Google Forms are turning out to be an awesome for academics.

I use it for the Philosophy Journal Surveys. Last week, I showed how you can use Google forms to have your students create a gradebook spreadsheet for you. This got me thinking about other cool ways to use Google Forms.

In this post, I want to explain how you can use Google Forms to give you a super-quick way to take attendance with a touch screen smartphone (e.g. Android phone, Iphone, Palm Pre).

You basically create a form with a multiple choice question for each student with an option for “Absent”. I also include an option called “Laptop” because I like to note which students in my class have laptops that day. (See my laptop policy and you’ll see why).

Step One
Create a Google Spreadsheet. Go to Forms. Select “Create Form”

Step Two
Create a Multiple Choice question for each student in the form. This is the one time consuming part, but there is a very quick way to do this. If you follow this quick way, you can create a form for 90+ students in no time. Here’s my recommended quick method.

  1. Open your electronic gradebook with your students.
    (I assume that if you’re interested taking attendance electronically with a smart phone, you already have a spreadsheet with your students’ names in it.)
  2. Keep this gradebook open on your desktop next to the Edit Form Page in Google Documents.
  3. Click the cell with the first student’s name. Copy it (Ctrl-C).
  4. Go to the Question Text in the Edit Form Page. Paste student name in (Ctrl-V)
  5. Here’s what makes this whole process quick and easy. Once you create the first question, you can duplicate it. So all you need to do after you create the first question is duplicate it, and keep copying/pasting/clicking-the-duplicate-button until you’re finished.
    The whole process literally takes only a few seconds for each student.

Here’s a screenshot to give you a little visual aid. (The right side is cut-off, but you can click on the image to see a larger version.)

Step Three
Email the form to yourself. Open it on your smartphone. Bookmark somewhere on your homescreen.

Step Four
Take Attendence.  Each time I want to take attendance, I just open the form up from my Smart Phone Home Screen, scroll through it, check absent for the students who are absent and click submit. The data gets time-stamped (so you know what date they were absent) and dumped into a spreadsheet that can easily be ported into your gradebook at the end of the semester.

In case you’re curious. Here’s what the form looks like on my Android Phone.

What to Do At the End of the Semester…
Calculate the data and paste it in to your gradebook.  Here’s what I do.

  1. Do a “Find and Replace” search to automatically replace all occurrences of the word “Absent” with “1”
  2. Sum up the absences for each student
  3. Highlight that row
  4. Paste it into your gradebook.
  5. Perform whatever operations you perform on the total number of absences.

P.S. Yes, I like taking attendence. I think there are good reasons to do it. Here’s one of those good reasons.

12 Responses to “Take Attendance with Android Phone and Google Forms”

  1. Andy Havens

    That is just way too hot. I love my Droid, and was frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to use Google Docs on it to take attendance. I use Docs for my class list, and enter attendance that way… but having a way to do it from the phone is just way cooler.

    Thanks mucho!

  2. Jochen Jansen

    Very cool and straightforward!
    I played around with a spreadsheet and later with the stuff from, but none of them really satisfied my needs (or did work at all like “attendance” from the website mentioned).
    Now, if someone finds a pretty cool spreadsheet for the end of the semester… 🙂

    Thanks a lot!

  3. brandon

    Just set this up for myself. I was looking for something like this for about a day. Your write up was a ton of help.

  4. Isaiah

    The whole attendance app set-up is crazy confusing. Following the directions didn’t work AT ALL. All of my names kept appearing horizontally across the very top lines where the letters would normally be rather than vertically down the far left column. Better in-depth instructions would be great!

  5. Isaiah

    BTW. Where’s the end photos of how this all is supposed to look once set-up correctly???

  6. Isaiah

    Ok. I’ve got this method working which seems to be pretty cool. Sorry for above remarks. What I was having trouble with was I was trying to use this method with the actual Attendance App which just doesn’t work. I can not seem to get Attendance App working right at all. Help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  7. R Jones

    I have just made my Attendance form to track my voice students! Now I don’t have to carry around the attendance sheet! Thanks so much!

  8. Isaiah

    How’d you do that R Jones?

  9. SS

    So, how do you determine which students are absent? Do the students who are present send you a text/ tweet ? Or sync their phones with yours? I don’t think you are actually calling the roll of 90+ names?

  10. Tony

    This is so cool!!!

    You are a genius!!

    Thanks a lot!

  11. Marney Gundlach

    Thanks for this tip. I need to take attendance for a seminar that is video conferences between three sites. While there are audience cameras it is near impossible to see attendees at all three places. We have paper sign ins which are often lost and can provide no Indication of the arrival time. I’ve been wondering about ways for folks to get a code at the beginning of the talk. I would like to capture both student attendance which is required and faculty attendance which is not. Any thoughts??? Thanks. Marney

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