It has been a while but I really enjoy thinking of new ideas to combine interesting technologies like Google Docs and add-ons like Autocrat. I really like Autocrat because it hits so many of my personal preferences with technology including “doing simple things repeatedly” and “A better way to solve a dumb problem”.
One of the annoying problems for classroom teachers is managing student’s usernames and passwords. I love edtech companies but for students those little notecard size papers that many programs provide are annoying because students are students and they lose things.. alot. This lead to me say “There had to be a better way!” In my travels across Twitterverse, I found a great blog post by Matt Miller from ditchthattextbook.com about a neat add-on called AutoCrat where he used it with GDocs to personalize weekly newsletters for each student. I thought this was super cool and a great way to connect with families. What I really liked about it once I explored the functions of Google Sheets and Autocrat was that it could be create something personalized for each student. If you could send weekly messages than why not usernames and passwords?
Creating a Single Page Sign On page
Things You’ll Need
Once you understand how to set up the templates, you can customize it in your own way.
*These templates really optional once you understand the process, you will probably want to customize your sheet in your own way.
Below is an example of what the Single Page Sign On page will look like once complete. Each program will have username/password combination and essential site codes as needed. The benefits of this system are
- If a student loses their page, it is a simple matter of printing out a single page for them again.
- Students will have a visual way to find any of their login credentials easily.
- This system has worked both with 1st and 2nd graders and my wife who teaches 4th also has adopted the system.
Step 1: Constructing the Google Sheet database
Using a Google Sheets spreadsheet, construct a database spreadsheet that uses the column headers for any unique information like usernames/passwords. Each column header should have a Title which will be used later in the Google Docs Template as a <>. For example, Column B header is “First Name” so in the Google Docs template, you would insert a <> anywhere you want your student’s First Name to appear.
It doesn’t matter how many Column headers you create as the template will only pull the information from the <<TAG>> given on the template.
Step 2: Complete the credentials for each student’s student
Fill your student’s credential information into each of the rows for your classroom.
Tip: Hopefully your district has some uniformity in their naming conventions so you can use functions to generate most of the inputs for your student’s usernames/passwords. This can save a lot of time using formulas and references.
Step 3: Google Docs Template
Using the Google Docs, you can customize your <<TAG>> for your school’s edtech programs. For each tag, make sure it exactly. matches the text for each of the column headers so AutoCrat is happy. If you do make a mistake, it will prompt you to correct it later when creating the AutoCrat job.
For each icon, I went and downloaded a hi-res JPEG of each icon which I inserted into the Google Docs in the second cell of the table.
I like to create a Table with two cells for each program allowing for information and an icon. This also allows you to adjust the amount of information presented within a box.
Step 4- Using AutoCrat to generate the PDF/Google Doc for each student.
AutoCrat provides a very easy to follow menu that walks you through creating a Job to generate the SPSO from your spreadsheet through your Google Doc into your file SPSO PDF.
Once you are satisfied with your job, click the Run button and AutoCrat will get to work on generating your SPSOs. It does take some time depending on how many rows you are generating from so let it do its thing, tab over to Twitter or Facebook teacher groups and share how you will use AutoCrat in your classroom. Or maybe leave a comment down below on this blog post.
Step 5: After AutoCrat merge
After AutoCrat merge is complete, you will be left with a folder of PDFs that were generated from your spreadsheet and Google Docs Template. Navigate to the folder and see ProTip 2 on how to print the pdf’s quickly as a merged file.
Also, you can actually go to any of the files directly from the Google Sheet by going to the farthest right columns. This will give to the file Drive hyperlink and an easy referenced titled file for each student. If I have the spreadsheet open, this is an easy way for me to navigate to Bruce’s SPSO if I need a reprint for him or at the request of his parents.
The final tip that I can give you if you need to modify a student’s row by changing username or password, or include a new program, I have found that you need delete the contents in Merge ID, Merge Doc URL and Link to merged Doc cells. This will allow you to run AutoCrat again and generate an updated PDF. If you don’t, AutoCrat thinks there is already a file created from that row.
- When you are in Step 4 of the Autocrat job, Choose to export as a PDF and Output as “Multiple output mode”. This creates a single PDF file for each of your students allowing you to search for and find your student’s SPSO easy to find in your Google Drive.
- After you have a generated a class set of SPSO PDFs, it would be a pain to click through and print them manually. I like to use the web app PDF Mergy You can select all of the PDFs in a folder and it will combine all of the PDF files into a single PDF. From here you can click and print all pages at one time.
- If you are absent or out for a super cool edtech conference and your student’s are parcelled to another teacher, you can email the teacher the students’ SPSO pdf files in a jif.
Teachers, Principals, Teacher Leaders, and Instructional Technology coaches have loved this system because it allows them to manage a ton of login credentials in one central location.
Thank you for reading and let me know in the comment below how you have used AutoCrat in your classroom or school.