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?
Like everyone else, I’ve been reading all the back-and-forth about the need to teach programming. Like everyone else, I’m wondering when we’re supposed to find the time to do it. “How many languages can we teach in one day?” I ask…
An article in Mother Jones addresses this issue, stating that “computer literacy is the key to winning the 21st century.” I’m not exactly sure what winning the century means, but I found the article a fascinating read.
Time? We just don’t have so much of it.
One way our school addressed this was to start an extra-curricular Code Club run by parents. Students sign up (and pay separately) and come to school on a Sunday evening to learn how to code. It was immensely popular…with the kids who were interested in coding. Obviously, since this was a self-selected group, it was, well, great for the kids who identified an interest.
But it occurs to me that “winning the 21st Century” needs to be about getting everybody on board, or at least more students than the ones who self-identify as wannabe programmers.
The article at Mother Jones brings up a different tactic, one that I’m interested in exploring; the principle of computational thinking. This intrigues me. It’s about teaching kids how to approach solving problems in a systematic, logical manner.
I recently worked with our 7th graders to design digital scavenger hunts using ARISgames. It’s a terrific platform, and requires no programming skills. But it does require some careful thinking about what needs to be in place in order to make things happen. It also requires careful attention to syntax (and what 7th grader cares about syntax? Slashes…we don’t need no stinkin’ slashes…).
Most of the kids loved it.
Maybe that’s the way to go…computational thinking, not programming. If they want to learn to code later, so be it. But maybe, for now, we’ll teach them how to create, how to use systematic thinking to solve their problems and get from here to there.