Developer Spotlight: Alice Keeler, Educational Technology Specialist

Developer Spotlight: Alice Keeler, Educational Technology Specialist

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So I did a little tutorial on JavaScript. I'm like okay that's not too bad. Let  me let's look up Apps Script. Literally in an hour   of knowing zero Apps Script I was able to write  a template, put it on my blog, and that's actually   my most popular add-on which is Template Tab. I  have like 30 million installs on that one! [Music]

So welcome to another Developer Spotlight and  this one we're really pleased to have Alice Keeler!   Alice Keeler is a well-known figure in the Google  Workspace development world. If you haven't heard   about her you can definitely check her out at her  properties at But with that   said, Chanel help me welcome Alice to the show. Hey  Alice, great to have you here! I'm excited to be   here. I love to share and and this is a great  opportunity to interact with the community.   So my first question for Alice is one I've  always wanted to ask you in a public forum.  

You're a mother of five, you're a high school  math teacher, Google Certified innovator, your a  Google Developer Expert (GDE), you're a Google  Cloud innovator Champion, you've authored a dozen   or so books. Seven! Two dozen or so Google  Workspace add-ons. So my question   Alice: when do you find time to sleep? You know, I  get that question every day. And I do enjoy   taking a nap. I do get lots of sleep. I have a lot  of help, a lot of support. I would like to point   out that while you say I do all of those things  all that's true, I don't do laundry! [Laughter]   We don't change diapers but that's mostly because  my youngest is now 10 and my oldest is 19. But my  

husband was a stay-at-home dad for a good portion  of my kids growing up and so without really good   support that doesn't really make it possible.  Just one follow-on question. What led you from   your background and your focus in education, right  high school math teacher, what led you to become   a developer and specifically what drew you into  Google Workspace? Oh, gosh! That's actually   a really good question. So you know when I first  started teaching I started teaching before I   started the credential program. And so I started in  January, sorry, the credential program in February   and in my credential classes they wheeled in this  giant LCD projector and they said if anybody wants   to use PowerPoint. And I'm like I do not know  what PowerPoint is but I'm gonna do this and  

so I started making just the worst PowerPoints and  I got rid of the overhead projector. I think I only   used it for one semester and I was making really  bad PowerPoints for my math students and then I   saw actually another educator from Fresno. I lived  in Fresno for a long time, I now live in Kansas.   And I saw him presenting on Google Docs. And  you remember back in the day that moment when   someone joins a document with you, it's like you  know. And so then you know you go around and you  

show other people just for that oh freak out  moment! I mean no one freaks out anymore but   at the time it was like super cool and so I  just like I want to be like this guy. He was   one of the first Google certified teachers which  they now have branded Google Certified Innovator.   And like that is my goal. So even though I'm like  really, really good at using Microsoft and Access   databases I literally just dumped it and I said:  "I'm going to use Google tools because of the   collaboration!". Like I don't care that I don't have  as many items in the ribbon that I can do. I don't   need those features. Most people don't use hardly  any of them! The collaboration feature was really  

it for me. That's all I really wanted.  And so I started training teachers at my school   and I realized quickly I'd get the same questions repeatedly. So I started a website  just for the teachers at my school,  100 teachers at Clovis High, and then other people   started picking up on that. And I on accident just  kind of became known for teaching with Google Apps.   And of course at the time really hardly anyone was  doing it and then when Google Classroom came out   I just wrote a blog post. Someone had sent me an  email like "Hey Alice, could you do like 20 things you   can do with Google Classroom?". And I'm like okay.  So I wrote this post. Oh my gosh, this is pretty good.

I put on my own blog but then I expanded it  out to 50. And I contacted a book publisher and I   said: "I think I can write this into a book over the  weekend". Just so we're clear, no you can't! But I did get it published. That was my first book and  so I started going around to different schools   and teaching teachers beyond my school how to use  Google Apps. And then I was chatting with someone   at Google one time and I'm like: "What are  you doing?" because they weren't responding back   to me. And they're like: "Oh, I'm coding". I said: "What  are you coding?". And he said: "Google Apps Script". I'm like: "I'm gonna learn that!". I have bought several  books on PHP and different coding things. Like I  

totally felt like I wanted to but it just  felt so overwhelming as to, you know, do I want   to program with a Mac? Do I want to program for WordPress databases? Like it's just   hard to get over that hump. And I just really felt  like I needed some permission to say like: "This is   the direction to go!". So I did a little tutorial on  JavaScript. I'm like, okay, that's not too bad. Let   me just look up Apps Script. Literally in an hour  of knowing zero Apps Script I was able to write a   template, put it on my blog and that's actually  my most popular add-on which is Template Tab.  I have like 30 million installs on that one and so  a lot of people were using it. And I like to  

just stock Twitter for educators saying like:  "Why can't you do this in Google?". And I'm like: "Oh,   oh, but you can!". And so I I now have 20,  I think I have 23 add-ons that are   officially approved. I have two that are in  purgatory just waiting for the OAuth team to   push it through. But I I really just love being  able to create solutions and save teachers time.   So I keep doing it. You just mentioned that  you have an add-on with I think 30 million  

users. I mean that itself is  mind-blowing! But you have more add-ons   out there that people can install. Where do you  get the ideas for all these add-ons? All of them   are just basically solving pain points. This  one's not an official add-on but it's a good   story. My husband teaches English which is like  the worst job ever because you have to read a  

lot of essays. And that's either just a giant  stack of papers or, like the worst is, you know   students doing it on a Google Doc and you gotta  wait for school internet to load   140 Google Docs. That's terrible and I'm like: "I think that's not a good use of your time".   So I sat in my kitchen for 20 minutes and I coded  where it'll grab from Google Drive all 140 Google   Docs in the folder, because Google Classroom  automatically organizes it in a folder, and   it puts all the paragraphs into a spreadsheet so  you can read everybody's like it was a Google form.  

You can give feedback in the Google spreadsheet  and push it back to their Google Docs. I mean that   just saves you hours and hours and hours. That's it,  I just listen to people complain and I'm like: "Oh,   yes there is a better way". So I do, I stock Twitter,  I look at what people are complaining on there.  

Just conversations I have with people. Somebody  said something to me yesterday, I have a premium   membership, so they signed in and wanted to know how  they could, oh, I forget what it was. But I'm like   "You know what I don't think it would be that  hard". So that's probably what I'm gonna do with   the rest of my day. I love how you just think: "It  can't be that hard! I'm going to make an add-on". Yeah, that's a slippery slippery slope! I always  think: "Oh, it'll be easy" and the next thing you   know you're like not. So you've mentioned  you've had like 20 plus of these add-ons  

that you've created. You've probably got a lot  more in the wraps or you've probably got a lot   that you started and probably never seen the  light of day. How is that to become a big   part of your business, like I mean I know  you're famously known for your presentation style,   your blogging, your teaching, you're online.  If anybody can ever watch you online you're amazing to watch as you do presentations. But  add-ons is a big core of your business.   I mean is it or like how do you structure?  When I do give a presentation I have the audience members fill  out a Google form and the Google form responses   become my slides. So my entire presentation, a  good chunk of it, is extemporaneous, really being  

responsive, and interactive to my audience which  is the message that I want to share when we use   Google tools to teach with students. You know, it's  not about being paperless and just slapping stuff   online. That is not engaging. Stuff that was  designed for paper is not engaging. You know   using Google tools and that collaboration really  brings up partnership with teachers and students   and not just a paper delivery system. So even  though I don't know anybody in the room, there   might be 800 people at this keynote, I'm able to  hear the voice of everyone in the room. So obviously, people like that. It's a very cool  trick and they'll come up to me like: "How did  

you do that?". I'm like: "You know, you got to  learn to code. It's not as hard as you think it is".   But it's a really good end for them to realize  really what's possible. And they're not going   to learn how to code. I don't know if you know  this but teaching is really, really, really time   consuming. So I have a few successes. My friend  Gaby down in Peru, she just got her second add-on   published. And that's, you know, because I interned with her. But most teachers just don't  

have time for this. So in terms of saying like this  is a big part of my business, a big part of my day,   is I spend time coding, learning new things. And  coding specifically so I can create things that   help teachers. So I have an add-on that prints  Google Forms. You know, you've got all of your  

students that use Google Forms and then you go  into Google Forms to give feedback. It's kind of   trapped in there thinking that kids are going to  go back to the Google Form to read the feedback   that you left. They probably won't. They don't even  read it when you put it on paper in front of their   face. So I have coded so it'll grab the feedback  comments that you leave in a Google Form and you   can print it to a Google Doc so they can share  it with the students as a Google Doc or they can   print it on paper so the students can respond  to and see the feedback that the teacher left.  

I love what Chanel said earlier about your "can  do style". Like you say: "I can do it. I can do it. I'll   figure it out. I'll take this weekend and I'll figure  it out". And we know that's not 100 percent always true that   you can do it. But that said, you have figured a  lot out. What would you tell somebody who wants to   create their first Google Workspace add-on? What  tips would you give that developer regardless   of their background? I mean a pro coder or an  educator starting out. How would you tell them to   kind of embrace it and have that good weekend that  you talk about? You know what's great about Google   Workspace and coding Apps Script is it's multiple  choice and the methods are really readable. It's  

insert sheet. So when I first show people, you know,  we type document app press period, get the active   document press period, link, now look at all the  things you can do with this. Why don't we just   read it. Like it's very readable and it's like let's just map out your workflow. What do you want   to do? You want it to do this, and then do this, then  do this? Well honestly, it's from a drop down menu   so it's really simple to get started. So what  I encourage is like, I know it sounds dumb but just  

code everything. Like yes, I can manually rename  the Google Doc by clicking at the top left and   just renaming it really quick, or I can like, you  know, code that and theoretically two or three   lines of code. It feels very satisfying but once  you kind of get into the mentality of like: "Okay,   I'm gonna start coding my workflows even on things  that I know how to do because you know what you're   looking for". And then as you read that drop down  list and some of the documentation that you'll   realize other like: "Oh, I can do that!" and it kind  of snowballs from there. So you mentioned Alice   that you have, I think, two add-ons in purgatory  that they're waiting on the OAuth team. So again,  

what Charles asked before. Someone who  wants to publish the first add-on concerning   OAuth. What for tips would you give them? I wrote  a blog post for the Google Cloud Innovators and   really detailing and outlining all of the steps.  To be honest there are some hidden things in there   that you kind of have to know somebody to realize  that you have to do this. For example, I was really  

struggling with getting mine authorized. And I  didn't realize that I had to, when the pop-up   comes up it says "Hey you want to authorize this  add-on?", that I need to pause and use the URL at   the top and I gotta awkwardly scroll through  this URL to find the client ID and then pause   on it for the video. Like I wouldn't have realized  that I needed to do that without Clay Smith like:   "Oh Alice, you didn't pause on the client ID". So  I did go through and detail all of those steps   so I think hopefully my blog post that I made  would be a good resource. And I know some of the   other GDEs have put out some similar things.  There was a Twitter thread recently with really   breaking down what are the different  steps that you have to go through.  

It's not fun the first time. Not gonna  lie. It would be really great to have a mentor.   But you know, once you've done it once then you  really start to feel like: "I'm not really sure why   this was such a big deal". You kind of get into  a flow. So you bring up a super great   point in that last answer and I think and you  said it helps to have someone to ask. And one of   the things that I love about your work, and you  mentioned the Google Developer Experts, is   you kind of are the teachers that keep teaching.  Even though you're not necessarily, you know, in a   teaching position when you're helping but you help  other people learn and you share your information.  

I think that's super huge and so let's let's talk  a little bit about the GDEs because I said I think   it's super super awesome program and you've  been one for a couple few years now. What's your   insights on Google Expert program and if anybody,  who's not one, is listening in what's your two   cent plug on why they should look at the program  and consider it? "ell I think the first thing is   we all have imposter syndrome. Every single one  of us especially me. I know it's constantly: "I   don't really know anything". I did like this much  JavaScript and mostly I'm self-taught on how to do   Apps Script. Some of the documentation out there on  how to do stuff I made it because I spent a lot of   time figuring it out. The thing that I noticed when  I first got into the GDE community for Workspace   is I felt like I was on Cheers. You're like "Norm!"  and you'll be like "Alice!" How do you know who I  

am? It was incredibly welcoming and where I'm  feeling like I don't want to say anything because   I will just really expose how stupid I am. But  really quickly I learned that being a GDE isn't   knowing about everything. It's about being in  a community. And these are people who love to share   and are supportive. That's why you're a GDE! It's  because you're supportive of others. Now I don't feel embarrassed to put out what might  be a dumb question or something super basic. No one  

ever makes me feel that way. But this is a  community that wants the community to be better.   So if that's what you're about, helping others  to be better, that's the qualification. Not being   the expert in the room. So I remember the first  time I saw you online I was introduced to you by   other GDEs how said: "You have to check out Alice". And  I actually saw one of your presentations  

where you were teaching absolute novices. Someone  who never saw Apps Script before. You were teaching   App Script. I watched this entranced. The first thing that struck me was your patience. You   patiently taught them through this. And you're  absolutely right, as you were teaching them the   light bulbs were going off of them like: "Oh, it  worked!". And it was amazing to see how you brought  

those people online. So I I thought that was super  cool. I do have a question. Let's go back to add-ons   for a second because there's another thing I know  that you were kind of famously Infamous for where   you actually shared a lot of code not via add-ons,  right, so not everything's an add-on or not everything   belongs in an add-on. Not every technology  supports an add-on, right. And I know like   your background is a lot, you've done a lot with  Slides, probably as much or more than anybody with   Sheets obviously things like classroom. But  what other stuff do you do with Workspace that   maybe isn't add-ons? Or I know you actually used  to share stuff outside of add-ons because it was easier.   Can you elaborate on it? My  blog is a love letter to Google. So if you go  

to I try to blog every day. That doesn't always happen, especially   when I'm traveling. I probably have one of the  most prolific educator blogs for how to teach   with Google Apps and most of it's not add-ons. Most  of it's not code although, you know, in the last  

couple of years, because I do have so many add-on  solutions, that is directly trying to help teachers,   I do talk about them quite a bit. But you know, just  even changing the theme editor. The theme builder   in Google Slides and how to really innovate with  that. So what I like to do is I like to go into   the theme builder in Google Slides and delete  all the layouts. And we add one for the teacher to   asks a question, put a background color on it, and  one for the students answer the question, put a   different background color on it. It's slightly  different formatting because I want them to be  

able to put their name and I just have one for  the question so I set up a Google Slides like this   where I can then use the templates, or the layouts  rather, from the drop down menu to ask the class a   question. And instead of waiting for students to  raise their hand which says: "Hey, I want a fast   answer not a thoughtful answer". And you're only  going to hear from the same one or two loud mouse,   so in a class that would be me. Research  shows it's our quietest students who have the   most thoughtful answers. So I like to hear from  everybody. So I just share the Google Slides with   edit access. Sharing slides is risk free because  you have version history. But then they each add   a slide into the Google Slides using the other  layout. So again I just restrict it down to two  

layouts and then we see everybody's responses  and that generates our class conversation because   research shows that in a typical class  period the teacher talks 90 of the time   in the 90s and really we want to move that around  to being the more the students are talking the   more that they are learning. So when we can get the  students to use Google Slides interactively, not as   a presentation let me talk at you. I don't use  Google Slides to talk at you I use Google Slides   to talk with you. We get more thinking, more  creativity, more learning. And we do feedback   together instead of me going home and sacrificing  family time to do feedback. We do it during class   so it's more meaningful, it's better learning,  and it really saves me a lot of time and that   requires no code. Now that being said, I of course  have an add-on for this. The add-on that I have is   called Randomize Slides. And so that'll allows when  you have all the students at a slide you can then  

shuffle them so that it's who's going to go first.  Aou know when we review student answers you don't   always have time to go over 30 student responses.  So by shuffling up their answers I can just get   the first, you know, maybe two or three is enough to  get us having a good conversation. I'd love to hear  

from you because I know you are at the pulse. Where  do you see technology to continue to intertwine in   the classroom in the future? So I know obviously  Google Workspace was huge. I know there's   other topics and there's other technologies.  There's also ways that we can integrate some  

of our solutions together too, right. We've got  some great third-party solutions that integrate   Workspace in the edu manner. Where do you see or  what's next, I guess, is the question or if you had   your crystal ball? That is a great question. It's  going to just be really rough going for the next   few years in education. It's already really tough.  We have a shortage of teachers. How are we going   to educate kids to be creative, critical thinkers  and we just have a real shortage of people that   are 11 on kids. And without technology this  solution is not going to be possible. But the world   changed like three weeks ago. Chat GPT is my new  favorite thing to use. I use it every single day.  

If I'm writing something, I'm doing Chat GPT. I can  put in the Chat GPT: "Write me a Google App Script   that randomizes my slides". Honestly, I think it  was more editing to make it actually work. Things   do stretch. But still put it out there. But  the beauty of that was, no actually, the code   wasn't that good but I learned something. I'm  like: "Oh I didn't know that you could do this  

with Apps Script". But now that kids can write  their essays using Chat GPT. And I'm a math   teacher, photomath, and technology like this where  you just hover over the math problem and it not   only shows you the answer it shows you all of  the steps ,that's been around for a while. And   now you have Chat GPT just wipe in history  class, English class off the map in terms of   we can't teach like it's 1900 anymore. You know,  valuing, putting the right answer on a line is   not going to be the future. Almost immediately  after Chat GPT came out you'll see different  

mainstream tools like Canva Docs even has magic  write. Today, Canva Cocs has magic write. And I   think I saw a blog post that said Word is already  planning to integrate Chat GPT. This is going to   be our norm, is integrating with AI to  get that basic stuff out of the way so that we   can really do creative, critical thinking. So that  educators spend their time not mindlessly grading   what you wrote on the line but really interacting  and personalizing. We're obviously going to see   machine learning and artificial intelligence built  into Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides and   I am excited for it. I mean we're ready to have  students be able to go further that's what Vygotsky's  

zone of proximal development, you know. You can only  get yourself so far but need someone to help you go   further. And I think tools like this, they're going  to be the norm integrated in. No sense beating your   chest and trying to ban it. You've already lost so  what are we going to do next and I think, obviously   Google with workspace is not going to fold up and  go home. That it's going to get better and it's   going to be amazing. Now I think it's a great point  you mentioned: we have to embrace it because A) it's  

here and B) because now you can stop focusing on  busy work or mundane tasks that we have to do to   quote unquote learn right. Now you actually can  focus on real learning versus you know the busy   work stuff in the past. Alice, let's say someone is  listening to you and says: "I'm a teacher too. I want   to do what Alice does!" What tips would you give  them? Just decide that you want to because starting   a very quick tutorial on JavaScript you honestly  don't have to know very much. So I just did for   a week on codecademy. There's lots of places you  can, you know, and you're going through the airport   they've got plastic fold out sheets of how to  use different Tech tools. And so sometimes you  

can find one those on JavaScript. That's really all  you need is a plastic folded cheat sheet. Okay, so   now that you've got um just some basics of what a  function and a method an array is you don't really   need to know that much. You can go and actually  just copy code from the developers guidelines   and just start kind of try to edit and change  a few things. I have a lot of things that I've   coded if you just go to I have  hundreds of unofficial add-ons and all the time   I get someone emails me like: "Alice this was  cool but I have this very specific workflow   in my classroom". Like as much as I'd love to be  your personal coder the answer is no. But feel  

free to just go into the extensions menu and make  some of those modifications. For example, I have   one where students fill out a Google Form how you  doing today and the answers go into a spreadsheet   and then the teacher can respond they see what  each student put in the spreadsheet and they   give a personal response and then emails them  out. But in the automated email response it says:   "Your teacher has responded to you". So it's just a  generic message. So you wanted to say, you know, "Mrs  

Keeler has responded to you". You want it to have your  name and do that. So just a really easy place to   get started. It is looking for the red text,  let's look for the red text. And things I've   already coded, things that you can find on, you  know, Stacks. Places where people share code and  

just making small modifications rather than  thinking you have to start from scratch. But   you can do a lot pretty quickly that way. And I  love how you mentioned JavaScript over and over   again because I've noticed that a lot of people  saying: "No, no, I want to learn Apps Script. And you   need to know JavaScript before". Or there's this  verses and it's like no, at the end of the day  

it's the same thing. The only thing is you'll  have to learn a couple of objects if you want to   do something on a spreadsheet. But I love how that  kind of like, it's a low barrier because anyone can learn JavaScript. And if I could include what  really keeps me coming back to just doing Apps   Script is it is unique in that Apps Script the  IDE and publishing it is all in the same place.   It's all browser-based so I can start on one  computer, finish on another. It's incredibly easy  

to share because if I use a bounded script like I  go to a Google Doc or I go to Google Sheets, I go   to the extensions menu, it says Apps Script and I  put my code there. If I share the Google Doc with   a non-coder, non-coders don't want to look at your  code! It will feel intimidating. We all know that I   can share what I've made without having to  share like: "Oh, go look at the code and do this".  

There's almost nothing that makes it that easy to  develop and publish share all in the same place.   It's all in one step. Really one of the things  I've noticed over the years of myself   working with the community is there's a higher  representation of educators, right. There's a lot  

of folks like yourself with a background as  a, you know, in classroom, trainer, or administrator,   or, you know, someone who was an admin for New York  City Schools, right, became a pretty big well-known   developer. So a lot of folks are attracted to it.  One of the questions I wanted to ask you, and you   mentioned a little bit, but you know built in  that accessibility. There's a known challenge   with education is it's not the most, you know, well  funded when it comes to building solutions, getting   things done. It's a cost-effective solution. Isn't  it something that's accessible, it's there. I mean   is that something that helps teachers? Just  it's at their fingertips. Let's say I want   Post-it notes like legit ones and not the cheap  ones that'll fall off, you know, because I can go   into the office look at me some of those but if  I want to order something it's going to take me   months to get it. And that's a partial reason why  teachers just buy their own supplies because just  

getting something that you want, the bureaucracy  of it can take months. So what's really nice about   Apps Script is you might have an idea you want to  do this and yeah maybe your school could buy some   application or figure out how to do this for  you. But you'll turn old and grey waiting for   it to come. So if your school is a Google Workspace  for Education school you just have access to have  

the ability to just really quickly fix this. I had  made a spreadsheet for my students a couple years   ago and I I made a copy for each student and then  I realized I had a typo. What teacher hasn't faced that. The problem is even with an add-on it is  so super specific to that activity and exactly   what I needed to correct. Well, literally while  right after I took attendance when the students  

are just doing their warm-up, it isn't very  many lines of code to do a file iterator   to run through every single student's Google  Spreadsheet and I say: "Get cell C16 and replace   the formula". And so within five minutes I was able  to fix everybody's typo without giving them a new   copy. And it's really this many lines of code so  learning just a few tiny things like that is being   able to take something and push out to all your  students documents. The best reason to learn Apps   Script educators is the 30 times you have to do  everything sitting right in front of you every day.   Alice always a pleasure talking to you. I wanted  to ask you one final question. Where in the world   will Alice be in 2023? I know you get to go all  over the world, but what are you planning what   are you doing? What's the future for you and what can folks look forward to in learning from   you or seeing you produce? Yeah, thanks! Well, travel  wise I'm gonna be at some educator conferences. I'm  

the fetc tcea I'm going to be at Asti in Alaska.  I'm keynoting in Canada for catpa or something   like this. And I'm gonna be heading to Peru. I'm  doing a presentation a couple weeks in Peru.    So hopefully there's some places we'll be able  to meet up. I'd love to have a coffee with any   of you. But my goals for 2023 is really just to  make it to 50 add-ons where every single add-on   is a solution for teachers. That's what  I'm working on. That is awesome, congratulations! [Music]

2023-01-25 13:27

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