New PD Site: Staff User

This spring and summer, I've taken on a full-blown re-write of our PD registration and management system. Our current system is a collection of centralized Google Apps Script projects which create, share, and manage all event folders, documents, and records. It's worked well over the last two years but there's been a single point of contact for everything: me.

Now that we're getting more people involved in professional development, it's time to have a more robust, user-based system for creating and managing events as well as teacher signups and recordkeeping. This post is going to explore the first role: Staff Users. These are teachers or staff who are registering for and tracking participation in events.

Home

The home page shows logged-in users all district events. Their own state is shown on course badge as either Attended or Registered. Clicking on a course shows specifics (presenters, location, etc) in a sidebar. If a user registers for an event, their course badge updates dynamically which prevents multiple registrations by the same person.

To do

  • Google calendar invitation to events
  • Only show upcoming events
  • Disable registration on events with no remaining space

Schedule

This is essentially a filtered view of workshops or events the staff member has signed up for. Each event's status is shown and details are displayed in the sidebar when the event is clicked.

To do

  • Custom date filtering
  • Expand view to remove a click for details

Documents

We've had a digital sign-up tool in place for several years. The biggest improvement I'm excited about is the documentation processing. Any registration is put into a database which can be queried and filtered by a bunch of parameters. This allows me to build out a nice spot for teachers to find their documents on demand and print whatever they needed rather than waiting on us to generate a PDF from a spreadsheet and send it off.

This page shows the which events have their participation or completion confirmed by the facilitator. The reason this confirmation step is so important is that we need to move away from being trained and move toward showing competency. So, a workshop might be a part of a program, but it does not guarantee that the staff member has actually improved.

This is a big shift for us. In the past, we used a standard feedback form. But, given the variety of presenters working with us, we wanted to give people more freedom in how they collected feedback. Also, since we were generating all the feedback forms centrally, we found presenters were less likely to actually read the feedback because the questions may not have been relevant to their own goals. At worst, participants were filling out multiple forms at events - one for us, and one for the presenter. Taking the form out of the documentation flow simplifies for everyone.

Without showing the presenter interface now, this view is any confirmed event for the user. They are also given a couple snapshots at the top: total registrations (how much am I signing up for) and Professional Growth Points (PGPs) earned for completing requirements.

From here, they can either print a summary of all activity on record or print individual documents as needed. All of these details are generated by the database. The record is also validated by the server and database rather than taking input directly. There's no more wondering when an event was or how many PGPs it was worth because it's all driven from a single source of truth.

That's a quick view of a portion of this site that's just about finished. But there's a lot happening in the background to make that work and to allow different people to manage. In future posts, I'll detail Presenters and SuperAdmins and their roles on the site for creating and managing events. I'll also get a technical post published on the technology used to build this as well as deploying.

Setting Custom Search Engines

This post is specifically for browsers that use the Chromium engine (Chrome [duh], but also anything on this list) but most browsers have a similar feature, you'll just need to dig for it.

Setting a custom search keystroke is helpful because you can target your results without any hassle. For instance, when I type "dr" into my search bar before my terms, my browser only returns items in my Google Drive. It makes my seaching faster because I don't have to open a site first.

In Chrome, go to your Settings. (A quick way to get there is to type chrome:settings into the address bar.)

In Settings, find Manage Search Engines. This is where you can specify some custom places to look.

Manage Search Engines is found on the Chrome Settings page.

Each search engine has to be configured with two pieces: the search url and the search term. Depending on the site, this can be obvious or really unclear. The best method I've found is to go to the site, do a search, and then do some copy/pasting.

Let's say you want a quick search for YouTube. If you open YouTube, do a search for something. We'll use dogs because why not. When you seach, you get this URL:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dogs

We're going to replace dogs with a special placeholder: %s. This tells the browser to substitute that term with what you typed.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%s

Click on Manage Search Engines and then click on Add. In the pop up, type in the name of your search engine and then a custom key (or keys) to trigger that search. Then, paste in your search address (see above).

Create a custom search with a name, a key combination to trigger the search, and a URL to search from.

Save the search term with Add. If you open a new tab and type yt, you'll see a prompt to search YouTube by pressing Tab.

Helpful Search URLs

Here are some of my most used searches so you don't have to go and make your own:

Site Trigger Search URL
YouTube yt https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%s
Google Drive dr https://drive.google.com/drive/search?q=%s
Amazon ama https://www.amazon.com/s?k=%s
Unsplash un https://unsplash.com/search/%s
Flickr fl https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=%s