Technology Nuts for Blind Squirrels: Using iPads with Google Docs

As technology becomes more infused into every profession, some of us who have been in the recreation field for “a while” find ourselves having to explore the wonders of technology on our own. The problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know. This post is part of a series about technology tools I have stumbled upon that have proven to be the most useful in my job.

cc licensed (BY-NC-ND 2.0) flickr photo shared by ace r

Occasionally I hear about a university that uses Google Docs for recreation facility management, but tablets are not incorporated into their daily plan. I highly recommend incorporating tablet usage to get the most out of using Google Docs. Google Forms and Google Spreadsheets are my most often-used Google Docs.

The Freak-Out
When we started using Google Forms for our facility checklists, we knew that we wanted to use a wi-fi-enabled tablet in order to be more productive and efficient, but we were hesitant about purchasing a tablet. Recreation facilities that are contemplating tablet usage probably have the same questions that we did. The thought of using an iPad made us nervous for several reasons.

1. What if we drop it?
Our first concern was for the durability of the iPad. We investigated ways to protect the iPad from being accidentally damaged and came up ipad latchwith two products that we felt could protect our investment. One product we purchased was an Otterbox Defender cover for the iPad. The cover fits completely around the iPad, and reduces the damage that can occur if the iPad is dropped or banged against a hard surface.

We also purchased the Otterbox latch, which attaches to the iPad to give you options on how the iPad can be carried. You can slide your hand into the padded hand strap, which is the method all of my supervisors prefer, or you can attach the iPad with a lanyard around your neck, which is the method I prefer. We felt like the Otterbox cover, combined with the latch, greatly reduced the chance that the iPad would be damaged while being used.

2. What if we lose it?
Another concern was that the iPad would be stolen or misplaced. The Otterbox latch helped reduce the likelihood that a supervisor would set the iPad down on their round and then walk off without it. When supervisors weren’t on a round, they could put the iPad on a cabinet out of reach of our patrons. When we closed in the evenings, we locked the iPad in a safe that had pre-drilled holes for a charger access so that it could be charge overnight.

3. What if it’s too distracting?
One last concern we had was the potential for inappropriate use of the iPad. We did not want to come in one day and find that our staff had angrybirdsspent their shift downloading music or apps, or viewing inappropriate internet sites. We researched for solutions and found that the iTunes store could be turned off and locked. However, we could not pick and choose which internet sites to censor. The internet was either on, or it was off, and we had to trust our employees to follow our policies concerning proper use of the iPad. And I can honestly say, other than a few photos of giant cockroaches and lost-and-found underwear, I don’t feel that the iPad has been used inappropriately.

Once we moved forward with our iPad purchase, we saw that our fears were unrealized. The iPad was the perfect addition to our facility management plan. Now we use Google Forms and Google Spreadsheets on a daily basis. Below are descriptions and usage tips for each. Please note that instructions pertain to an iPad and may not apply to other tablet brands.

Uploading Google Forms to your iPad
By uploading live Google Forms onto your iPad, staff can record facility conditions in real time. These forms can be easily accessed by creating a shortcut on the iPad home page. There are several ways to do this:

1. E-mail the “live form” link to an account that can be opened on the iPad, open the live form in Safari, and save it to the iPad’s home screen (see directions below for placing a shortcut on the home screen).

2. Using the Safari browser, log in to your private Google Drive account. Open the live form and save it to the iPad’s home screen (see directions below for placing a shortcut on the home screen). Be sure to log out when you’re finished!
NOTE: This option only works with forms that were created in 2013 or later that require you to choose a response destination. You will not be able to access the live form on your iPad if the form was created before this version of Google forms.

Placing a Google Form Shortcut onto the iPad Home Screen
Once you have opened a “live” Google Form on your iPad, you can create a shortcut to the form that you can save to the iPad’s home screen. The form is then easily accessible whenever you want to use it. Here are the steps to create a shortcut:

1. After opening a live form, select the box with the arrow, located next to the website location.


2. Select “Add to Home Screen.”shortcut2

3. Choose a name for your shortcut (be sure to keep it short!) and select “Add.”shortcut3

4. Your shortcut will appear on your home screen. You will now have access to the live form at your fingertips!shortcut4

Creating a Folder for Your Forms
If you find that you use a lot of forms, you might want to put the shortcuts into a folder on your iPad so that they can easily be found. Here are the steps for putting your forms into a folder:

1. Touch and hold a shortcut icon until all icons start to “jiggle” on your home screen. Then touch and drag one form shortcut until it is on top of another form shortcut. Remove your finger and both icons will now be in a folder.


2. Rename the folder by clicking the “x” next to the name (the default folder name is “Bookmarks”).


3. Once you have renamed the folder, click “done” on the iPad keyboard.


4. The folder that contains the shortcuts will now be on your home screen. You can then drag other form shortcuts into this folder. Press the iPad’s Home button when you are finished.


Using Google Spreadsheets on the iPad
We conduct monthly CPR skill checks, as well as other job-related skills checks, and we record the results of these checks on a Google spreadsheet. With a staff of 70 student employees, we have found that it’s easier to use a spreadsheet, rather than a form, so that supervisors can quickly see who still needs to be tested. Follow these steps to create and upload a spreadsheet to your iPad:

1. Create the spreadsheet in Google Drive just as you would create an Excel spreadsheet. Once the spreadsheet is created, you will want to change the “Share” option, so that after you upload the spreadsheet to the iPad, multiple people will be able to record results of the skills checks.


2. After selecting “Share,” you will want to select “change” next to the “Shared privately” option.


3. Select “Anyone with the link,” and change access to “Can edit.” Then select “Save.”


4. You will see that now your spreadsheet can be edited by anyone with the link. Select “Done” and your spreadsheet is ready to be uploaded to your iPad. Upload the spreadsheet and create a shortcut using the same steps as you did with your Google Forms.



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