#EdTechCalNYNJ Workflow & Creation: How to automatically merge form data to a calendar!

Thursday, April 16, 20155:51 PM

I wrote about the creation of #EdTechCalNYNJ yesterday (selfish plug: http://tinyurl.com/edtechcalnynj), and today I want to write about the workflow to create the site. I like the idea of documenting workflows. Hopefully it will be interesting to anyone who wants to use or adapt the functionality, and at like most everything on this blog, it helps me process my own work for reflection.

The starting ideas was fairly simple: a collaborative, crowdsourced and completely public calendar of #edtech events in the area. Here's what I knew:
  • I wanted to use a Google Calendar so people could add events to their own calendars
  • I wanted to use a Google form and add-ons to manage the automation
  • I wanted to leave everything public and collaborative, but still needed the ability to administer and edit
  • I wanted to be able to give contributers credit for their ideas and events
Overall, I'm very happy with the results and hope the site grows. If not, I still learned something new and created a valuable resource for my own PD and PLN. If you're reading this, though, I suspect you like the idea of this calendar. You've probably spent the too much time and energy researching events and trainings, just like Dani and I have.

The Workflow:
For the most part, I don't know code. I have a growing desire to learn, and used to do web design with HTML and basic java, so I'm by no means a beginner. However, I haven't practiced the skills in years and didn't want to talk that on. So without New Visions Lab and their many wonderful add-ons, nothing would have worked. I use nearly all of their products, and plan to write about the many ways I do so to improve my teaching life.

Here is what I did to make the calendar live:
  1. Create a new calendar. This was easy. I created a new calendar in Google Calendar, made it public, and found the address in settings.
  2. Install Old Form Mule. Form Mule is a wonderful mail merge add-on that automates e-mails based on form results. The old version, in scripts, also allows for a Calendar merge. With this script, I automated e-mails to the site admins notifying us of new additions, and automated calendar merges. We thought about added an approval/moderation feature, but it seemed to be more trouble that it's worth. Keep it open and public but we still have admin rights to change the calendar.
  3. Copy Down. Form Mule wants the date for the calendar event to be in the Date Time format, so I used Copy Down to combine this data into the add-on-friendly format. Every time a form result is submitted, any code copied to cells gets pushed down, adding a new line of data. Copy Down is great because it lets you copy formulas to organize and manipulate new data.
  4. Form Router. We wanted to be able to credit contributors by listing their contact info. The obvious was to do this was to pull data from the form results, but it's hard to manipulate in the sheet. Form Router helped by appending form results to second Google Sheet in real time. We could manipulate data, add links to contact info, and publish it without messing up the form results.
  5. Google Site. Lastly, we built the Google Site for #EdTechCalNYNJ. This was easy! The calendar, contributor page and form were all seamless to embed. Piece of cake!
With this project, I've learned a lot about these add-ons and how to automate even more of my work. I'm a huge believer in the power of technology to make our lives easier and more effective, and this fits the bill.

If you like the calendar, can use this workflow in your life, ate anything delicious today, or have anything to share, please comment! 

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