Connecting Your Favorite Google Services Using Google App Script

Google App Script

Through Google Documents, Google provides amazing web based tools for students, businesses, and educators.   During a Google Developer Group meeting at Mercer University,  I was introduced to a cool programming technology enabling developers to customize Google App experiences using JavaScript.   Using Google App Script, you can automate tasks and connect Google products to together.   You can also connect apps to third-party data sources and API’s.

Why Would You Use Google App Script?

Dr. Robert Allen from the Google Developers Group shared his experiences in building a grade book application for his classes.   In the past, Dr. Allen would manually construct grade book spreadsheets based on a class roster.   His clever grade book application works in the following manner:

1) On the first day of class, students fill out a Google form with their name and gmail e-mail address.

2) After Dr. Allen captures the class roster from the students, he presses a “generate grade book” button that constructs his grade book.

3) Dr. Allen wanted students to be able to track their grades as he documented them in his Google Spreadsheet.  He, however, wanted to make sure students could not see the grades of another.   His Google App Script generated “read only” data sheets so that students can only see their data.   The data sheets were shared with the student automatically.

4) As Dr. Allen posts grades to his master Google Spreadsheet, he can press a “publish” button to distribute the updated grade information to the “readonly” spreadsheets.

In the example, Dr. Allen used Google spreadsheets, Google Forms, and programming functions to share data.

Using Google App Script, you can connect all of the following Google products together to solve a broad range of use cases and business problems:  Calendar,  Contacts,  Document,  Drive,  Finance,  Forms,  Gmail,  Groups,  Language, Maps,  Sites,  and Spreadsheet.

What else can Google App Script Do?

  • Google App Script can be used to create small web applications.
  • Create custom functions in Google Spreadsheet
  • Create Google Sites Gadgets
  • Check out the Google Developers Blog to learn more about how people leverage  Google App Script.

How do you get started with Google App Script?

The following video provides a nice introduction to Google App Script concepts.

Abstract:   This video is a recording of our Introduction to Apps Script.    Eric Koleda, a Developer Programs Engineer at Google, covers what Apps Script, use cases, code examples, and hold q&a. Check out to learn more or get started!

Check out more videos from Google I/O conference here.

You program Google App Scripts using the popular language JavaScript.   If you’re interested in learning this language, check out the following links:

Google provides nice tutorials and learning resources here:

We love to hear from our readers.  Let’s keep the conversation going.  What types of tasks would you like to see automated? What tasks keep you away from the work that you really enjoy?


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Why hate science?

Over the weekend I went to a potluck supper with several other families. One of the other moms there was talking to me about maybe helping her with some of her homeschool science curriculum. Of course I got really excited. I love sharing my passion for science with others. I started envisioning all sorts of fun things we could do: isolating banana DNA, spinach leaf chromatography, building models with candy….I was brought back to reality by the hard stares of her teenaged daughters. “I don’t like science”, they said flatly. I tried question them further to find out the root of their disdain, but I didn’t get very far.

Why do people hate science? When I was in grad school people would assume a look of panic on their faces when I told them what I was studying. I would get lots of responses similar to that of those teenage girls, “I’ve never really been good at science” or “Wow, that is really hard. You must be really smart.” I get similar statements these days from my non-majors biology students when they do poorly in my class, “Science really isn’t my thing, I just don’t get it”. This sort of thing drives me crazy! Science is the study of the world around us. It is about understanding who we are, how we work, and how our world works. How can people just cast it off like it is an esoteric and impractical subject beyond comprehension?

If we want to compete in the world of YouTube and Miley Cyrus (I did not watch her performance last night, but my Facebook feed told me more than enough), we have to make science education more interesting and engaging. We have to stop scaring kids away from the sciences. From my own experience I know that most kids start out open to learning about all the world has to offer.Yesterday, as we were running out the door to make it to church on time, I stopped and stood in my driveway with my five year old for several minutes staring at this awesome bug.

As I was putting him (my five year old, not the bug) to bed last night we had a great conversation about red and white blood cells and how white blood cells protect us from bacteria. Young kids don’t fear science. It seems that the fear and disdain comes later. Why? Clearly we are doing something wrong.

The short answer is that scientists have failed to share their passion and spirit of wonder for science with the general public. Think back to your own science courses over the years. I’ve had some great teachers, but I’ve also had some terrible ones. My high school biology course consisted of drawing and memorizing a vast number of plant and animal species and their components. It is a wonder that I had the will to live after that class, much less still loved science. Also, have you read a science textbook lately? Most of them make you want to stab your eyes out (perhaps that’s a little over dramatic, but you get my point).

That said, there is some great work being done. Here are a few resources I want to highlight:

1) Great websites. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has tons of resources for educators on their website. They also have an iPad app that is full of interactive videos and activities for teaching a variety of topics from immunology to bioinformatics. NOVA from PBS also has a great website that includes videos and teaching resources on a wide array of scientific topics, not just life science.

2) Teaching institutes and programs. Many professional scientific organizations offer programs designed to train scientists as teachers.I just went through the The American Society for Microbiology Science Teaching Fellows program. It was a great program aimed at preparing early career professors, post-doctoral scientists, and graduate students for the classroom. I highly recommend the program to anyone thinking about a career in teaching science at the college level.

3) Science writers are doing their part as well. I have read some great books lately that are geared towards a general audience. “The Demon Under the Microscope” by  Thomas Hager is a great book on the development of antibiotics and the history of microbiology. “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot is an amazing book that chronicles the story of Henrietta Lacks and how her cells were taken in the 1950s and used (even still today) for scientific research without her knowledge. Carl Zimmer is another author that has written a vast array of great science books.

We are not going to win over everyone. Haters gonna hate, right? But we need to make a concerted effort, not just to train people for careers in science, but to help all students to gain scientific literacy.

Simple Minecraft Programming Using ScriptCraftJS

Minecraft castle built by me and my son.

As a fan of Minecraft, I have enjoyed seeing it used for fun and playful learning.  In this post, I would like to introduce a technology for programming Minecraft and making small games.   ScriptCraft by Walter Higgins enables you to automate various tasks in Minecraft using the popular computer programming language JavaScript.   In contrast to other technologies for programming Minecraft, Mr. Higgins has made the process of programming Minecraft fun and simple. Thanks you Mr. Higgins and the community of for making this technology free and open source.

Teachers of math and computer science will find playful ways to teach their subjects using ScriptCraftJS.   Thanks to the awesome work from Joel Levin and the community of Minecraft Edu, teachers can find thoughtful examples of engaging students in learning through Minecraft.   This technology can be very powerful when connected to project based learning ideas and game based learning.


As as a dad, I enjoy playing Minecraft with my son.   It has been such a pleasure to encourage my son’s creativity by playing Minecraft with him.   He’s still a pretty young guy.    I, however, am amazed how well he can navigate through the Minecraft 3D world.  He can build floors, walls, dig, and decorate.   With ScriptCraft in my tool box, I hope to create more tools for us for our Minecraft playtime.


For our readers, I have collected a few resources that will help you learn JavaScript and get started using ScriptCraft.

How do I get started learning JavaScript?

How do I setup ScriptCraft on my computer?  How do I start learning how to program Minecraft?

What stuff can you program in Minecraft?  What does the API for CraftScript look like?

How could you draw a box in ScriptCraftJS?

function drawBox()
// The drone object enables you to
// layout bricks in 3d space
var theDrone = new Drone();
var i;

//Go 10 steps forward while dropping type "5" boxes ....
for(i=0; i"5").fwd(1)

//Go 10 steps up while dropping type "5" boxes ....
for(i=0; i"5").up(1)

//Go 10 steps back while dropping type "5" boxes ....
for(i=0; i"5").back(1)

//Go 10 steps down while dropping type "5" boxes ....
for(i=0; i"5").down(1)

I’m new to running a Minecraft server.   What are the common  server commands?

Can you make games in Minecraft using CraftScript?

Walter Higgins has an awesome demo of creating a snow ball fight game.   The video also includes brief overview of the code he used to create the game.

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New Beginnings- Tips for the new school year

Picture taken by KristinNador and retrieved from on 8/19/13

I love the beginning of the school year. I always get excited when I walk into a store at the end of the summer and the smell of new school supplies fills the air. I have to be restrained when the clearance sales start to hit Target. I am known to buy new notebooks just for the sake of buying a new notebook, not because I need them. There’s just something about starting off with clean, empty notebook. It holds the promise of projects to be completed, knowledge to be gained, things to be done. Our son started kindergarten this year and I just couldn’t wait to buy everything on his supply list. I think I had it done two weeks before he actually started school. This is not normal for me, the perpetual procrastinator, but I love school supplies. When we moved last year we had at least three boxes of office supplies. I think I might need an intervention.

I have been in school, or working at a school almost my entire life. When I was a newborn baby my mom used to take me with her to her classes at the community college (she had me on a Thursday and was back in the classroom the next week). As long as I can remember, formal learning has been a part of my life. The only brief exception to was the two years that I spent working at a private firm after getting my masters degree and I was most mostly miserable at that time.

One of the great things about living your life within the cycle of the school year is that there is are continuous opportunities to start fresh and new. Each new school year, or even each new semester, is like a brand new notebook, a blank slate. I have a chance to rework and reorganize the courses that I teach. I can throw out the things that didn’t work last semester and try some new ideas. I go through a process of refinement each time I teach a course and I hope that it keeps getting better. Here are some tips to help you get off to a great start for this school year:

1) Get organized. The best courses are organized courses. Students smell disorganization like they smell fear.  Plan out your entire semester before it begins. I’m not saying that you need to have every lecture prepared and every exam written, but give yourself a good framework to build on. I set up a document in Microsoft Excel  that helps me to lay out all of the chapters that I plan to cover, my learning goals, the labs I want to perform and the exams I want to give. It gives me a great way to look at the timeline and match things up as best as possible. For example, I want to make sure that if I am covering photosynthesis in lecture, that I am also doing the lab on photosynthesis in the same week. I constantly refer back to this document throughout the semester to make sure that I am staying on track and covering all of the material that I planned.

2) Change things up. One of the worst things that we can do as instructors is to teach the same course, in the same way, over and over again. It is boring, and there is no way that you have perfected your particular course. Take some time to reflect on what worked in the previous semester (or year), and what didn’t. For example, this semester I am making adjustments to the way that I use my online homework program.  In the past I have found that students don’t take the assignments seriously because it wasn’t a large portion of the grade and the assignments were too easy. I have tightened up that portion of my course in an attempt to make it better.

3) Reflect. Take time to think about why you teach. The beginning of the school year is a great time to step back and think about why you are doing this. What is your purpose as a teacher? What drives you? Do you still love what you do? As you head into the new year, it helps to have a clear vision of why you do what you do. It is easy to get lost in the minutia of the day to day teaching responsibilities. Maybe take a few minutes to journal about it. Keep those thoughts nearby so that when you get twenty emails on a Sunday night asking about a homework assignment that is due the next day you don’t lose faith or throw your hands up in despair.

These are just a few things that I find helpful as I get started with my new year. What helps you? Is there one thing that you do each year to get off on the right foot?

7 Lessons From Starting a Professional Book Club


When I graduated from college and started work as a professional software developer, I still thirsted to grow my mind in knowledge of my faith.   University of South Florida (USF) had a pretty cool campus ministry culture.    So, I kept going back to my old weekly bible study on campus.   The leaders of the bible study kept the discussion lively and fun.   We prayed, we laughed, and grew together.    Many of us would hangout late into the evening playing pool or games after the study.  We were blessed with an awesome core of friends.   I thank God for this experience.    It was through this little book club that I met a very special young lady named Sarah.  Through this bible study, God introduced me to Sarah who would become my wife.

There is a hidden treasure of starting a book club.   In general, book clubs can create positive change in communities by creating social, fun, and focused discussion forums around the ideas of a book.   As a teaching tool for communities, it’s an awesome way to build relationships with other team members and help each other grow.   In turn, it grows the community.

I started paying attention to book clubs more closely when I was warmly invited by Matthew Winner and Jennifer Lagarde from the “LevelUpBC.”    Members of this book club believe that games can have a positive impact on changing the world and learning.    To learn more about this book club, please visit my blog post here.

In a professional context, my team leader and I started wondering if we could energize our work culture by learning from cultures of other companies.  Inspired by the “LevelUpBC” and previous bible study experiences, I recommended that we start a weekly book club around Dave Ramsey’s book, EntreLeadership.   This experience has been such a blessing.   The relationships and friendships that we have formed through the book club have been so enriching.

Here are a few quick lessons that I have cherished from the book club:

  • Lessons from a conductor:  Have you noticed that conductors of orchestra’s don’t make a sound?  Benjamin Zander , director of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra , shares that great musical direction comes from focusing on growth of the orchestra members.   “He(the conductor) depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful.”   Check out his powerful TED talk here.
  • You can’t push a rope.  You can only pull it.  Likewise, you can’t push your organization to greatness.   Great organizations are built from steady and consistent actions of coaching, teaching, and focused professional will.   Great organizations are born from humble leaders.   Great leaders help their teams become successful and give the team the praise.   Dave Ramsey also believes that God has a powerful role in growing your community.   We should be open to letting Him grow it.
  • Start with Why: Great leaders help their organizations understand why they exist.   What is your organizations purpose and mission?   Can we connect our daily work into that mission?
  • The Wheel of Life: This is a great teaching on balancing all aspects of your life.   Business leaders are often pulled in multiple directions at the same time.   How do you balance your work life, your spiritual life, and family life?   Check out Chris LoCurto’s great post on this topic.
  • How to build unity? This podcast provides teachings to improve communication and unity in your organization.
  • If you’re going to grow a new venture, non-profit, or company, don’t go into debt.
  • Building a platform to help market your organization.   Check out the show with Michael Hyatt.   He provides solid coaching on leadership and getting noticed in the world of social media.   He also teaches why genuine social connections can help you achieve the mission of your organization.
So.. What’s next for the EntreLeadership book club?  Our team has moved to our next book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.   I hope to post additional lessons from this book soon.

We love to hear from our readers.   To keep the conversation going, what books are inspiring you?



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Math Game Creating Opportunities For Students With Special Needs

The Lost Function

Wesley encounters a character with a real-life mathematical problem. She must help Troy, the veterinarian, with his dilemma.

Hello!  For our post today, I would like to introduce you to Lauren Franza, Educational Designer from ATLT games.  Her team has created novel gaming experience to teach algebra.   “Pi and the Lost Function” by ATLT games helps engage 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in learning algebra using a fun virtual game experience while providing a smart “in-game” tutor.   From their game videos, I appreciate their effort to design the “in-game” tutor to support student mastery of concepts.    The game is designed to align to common core standards.

Lauren and the rest of the ATLT team need your help to take the game experience to another level with “voice over technology.”    On July 29th, they started a Kickstarter Campaign to help raise funds to add voice acting to the currently text-based storyline to help learners with special needs.

Thanks to the ATLT team, we will be giving one free license of “Pi and the Lost Function” to the reader with the most comments on the “Inspired To Educate” blog during the month of August.

I hope the ATLT team can reach their Kickstarter goal to support students with special needs.  Thanks “Inspired To Educate” readers.   You are the best!



by Lauren Franza

 Virginia Beach, Virginia – July 30, 2013 – ATLT Games, creator of the math educational game Pi and The Lost Function, has started a Kickstarter campaign to add voice acting to its currently text-based storyline to help learners with special needs. The campaign begins on July 29 and ends onAugust 27.

Pi and The Lost Function is a 3-D algebra readiness adventure game that intervenes when it detects students are struggling with specific math skills. Currently, the storyline is text-based, and ATLT Games would like to add voice acting to the 3-D characters to assist learners with disabilities.

To add voice over technology, the Kickstarter campaign will help raise the $41,223 needed for the technology addition. Kickstarter is an online funding platform that has funded many creative endeavors by allowing supporters and fans to financially back projects before the creation of the product, promising its investors rewards of varying levels. To support the Pi and The Lost Function Kickstartercampaign, visit

“The typical classroom includes general education students as well as students with special needs…the addition of voice over would truly make it a more differentiated experience and make the game more accessible to a variety of students.”- John Merritt, Special Education Inclusion Teacher
The addition of voice over will help students with vision impairments, emotional/behavior disorders, dyslexia, autism, ADD/ADHD, struggling readers, and English as a second language (ESL/ELL).

The game’s intriguing storyline is written by Lee Sheldon (writer for Star Trek: The Next Generation, Charlie’s Angels, and Cagney and Lacey) and two-time Telly Award winner and Emmy winner, Graham Sheldon.


About ATLT Games:
Advanced Training & Learning Technology (ATLT Games), LLC was started in 2010 with a mission to develop innovative educational technologies. Our current line of products enhances and improves student performance by combining the power of gaming technology with subject matter content that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Our educational games provide students with various learning modalities and include instructional support tools that reduce workload for professional educators and allow for better classroom differentiation. 

Primary Contact:
Lauren Franza
Educational Designer



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