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So, we had our back to school open house. As usual, the school was abuzz with excitement. It’s a treat to be able to meet all of our parents, a treat we really should find a way to do more often.

I decided that I would do away with the old fashioned sign in sheet. It seemed to make little sense to have parents fill out a paper sign in sheet when we are a paperless classroom. We wanted to give them an idea of how their kids are expected to work this year, so we did open house in our rooms paperless style.

For accountability purposes, we knew we had to have a sign in sheet. Well, as we all know, sign in sheets are less than stellar at getting great information from parents. Think about it… how many times have you looked at a sign in sheet after an event and not been able to decipher a large chunk of what was shared.

Instead, we made our sign in sheet digital. I built a quickly built a Google Form with the information required on the sign in sheet. In addition to the basic info, I was able to add some questions… these are the questions I really want answers to. The stuff that makes that parent’s student tick. The stuff they tell you, but in all honesty, you are so overwhelmed with information coming at you from several directions at once, that you have to try to piece it together over a cup (or a pot) of coffee that night.

Using Google Forms, I was able to ask questions about what the parent thought is their child’s best and most challenging subjects. I was able to get information about issues the parent wants to be sure I know. Most importantly, I provided a space for parents to get to tell me a bit about their child and his/her personality. This is where I glean the real information. I get an early glimpse into what the student loves, and what the student struggles with. Most importantly, I provide the parent with a voice.

This was the first time I have used Google Forms with parents. I am lucky, once again. I work for a great district with a great director of technology. I emailed him late the night before and asked for a guest user account for parents. I had it by 7:00 am the next morning. I gave the parents access to the form, and they were off and running. Things went brilliantly, and it gave me a great talking point about how they are giving us feedback in the same manner I ask it from their child. I really think it helped them understand, this really is a paperless classroom.

I think the night went extremely well. I met some great parents, got some great insight, and did something new that worked out well. If you have not tried using Google Forms to gather parent data at an event like this, I highly recommend giving it a try.