Sarah Kiefer has been co-coordinating her school's annual Washington, D.C. trip since 2012. And as a Technology Integrator and a Google Certified Trainer she's always discovering ways that technology can improve communication and efficiency on school trips. In today's blog post, she's sharing her favorite tips for using Google Sheets.
You won't want to miss her organizational tips guaranteed to improve group communication!
Google Sheets and formMule make it possible for educational trip leaders to improve the efficiency of our email communication by sending personalized emails in bulk.
I help coordinate the 8th grade D.C. trip at our school. Mrs. Bruck and I take our roles as coordinators seriously. Since we are teachers AND parents, our decisions are motivated by both roles. We simply cannot take our “mom hats” off while planning this trip, so we plan every detailed for “our kids” as if they were our own children.
We also understand the need to communicate effectively with them about the trip and with their families. Google applications have become essential to our our trip from start to finish to help make our processes more efficient, including the way we communicate.
In the first article in this series, I explained the benefits and many uses of a Google Site, which has revolutionized our “warehouse” of information for parents and travelers.
Google Sheets has become just as valuable for us. Using it to organize our traveler data, we have a way to easily send information that can be delivered to specific groups of people, right to their Inbox.
How, you are asking yourself?
I start by logging into my Nations Classroom account using my secure login. I navigate to the Reports section. I love the “Custom Contact” report because it gives me all the information I need, including student name, parent name, email address, balance, and mor..
Next, I export the information as an Excel file, and here’s where Google steps in.
I have my Google account preset to convert ANY/ALL files to its Google counterpart. This is a one-time step that I highly recommend to ALL Google users. It is found by clicking on the gear wheel in the upper right corner of your Drive.
Select “Settings” and then make sure there is a check mark in the box for “Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format. This allows me to simply drag and drop the Excel spreadsheet into my Google Drive and it automatically converts it to a Google Sheet.
Now, I am ready to get to work.
I use the Add-On called fromMule. You can read more about formMule here.
This allows me to send an email to all (or some of) my travelers at one time. BUT, it is personal and feels like I emailed each of them because it contains custom information. It’s beautiful!
And as the cherry on top - I include a hyperlink to our DC Trip’s website! See how easy communication can be?
If you would like to watch the process in action, please view the video.
What do I email?
Simple - anything and everything. I am conscious of the quantity and quality of emails, so I try to target information in chunks OR highlight specifics. I pull a new report for each email. Using a new report each time helps ensure I have contact information for ALL travelers, and it’s as current as possible.
- Reminder emails prior to major dates - meetings, due dates, scholarship info, itinerary changes, etc.
- Scholarships - this is a big one for us! We want to make sure our parents are informed. I also include a link to the website where the application is posted.
- Medical information - We use a Google Form so no need to worry about handwriting! I use formMule to send a confirmation email and use the Google Sheet to track who has NOT submitted. I can now follow up with those who didn’t submit.
- T-shirt sales - We announce the start of the sale and include a link to the Google Form that is the order form, as well as a final reminder. I also use formMule to generate automatic email receipts, too!
One final use for Google Sheets … and it’s not one we ever thought we’d need.
We were at the WWII Memorial in 2015 when we learned that Paris had experienced an act of terrorism. Our “mom hats” took over. We knew we’d want to know that our child was safe.
Our next stop was a restaurant where I asked to use a computer to send an email via Google Sheets to the parents, as well as our principal. While nerve-wracking, Google Sheets served a valuable purpose. Our parents were grateful we had reassured them their children were being taken care of and it did not take much time for me to manage the communication.
All in all another win for Google! Google Sheets makes communication a whole lot easier when planning a trip.
The next article in this six-part series will cover how to use Google Calendar.