Friday, October 28, 2011

Using Google Scripts to Move Data Like a Bulldozer - Forms to Documents


As we gather more data using Google Forms and Spreadsheets there are a lot of questions out there about how we can reformat and share this data in a more consumable understandable way. In the last couple of months the Maine 207 technology team of Mark Ordonez and Janice Cacciatore and Hank Thiele have tackled this issue on several projects and as a result have created a reproducible Google Script that takes the information off a spreadsheet and ultimately creates a unique document that can be shared with anyone.

Our initial purpose of attempting this was not that exciting of a project, however it proved a concept that we believe will make gathering and sharing data in Google Docs a more powerful, dynamic, and interactive process. What we initially set out to do was take a spreadsheet with information about school payments and create letters that would be mailed out to individual families. This has developed into this repeatable process:



To make this easier to replicate we created a sheet in Google Spreadsheets that contains all of the variables you would need to run this process with the data in any Google spreadsheet or gathered through a Google Form. When the variables are used in combination with a Google Script they can replace fields on a Google Document that is used as a template, just as one might do with a desktop office suite. However, in this case the product is multiple letters all placed in a Google Docs Collection that can be shared individually or as a group.

We have already seen several other uses for this such as one example where we helped Dan Rezac take a teacher walk-through form and create individual feedback letters for each teacher observation. We are generating letters to parents and to teachers using data gathered through forms or on shared spreadsheets and disseminating information in a much more readable format than a typical spreadsheet view as is illustrated below:

Typical Spreadsheet view of Data:

Reformatted Merged Document View

For those of you interested in repeating this type of evaluation process here are some instructions, screenshots, and links of an example that will help you recreate it for your own purposes. The easiest way to get started is to make a copy of this Google Docs collection and follow the instructions.


Posted by:

Dr. Henry Thiele - CTO Maine Township High School District 207
Mark Ordonez - Manager of Data Services Maine Township High School District 207
Janice Cacciatore - Technology Specialist Maine Township High School District 207

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