First, credit where credit's due. In this post, you will find my workflow for creating an automated Tweeting process that allows students to submit Tweets via Google Forms and have them automatically moderated and Tweeted through a class Twitter account. While I certainly didn’t invent this idea or process, I did update the workflow to add some power to the automation based on some blog posts and great ideas from other valuable sources. Jump to the bottom of this post for Episode 2 of the SchoenCast, which walks you through the process, if you want to get right down to it.
First, thanks to John Calvert for his session on this topic at a New Jersey conference last year, and for his blog post, Using FormMule and IFTTT for a moderated student twitter feed. Alice Keeler has a cool workflow using Google Sheets to set up Tweets at Class Twitter Account: How Your Students Can Tweet, but it’s really her article, Google Forms: Get a Pre-Filled URL in 5 Easy Steps, that added the magic to my process. Finally, thanks to Dan Gallagher for asking great questions and getting my brain turning on this project. He writes about his process at Great Ideas Are Started With: “Is there a way…”
John’s blog above basically sums up the whole first part of my process. I don’t want to be the guy who mentions complex ideas and doesn’t explain them but you can find so much at his site, along with some of my recent posts on add-ons or tools that help this process work. The basics of Form Mule and If This Then That and how they are used for this project are detailed on the Schoenblog at The SchoenCast Episode 01: Form Mule and How to Automate Blogging Workflow with #IFTTT.
As usual, it all starts with a form. This one is simple, and can be found on my class website. A copy viewable to the public can be found at Tweet Me! Public.
Notice the directions: The student name and class hashtag will automatically be added to the Tweet. The Tweet paragraph text box uses data validation, found in the advanced options, to limit the characters so that Tweet can never be too long. All of this can easily be customized in your form to meet your needs.
Most similar workflows I’ve seen then require the teacher to open the Google Sheet form results and enter some sort of manual trigger for Form Mule to send the e-mail that triggers the #IFTTT recipe. Still with me? Good.
For this project, I wanted to keep it clean and streamlined, never requiring the teacher to go to the Google Sheet. Here’s how it works:
Form Mule sends an automated e-mail to the teacher whenever a Tweet Me! form is submitted. This body of this e-mail looks like this:
Here it is in the Form Mule template:
The Pre-Filled URL referenced above is actually a link to a new form. Visit Alice Keeler’s post linked at the start of this article for more about pre-filled forms. With a Pre-Filled URL that looks like the line below, the link actually connects to a new Google Form for approval.
Find a viewable copy of that form here: Tweet Approval Form. Basically, the Approval Form pulls in the students’ Tweet, and allows the teacher to approve it through e-mail only. See the form screen shot below:
When I click Submit, and Yes is selected on the Approval drop down menu, Form Mule then sends this Tweet to activate the #IFTTT trigger. I use two templates here:
If the Tweet is approved, the e-mail is sent to the e-mail that automates the Tweet through an #IFTTT recipe with a merged subject line of:
If Revise is selected, the student is e-mailed to ask them to revise their Tweet.
In the end, here is the result:
The Big Picture
This addition might not add any crazy functionality but I think that using Forms only makes the process so much cleaner. John’s ideas work beautifully, and combining them with the Pre-Filled Forms makes this really powerful. Plus, with some simple additions to the forms and functions, it can be adapted to meet the needs of multiple teachers. By selecting a teacher or class period, the form can work to automate Tweets to different accounts or with different hashtags.
I hope this walk though was helpful--and I hope it made sense. Most of my high school students are on Twitter but I’m finding this project incredibly useful for those who are not, not allowed to be, or are too young to Tweet on their own. As the teacher, I still have control, but the automation is simple, quick, and clean.
To prove it, I made this quick screencast below. A second episode of the SchoenCast wasn’t my plan here, but it felt like a video explanation was needed. Let me know how it goes.
The SchoenCast Episode 02: Automating Tweets from Forms
cross posted at www.aschoenbart.com
Adam Schoenbart is a high school English teacher, Google Education Trainer, and EdD candidate in Educational Leadership. He teaches grades 10-12 in a 1:1 Chromebook classroom at Ossining High School in Westchester County, NY and received the 2014 LHRIC Teacher Pioneer Award for innovative uses of technology that change teaching and learning. Read more at The SchoenBlog and connect on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.