Scheduling Student Appointments in GoogleCalendar

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When I go blended with my senior English classes, I use Doodle for students to schedule their mandatory appointments with me. And I love Doodle: it is easy, straightforward, and does exactly what you want it to do (with some nice advanced features too). The problem with Doodle is this: I have to go there and see the poll to see who is coming when. And, while knowing this isn’t essential info, often students will ask me when their appointment is. So this evening, for instance, I spent about five minutes transferring the appointments from Doodle into my GoogleCalendar. (And Doodle does link to GoogleCalendar, but only, it seems, in the sense that your calendar will appear on you Doodle calendar but your Doodle appts won’t appear on your GoogleCalendar; I can’t guarantee this but this is my experience with it.)

So I saw this post on Twitter about using GoogleCalendar and one of the tips was GoogleCalendar’s appointment slots, which I had never heard of. But basically you do the following:

  1. Create an event in GoogleCalendar the way you normally would.
  2. In the pop up window, click (next to Event) ‘Appointment Slots’.
  3. On that screen, you’ll be able to divide the event into blocks (or ‘appointment slots’).
  4. You’ll then get a link to share with people with which they can sign themselves up for those blocks / slots.

The only real advantage over Doodle, but it is a significant one I think, is the ability for appointments to show up directly in your GoogleCalendar.

Now this wouldn’t work for random appointments, i.e. you couldn’t use it for students to schedule unstructured extra help sessions but for, say, my blended periods or language oral exams, etc., this could make scheduling and knowing who’s coming next much easier and more efficient.

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The Power of Passive Thinking

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Why is it that we have our best ideas in the shower? Simple. It’s one of the few times when our brain is allowed to wander on its own. There is no focus, there are no distractions. Off it goes and it often goes to pretty cool places, places that it wouldn’t go in the midst of the hubbub of our daily lives. It’s a similar phenomenon to the idea of walking away from a problem (temporarily), i.e. if you can’t figure something out that you’ve been staring at for a while, walk away from it; chances are you come back with a good idea.

I’ve realized for myself the power of passive thinking for a while now, but had a nice illustration of it this morning in school. I was all set to intro Dante to my senior Medieval Lit class today. I was sitting at the desk in the room, getting the technology going, and in that three minutes or so my brain wandered and in that three minutes or so I came up with a much better plan for the class. Now part of the process was that I already had a plan; I wasn’t nervous about not having a plan, so my brain could wander. Were I worried about the class, the brain could not have wandered. But it did, and the resulting plan was much better.

So give it a shot. Let the brain wander. Be willing to listen to it. And you might be surprised by what you come up with.

The Cost of Comic Sans (Huff Post Infographic)

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So this was a cool intersection of my tech interests and the pseudo-academic past in which I envisioned myself sequestered in romanticized, rare book rooms / libraries throughout Europe (think Name of the Rose without the conspiracy / bloodshed; I did make it into a couple of those libraries in Rome while working on my undergrad thesis).

An infographic analyzes the impact that something as seemingly trivial as font choice can have on ink consumption and a single letter can have on paper use. (My students are constantly amazed at the Romans’ lack of use of spaces between words. I remind them that 1. it’s not has hard to read that way as you think and 2. how much space spaces take up in a book / how much paper could be saved if we remove those spaces.

First Round with Blogs and IFTTT

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I’ve launched the blogs + IFTTT initiative but spent a good amount of class time helping with the techincal side of things, which was a good decision, if it in effect took a class (albeit a shortened one) to cover. There were more technical issues than I expected and dealing with them in class seems a worthwhile use of time to avoid dealing with them in the future.

In any case, there have been no official assignments, but some students from my last period class have already tested it out and it has worked well. I’ve included a screen shot of the emails below (I left out the names for privacy’s sake).

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 9.30.48 PMPretty cool, and this is exactly what I want. I realize that some people might be horrified by such a full inbox, but they will all just go into my grade folder (and I think at least that it’s easier to deal with filing an email and reading in that email later than tracking down a blog address and going there to read).

So far so good.

An Interesting New Blogging Platform / Approach?

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I just launched blogging with one of my classes today, walking them through the sign up and (parts of the) design process, and then I see this on Twitter:

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 10.23.27 AMSeems like / sounds like a cool idea but maybe not quite as cool as it sounds. (Or at least not quite as efficient as it sounds.) It’s Evernote-powered, so your blog is linked to your Evernote account from which you can publish directly. A cool feature indeed but unfortunately our students are not (yet) Evernote-savvy enough to make it worthwhile. They also plug Evernote’s syncing / ease of accessibility (on devices) as an advantage but of course many blogging platforms (like this one, WordPress) have apps that allow the same thing. I imagine they’re not quite as powerful as Evernote but they certainly work for me. And finally, a quibble I realize, but if the blog addresses will included, it seems a bit cumbersome for any kind of verbal marketing (i.e. you’ll likely have to spell that out).

Nonetheless, and interesting pairing and one that has potential especially as Evernote expands and becomes more common among at least our students.

Here’s the site and there’s a video there that gives a brief overview.

Using IFTTT with Student Blogs

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Two years ago I experimented with blogging with my students. I enjoyed the results but not very much the process. I wrote a grant for a subscription to eduBlogs, which I hoped would streamline the process but in some ways it actually made it clunkier. So last year, I did not do blogging and stuck to more closed forms of writing (simple submissions to me).

As I was preparing for this year, I came across the blogging materials I had prepared and revisited the idea. It occurred to me that using IFTTT might address the clunkiness that I had experienced.

But before we get into the details, let’s review. If I teach 100 students and they’re all blogging, that’s 100 different web addresses I have to keep track of and visit to grade their work. For me, it’s less the clicking and more the keeping track. I know that I can collect those addresses (which I will anyway, as part of my student information form), but then I have to put that list somewhere and go there every time I want to check. Not to mention the consummate frustration of checking something that hasn’t been updated (this becomes especially cumbersome with late work; how do I know when it’s posted without checking? and if it’s not yet been posted, I’ve wasted time going there to check). I know too that I can subscribe to / follow students’ blogs, but that seems unnecessarily (if not completely impossible) onerous, especially when I can put the onus on them and diffuse that otherwise concentrated work.

IFTTT to the rescue. If you don’t know, IFTTT is an automator website (and the site stands for If This Then That). The plan then is for students to use IFTTT to generate an email to me every time they post to their blog. I can take those emails and grade them immediately or put them in my Grade folder to grade later. Either way, that’s a little less work for me on both ends, and I don’t have to go hunting for posts when I don’t know they’re there.

I’m a bit concerned about the technical side of it on the students’ end, but that’s never stopped me before. I made a tutorial video (below) and I’ll of course walk them through it in the first few days of school.

A Test Post for IFTTT

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This is a test for my email recipe on IFTTT.