Okay, I'm going to warn you now, this post is going to be pretty geeky. I think using autoCrat in general, is a certain level of geeky, this will take it to a whole new level.
In case you don't know, autoCrat is a mail merge system that is an add-on for Google Sheets. It integrates with Google Docs, Forms, and Sheets to produce auto-filled Docs or PDFs. It is a great way to give feedback to teachers, show students completed work from forms, auto-fill certificates, the possibilities are endless.
I have been using autoCrat a lot lately for walk-through forms and giving feedback to teachers. I even presented a session at a Google Summit on autoCrat. However, I have been fighting with a feature of autoCrat for about a week, the Dynamic Folder Reference feature. This feature would force copies of a Doc or PDF into specific folders, based on some information populated into the spreadsheet by the form.
I had watched videos (most of which showed an older version of autoCrat), read tutorials, and done some research about it in order to try to get it to work for a project. Every time I though I had it, it failed to populate the documents into the destination folder. But yesterday, I finally got it. With a combination of tutorials and instructions, I hope to put together what I learned for you, step by step.
The first few steps will be basic autoCrat directions, but will then move into specifics. The video will also show you step-by-step how to use the Dynamic Reference Folders. Here is what I've learned:
Hopefully the video below will also help clarify any questions you may have.
I've thought of a few uses for this including, but not limited to, separating form responses for each student or teacher, specific classes or other times where you want to share the specific folder with the person, but not everyone else.
Hopefully you can find a use for the Dynamic folders as well.
Recently I was asked to compile my learning from a semester's worth of instruction into a presentation. I began by writing a 8ish page document about what I had learned. Then, I took the document and paired it with a series of pictures that matched my thoughts. They changed about every few seconds to create a visual representation of my words. I felt good about what I had to say about my learning and the images I had found to pair with it.
My next step was to record it, so I used Screencastify and began to record. Screencastify is a Google extension that allows you to record your screen, highlight specific parts of the screen, write with a marker tool as you go, and embed a webcam. It's a great tool for making instructional videos. One of the limitations of Screencastify (the free version) is that it only allows you to record 10 minutes at a time. So, I started recording. At 10 minutes, I hadn't finished reading what I wrote, the video cut off, and I was exhausted listening to myself. I didn't want to finish reading it or force anyone to listen to it. I felt like this:
With a deadline looming, I knew I had to make a change. The product I had attempted to create wasn't engaging and wasn't cohesive. I had droned on for 10 minutes and could care less what I had to say.
I started looking for tools, to create a more engaging product. I landed on PowToon. Below is the video I created.
I was pretty pleased with the product I created. Using PowToon, I was able to create a professional-looking, succinct presentation that was more engaging. It was a bit of a struggle to learn the platform; some things that are easy in Slides and other platforms, aren't as easy in PowToon.
Below are some of the things I found to be pros and cons of PowToons.
Give it a try, let your students give it a try. Be creators of content, not just a consumer. I am sure you will have your own pros and cons as well.
Take a look at the grid above. Four numbers, seemingly unrelated. Try to see if you can figure out which one doesn't belong? Much like the old Sesame Street song -
So, which did you choose:
Communication is crucial in classrooms
Getting students to talk in a classroom, usually isn't a problem. We often spend our days trying to figure out how to get students to talk less. What if, instead, we channeled their conversations into productive talk about their learning? What if they used academic vocabulary to explain precisely what they were learning and doing? In order for some students to process learning, they need to vocalize. Sometimes students learn more from conversations with their peers than with adults. Communication is a way for students to engage with other learners and the material being taught. It isn't enough though, just to talk, conversation needs to be targeted to learning and purposeful, where all students have the ability to respond and the inability to hide.
Communication must often be taught
Students today spend much of their time communicating online and through other media outlets, but rarely are taught how to communicate appropriately. Giving students stems to begin conversations also teachers them to respond or ask questions. Holding an expectation that students answer questions in complete sentences also increases the classroom discourse.
Communication can only be tested in the real world
No, there won't be a multiple choice or fill in the blank test that will see how well you taught your students to communicate, but for their future success, they deserve it. Most employers are looking for effective communicators; whether it be verbal or written communication.
Taking time to teach communication and incorporate it in your classroom could be a game changer for your students. Post those questions that invite critical thinking and discussion.
Today I went to a Professional Development session that was about Cultural Responsiveness. I expected to learn about differences in cultures, religions, races, sexes, or other things that have the potential to divide and separate people. However, that wasn't really how the day unfolded.
The PD started off with the speaker asking us to think of a student who was failed by the system. We were asked to keep that student in mind and stand if they fell into each of these three categories:
Next, we watched the video "Take a seat, Make a Friend. We were given the opportunity to recreate our own "Strangers in a Ball Pit Moment", where we were asked to answer three deep questions with our peers:
The speaker went on to explain that using this protocol of "Strangers in a Ball Pit" is a way to get to know our students, in order to meet them where they are. If you know that someones dad inspires them, how might that affect the way you teach them? Forming relationships based on deep knowledge of our students is one research-based strategy of overcoming the achievement gap. We all have heard the saying:
"No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care"
The speaker shared with us, "the best way to end racism is to get to know one another". So climb into that ball pit, ask the hard questions, find out what makes them who they are, and grow from there.
My favorite kind of conference to attend are educational technology conferences, especially the EdTechTeam Google Summits. I attended my first conference about 3 years ago and I've been hooked ever since. Most of them are a couple days of intense learning about tools and strategies you could use in your classroom. You always walk away with too many great ideas to process, but yet so excited about all the possibilities of what could be. I find that in almost every sessions I attend, I can find a nugget of information I can use.
Last year, I presented at my first EdTechTeam Google Summit. I had a supervisor once tell me, when you leave a conference with the thought, "I could do that", it is then your responsibility to do it. So, after my third Google Conference and obtaining several Google Certifications, I decided I was ready.
As I prepare to go present at my fourth Google conference, I get excited every time. I want to bring something new to teachers, who in turn, will bring something new to students. I convinced a friend recently to present at a Google Conference. He has some of the same reservations I did the first time I presented, fear of not being relevant enough. He has crafted an informative session about Google Classroom and is ready to present next week. I am looking forward to hearing how his session goes. I know he will do a great job teaching those who are new to Google Classroom how to get started.
If you are doing something great, keep working. Get the certifications and background you need and be brave. Put yourself out there for the good of students. It will be a lot of work, but it will be worth it.
Instructional specialist/coach, Google Certified Trainer, Level 1 and 2 Google Certified educator, Ed Tech Team Teacher Leader Certified, growing and learning