Like lots of schools, we have a tracking sheet where we, well, track some kids in academic areas, like missing homework, test grades, etc. For some time we have used a PDF document that the teachers filled out electronically. With our move to GAFE. I wanted to create a Google Form that would then merge into a separate document for each child.
With autoCrat I’m able to do just that.
I started with creating what I wanted the finished product to look like. Alternatively, you can start with the form itself. Let’s say we’re tracking a student’s missing homework assignments. The finished document might look like this:
Once you know what you want to communicate, you can create the form requesting the information.
Now, take a look at the headers at the top of the response sheet:
So now you want to add those column headers to the merge file in the appropriate places. The modified merge file looks like this:
So now we’ve entered some data into the Google Sheet via the Google Form, and here’s what the Sheet looks like:
To create the merge, you need to use autoCrat. You can find it here. Once it’s installed, go to Add ons and Launch it.
Choosing a New Merge Job allows you to set parameters like the template to use, the naming convention, and output (PDF or Google Doc). You also need to make sure that the merge tags match your spreadsheet headers. Click on Run merge to create your files.
The only thing I don’t like is that it pulls the date including a timestamp even if I don’t want it, but I’ve remedied that by using timestamp and making sure to format it to date only. But other than that, it works great and now we have PDF files to send to the parents!
My colleagues have been playing with the Handouts app and they’re simply loving it. It isn’t exactly earth-shattering or paradigm-shifting, but it’s simple, to the point, and elegant. The process is easy: create a handout (either make a PDF or take a picture of something), import it into Handouts and send it to your students. Students use the now-familiar method of joining a class via code, receive the handout and fill it in and send it back. Students can “write” or type their response. Simple and elegant.
My teachers are most excited for this in terms of its potential for a digital portfolio. That and the whole paperless part. Very cool!
One of my professional goals is to determine our course of action regarding a 1:1 initiative. We began this year with 3rd and 4th grades after a pilot of sorts last year with increased accessibility in 3rd grade. Each of the students in those grades has access this year to an iPad all day, regardless of class. The iPads stay in school.
This year we’re piloting using iPads in language arts in 5th grade. Week one brought the question of “where’s spellcheck in the Docs app?”
We’re also dealing with the issue of sharing iPads in 5th grade, since there are two carts for four sections. Students have to remember (and their teachers have to remember to tell them) to log out of the Docs app at the end of each session and to make sure they’re the one logged in at the beginning. It no doubt is cumbersome for the teachers, and I’m sure chaos will ensue at some point when that procedure isn’t followed.
So I started thinking about my own digital life.
I am not 1:1. I’m more like 3:1, with laptop, iPad and iPhone as my 3. I instinctively move from device to device, choosing the device based on the task I need to perform. If I need to do heavy word processing I reach for my laptop. If the laptop isn’t available (or, more likely, in the dining room and I don’t want to get up off the couch to retrieve it), the iPad is a suitable stand in, but only as a second choice. On the other hand, there are definitely things for which the iPad is better suited, like quick movie making. Apps like Show Me or Explain Everything are much more useful for video tutorials and much faster to use.
Is 1:1, defined as one specific device per child, realistic? Or does it make more sense to define 1:1 as the ratio of total devices available to the total student body as a 1:1 ratio, without assigning specific device to specific children?
We are piloting using shared iPads for word processing in two of our language arts classes this year, and my sincere hope is that it’s going to get better. Admittedly, one week is not exactly an indicator of anything (which is why pilot programs last more that, well, a week), but the rollout has already had its issues.
This rollout was done in conjunction with our adoption of Google Apps for Education. Part of the reason for instituting GAFE is that we had eight year old laptops that are
coming close to well past their useful life, an I was hoping to avoid buying more laptops. We’re pretty much a Mac shop (for lots of reasons), and even the least expensive Mac Air is more money than I’d like to pop right now. And we’ve had tremendous success in many of our classes with iPads, so I was interested in seeing if iPads would meet the needs of our LA teachers.
If we were going 1:1 with take home in these classes, I wouldn’t have worried about what’s going to happen to the students’ documents, but we’re not (and I’m not sure I see that next year, either). So, in order for iPads to be used by multiple students, their documents have to have somewhere to go. Enter GAFE.
Well, that sounds fine, except that I had had little experience with relying on the Docs as a word processor. I’ve used Google Docs on a laptop, and wasn’t unhappy with it, but there’s quite a bit of difference between the Docs app and the web-based version. And I’m pretty sure Google doesn’t really care about making it more user-friendly, since they’re really interested in our purchasing Chromebooks…
But this is what I’ve got. I’ve got two LA classes with beautiful iPads (and standalone keyboards) and no spellcheck. That’s the text you want to get in the middle of a meeting…
Well….um….no. Not exactly. There’s autocorrect, but that’s not the same thing. And if you’ve ever taught 5th and 6th grade, you know that “be sure to use spell check” comes out of your mouth a lot.
So for my play time today, I’ve been playing with Docs, Pages and Textilus on my iPad and Google docs on my laptop to come up with a suitable workaround that will be palatable to my LA colleagues and doable by my 5th and 6th graders.
Here are my findings:
The only place students should have to log into Google is in the Docs app…not Drive or Safari. This is important because these are shared devices, so where you log in you must log out.
Tip #1 – accessing a spellchecker while using Google Docs app:
If you do this, you get autocorrect, but you also get little red dots beneath words that don’t appear in the dictionary:
- Create a new document and tap on the three little dots on the right (under the battery indicator)
- Tap on Share and export, and select “Save as Word (.docx)
- Docs will save your document as a new Word document with the .docx file extension. The original one is still there (with no file extension), so your kids will have to know which one to open.
- If you click on the little red dots now, you should see a checkmark next to Spellcheck.
Tip #2 — creating content using the Pages app and then saving to Google Docs
Pages on the iPad is lovely. The problem is that Pages documents are saved on the device itself, and aren’t available to the student outside of school. And, since multiple students could be using any one iPad at one time, the documents aren’t secure. A workaround is:
Make sure the student has logged into Docs
- Create a document in Pages, and then tap on the rectangle with the up arrow on it. This icon generally indicates a way to share or move an item.
- Choose “Open in Another App.”
- Tap on Word, and then Pages will convert the document.
- When the conversion completes, tap on “Choose App” at the bottom of the next box.
- Choose “Open in Docs,” and you should get a box asking if it’s okay to Upload Item to My Drive?
- Tap on Upload. The document will be available in the student’s Google Drive
Google – please add a real spell check to the Docs app, or next year it’s Macbook Airs for us.
In a fascinating New Yorker article, Maria Konnikova discusses the differences in reading comprehension across different media. Konnikova cites research into various issues such as Internet-enabled devices, scrolling, layout and hyperlinks. Researchers hypothesize that deep reading – the thoughtful, reflective process of really synthesizing what you’re reading – is taking a hit when readers are using a Kindle or iPad.
So, the first response might be to say that, well we’re not going to use eDevices then…we’ll still teach using books, newspapers and magazines. That might work for a while, but we’re obviously doing our students a tremendous disservice if we make that call.
I think this is just fascinating. Of course we need way more research into this, but it’s one more task that faces those of us in ed tech…how to teach our kids to adapt to the changes technology brings.
What do you think?