to multiple people — a missing homework alert; a quick response to a parent, letting them know I’ll respond in detail later; or a reminder that something is due…  Sometimes, I’d go to my sent folder, find the emailI had fired off previously, copy it, then paste it and tweak it a bit.

It occurred to me that there had to be a simpler way to do this.

After a bit of searching, I found it.  Sure enough, there’s a feature hidden in GMail which allows you to create “canned responses” – as they call them – and then use them whenever you need to.  Here’s how it works.

First, go to the little settings wheel – the cog / flower pull down button and select “settings.”



Next, you need to look to the right — there’s a tab called “Labs” where they have some experimental features.  Once you click this, look for one called “Canned Responses” and click “Enable.”


Once it’s turned on, all you need to do is start a new message.  I will type a canned response without a “to” or “subject” filled in — just to get the text of the message.  When the message is set, look to the bottom right of the screen – there’s a little down arrow next to the trashcan.  Inside that menu, you’ll see “canned responses.”


Select the canned responses option, and you have several choices.  You can “insert” a previous response you designed, “save” your current email over a previous canned response, “create a new canned response” based on your current email, or “delete” a response you no longer need / use.


When you choose to create a “New Canned Response,” it will give you this pop-up to name it.  Just give it a name, and it will be available any time you start a new email.


I use these for several repetitive emails, specifically:

  • alerts for missing work (with a space where I fill in the missed assignments)
  • a “thank you for contacting me” email, letting parents know that their email was received, and I’ll get back to them shortly
  • a generic “Warning: an error was detected in your email to the instructor” response, for whenever a student sends me something without a greeting / closing or with poor grammar / mechanics
  • a request for the student to post their question to me on Schoology, so I only have to answer it once (about assignments, quizzes, etc – class questions that apply to more than one person

Overall, I find this little tool to be a great time saver — give it a shot!

Per usual, if you have an idea you’d like to share, let us know… we love having guest posts.

Derek & Jeremy


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SPS TechTip: Tracking Evaluation Evidence in Google Docs

As we all know, the new evaluation system requires a bit more planning and record keeping than the “old way,” as it requires us to document a lot more of the best practices that we all engage in.  From self-reflecting, to goal setting and making a plan, there are write-ups to create, and pieces of evidence to document.  Lots of evidence — the rubric, as you know, has many, many rows…

At first, I had a hard time wrapping my head around this system, and how I would track it all.  Remembering which evidence I had uploaded, what details I needed to document, and where I was at with my goals was somewhat daunting — and I didn’t like having to log into Baseline Edge whenever I needed a refresher on some aspect of my plan.

Being something of a visual learner, I decided my best bet was to create a “one stop shop” document where I could jot down ideas, check the rubric, track evidence when it occurred to me, and make changes on the fly — before uploading to Baseline Edge.

Enter Google Docs to the rescue.

Google Docs offers several benefits as a record keeping tool.

  • First, I could put live links to key documents into it — documents like the full rubric, the slideshow explaining the evaluation system, etc.  Basically, any materials I’d need to reference while working on my plan.
  • Second, I could create a folder for my evaluation plan, and store all of my evidence there for uploading — in fact, I could create a subfolder, called “uploaded,” and move items into there once they were uploaded.
  • Third, the document can be shared — for example, if collaborating with someone on a plan, or looking to bounce ideas around with an evaluator, you can give them access and keep a record of your discussion — all in the doc.
  • By using an embedded table, I could have an easy-to-follow chart for my evidence for each standard.  I could jot ideas into the chart, and then check them off once they were uploaded.

Here’s what the document looks like:

The top section is for some of the basics of your evaluation.

Baseline Blog 1

The next section describes the types of evidence:

Baseline Blog 2 (1)

The last section is the big one — this is where you track all of your evidence, as it relates to each standard.  Note that, if you are collaborating with someone, columns four and five can be used by a colleague.  Last year, while I was mentoring a new staff member, we shared one document and were able to support one another through this.

Baseline Blog 3

If you are interested in taking a look at the full file, it is available here.  Feel free to make your own copy of it, and adapt it to suit your needs.

Have any tips regarding other ways to use technology to enhance what we all do?  Drop us a note — we’re always looking for guest bloggers and new ideas!

Hope to see some of you at the upcoming EdCamps, and at the Summer Institute this June!

Derek & Jeremy




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Using Google Classroom with Schoology

We in Shrewsbury have the benefit of being both a Google for Education system and subscribers to Schoology’s Enterprise platform.  As we all continue our move towards full implementation of Schoology in our classrooms, we thought this would be a good time to examine how these two platforms can work well together.

Benefits of Google Classroom

While Schoology is terrific for collecting and scoring work – especially homeworks and check-ins that you can attach to a rubric, one shortfall is in giving timely, collaborative feedback.  Basically, in Schoology, if students are drafting a paper and you want to give them feedback, there’s a several-step process in which you need to engage: (1) set up an assignment where students can submit a draft (2) student submits a draft for feedback (3) give feedback and return assignment (4) student resubmits for additional feedback or grade.

This is an area where Google Classroom excels — by creating an assignment in Google Classroom, all students get a template in which they will create their work, and you are able to give feedback in real time — without needing students to submit it, or you to collect and return it.  If you couple this with Doctopus and Goobric, you get a spreadsheet, listing the links to student work plus an update regarding when they last edited it, how may times they edited it, and how many comments you’ve put in their documents.  You can even hold help sessions inside a student’s document… For full details on all these features,, check out this earlier post and this update for some of the other features

One other really useful element in Google Classroom is the email feature — once your students have all registered for your classroom, you can easily email all or some of the students at the touch of a button.  Just go to the “students” tab, check off the students you wish to contact, and select “Email” under the “Actions” Button.  Because we’re a Google Education System, Classroom immediately puts you into your GMail account and sets up an email with all the students listed as a Blind-CC.  This is very useful for reaching out to kids who missed an assignment, need a reminder, etc. without any one student being aware of who else is being contacted.

Screenshot 2015-11-12 20.19.53

Using Google Classroom with Schoology

So, how do you combine Google Classroom with your Schoology class page?  Easy — just create a link in Schoology, at the top of your materials page, where students can always find it.  Here’s what the top of my class page looks like:

Screenshot 2015-11-12 19.33.21

As you can see, I’ve put in links to the most common non-Schoology items my kids will access: several Google-based surveys that I use to track things, common guidelines, and Google Classroom.  If you’re curious about any of the items listed, just drop a note.

In addition, when an assignment is due in Google Classroom, I post a “dummy” assignment in Schoology, with a link to Google Classroom.  I turn off the “accept submissions” switch and set the deadline to match the due date / time in Classroom.  This way, the assignment shows up in the students’ “upcoming assignments” sidebar as a reminder, but the kids know to go to Classroom to complete the work and turn it in:

Screenshot 2015-11-12 10.05.38

New Features in Doctopus / Goobric

Additionally, the Google Add-ons for collecting and grading papers through Classroom have added a few improvements that really make it worthwhile to grade papers using this platform.  You can see the new features inside the rubric box which Doctopus gives you at the top of each paper when you grade it:

Screenshot 2015-11-12 20.28.05

The rubric is on the left, while the grade submission box is on the right.  The graphic below shows the new features:

Untitled drawing (2)

Most of these are self explanatory, with the exception of being able to switch “Can View” to “Can Comment.  This is a feature that users of Doctopus have wanted for some time, to address a minor negative in Google Classroom: One feature which teachers love in GC is the fact that, when a student submits a paper, they lose editing permission – effectively, ownership transfers from the student to the teacher, until the document is returned to the student, once it’s graded.  The negative side of this is that, when a person no longer owns the document, they can no longer see any comments that have been posted in the assignment.  This creates a situation when you begin scoring papers:  as soon as you finish scoring in Doctopus, the filled out rubric is embedded into the document, so the student can immediately see their grades.  This is a good thing, right?  Well, not entirely.  Because they don’t “own” the document until you release all the papers back to your students, it means kids can see their grades, but not the comments which explain those grades — thus inviting lots of emails from students, asking why they earned the grades they earned.  That is why this new option is so important — by selecting “switch from “can view” to “can comment,” the student – while still unable to edit the paper itself – can now see all the comments you put into the paper, along with the grades.  Thus, by using this Add-On, you can set your grading so that, as soon as you finish a paper, a student receives an alert and can see their grades.  Of course, you can also turn this feature off, should you so wish.  Also, once you set these options, it’s important to note that all the papers in that assignment will default to those settings — a “set it and forget it” feature.

To sum up, our combination of Google Apps and Schoology can make for some very effective feedback tools, that can work very well together.

Per usual, send us any questions or suggestions!

Derek & Jeremy

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SMS Techtip: Another team use for Google Forms


A couple weeks back, we told you about streamlining the corridor pass / signout process through the use of a Google Form which students save to their IPad homescreen.  This gave us a neat, easy to access record of where our students went, and when.

Now we’re applying the same process to our extra help sign-ins — this has a few benefits:

  • First, rather than sending around a sign-in sheet, each student who attends any session on team simply fills out the quick survey.
  • Next, we have a record of why the student is there – if there are a number of students, we can see patterns in why they have come for help, and adjust our teaching / reteaching when we see common threads.
  • Also, by having all the team help sessions in one sheet, we can see who is staying where and when, which allows us to focus on students who are staying for multiple teachers on multiple days, as well as those who say they are staying with each of us, but may not actually make it to a session.
  • Then, when we have a parent communication or meeting, we can quickly see if and when the child has come in for help, and use this to help guide part of the discussion.

Here is a screen shot of the survey the kids fill out:

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 11.02.06 AM

Per usual, send ideas and questions our way!

Derek & Jeremy

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SMS Techtip: A Classroom Sign-out Log for the Digital World

Hi Everyone,

Now that we’re in the 1:1 environment, we can streamline a lot of what we do — including how kids sign out from our classes.  It is pretty simple to create a Google Survey that will record each kid that exits your room: consider this one that we are currently piloting:Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 2.15.43 PM

When a student wants to exit, all they do is enter their name, pick the class, and select their destination.

Google will automatically record a time stamp and the student’s login, so there’s no worry about someone putting in someone else’s name.









Once a student submits the form, it shows this screen – the student shows you this screen, and then exits.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 2.23.30 PM

All the results then appear in an easy-to read spreadsheet, organized by time and day.  You can add in a filter, too, and sort by whatever category you wish.   Then, rather than cross-referencing different papers, notebooks, and lists in different classrooms, we have all of our corridor passes organized in one list ( blurred the student names and emails):

Unnamed image_censored

How do you configure a form to do this?  The key is in the settings up top – the first two checkboxes give you a record of whose account was used to fill the form out:

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 2.26.42 PM

Once it is set up, here’s how we use it.  We have students open the form in Safari, and then save the page to their homescreen.  This way, when they need to go somewhere, the form is one click away.  The student fills out the form, hits submit, and then just shows that “thank you” screen in order to head out.

If your team is interested in test driving this, or setting one up, let us know – we’d be happy to help!  Looking down the line, it’s also possible to have one, simple form for each grade, should we so desire…

Per usual, send along any tech tips you’d like to share — we’re always looking for guest posts!


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Tech Tip: Using a Google form to schedule meetings

As we in Shrewsbury start thinking ahead to Conference Day in November, and many other times when we’re scheduling meetings, there’s a handy new add-on that makes life simpler: Choice Eliminator.  Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 2.59.10 PMWhat does it do?  Put simply, it allows you to create a form where choices are eliminated as they get filled.  For example, let’s say you are scheduling conferences, and you have ten time slots available.  You can create a form where a person can select a time slot – from a pull down or multiple choice menu – and it will disappear from the options once one person picks it.  As an added bonus, you can even set how many of a particular slot are available — so, if you can meet with four different groups at a set time, you can set that time slot to disappear once four different people have signed up.  All of the sign ups appear in a simple spreadsheet for you, which you can then sort by time, name, etc.

Here’s how it works.

Start by creating a new Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 2.21.03 PMGoogle form.  Once you create it, click “add-ons”

at the top, and then click “Get Add-ons.”

**Note:  You need to be on a laptop for add-ons to work.  There is no option for these on an IPad**

Once you click “Get Add-ons” search for “Choice Eliminator” and install it.

Once it is installed, click “Start” in the dropdown menu.  This will open up the full set of options.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 2.21.13 PM

Once you create a multiple-choice, list, or checkbox question, you will be able to select it   from thScreen Shot 2015-09-14 at 2.21.27 PMe pull-down bar in the pop-up window.

You can then choose the box that says “eliminate choices” and the form will
automatically delete any choices that have been filled.

If you wish to set a specific number of times that an option can be selected before it disappears, select “Choice Options.”

This opens up a new pop-up, where you can set a specific number of times for each option to be available.

Set the number for each one, and press “Save.”

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 2.21.51 PM

Your form is now ready!

Here is how our Conference Day sign-up form looks…Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 3.08.33 PM

We will send this out to parents and they can each sign up when they want, without seeing when any other parent / student has signed up, and we will know that no one can sign up for a time slot that has been filled.

**By the way, here’s a tip to speed up entering all those numbers — you can copy and paste from any spreadsheet into a Google form, and it’ll separate each box into a new option for that item…

We hope you find this helpful… per usual, let us know if you have any questions, and we’re always looking for guest posts.  Send ideas our way!


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Using IPads in the ELA Classroom… (and beyond!)

Welcome to the approach of another school year, and another year of tech tips from Deremy and any staff members who are interested in contributing!  Last year, we had our first guest contribution (from Kelly Lawlor), and we hope to have many more heading forward.  Before I get into this week’s tip, I’d like to put in a plug for the new SPS website — if you haven’t had a chance to look around, do so – it’s much more user friendly now, and does a great job (in my opinion) of showcasing what we all do.  Kudos to the team that put it together!

This tip hearkens back to the 1:1 courses offered at SHS back in June — during that week, I taught a course on IPad / tech use in the ELA classroom.  To facilitate this, I created a livebinder of resources.  In this, I have tabs that focus on facets of teaching with technology – basics of the IPad, Schoology, and Google Drive; and then tools for specific tasks – class discussions, flipping the classroom, and paper writing, to name a few.  For each topic, I include a narrative overview, and then links to resources – examples, how-to videos, lessons, etc.  The basic portal looks like this:


While I designed this for ELA, much of the content applies to virtually any subject — feel free to look around, and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Enjoy the last few days of vacation and, per usual, do let us know if you have a tech tip you’d like to share with the district!