Tom Woodward on APIs and automation

Building on the APIs provided by Google Sheets and Google Calendar, I demonstrate how to automate the addition and change of multiple events.


I have been spending some time developing resources to support schools with timetables and reports. One of the things that occurred to me is the challenge of remembering to complete a number of key steps throughout the year. I therefore thought of creating a digital calendar that could be shared with schools that would help remind them.

In my search for a tool that would help with this process, I discovered From Sheets to Calendar, a Google Sheets add-on, that would allow me to create a series of events from a spreadsheet. As I explored this, it occurred to me that this might have ramifications for other groups in my organisation, especially those coordinating professional development. I have seen many plan things out visually in a spreadsheet. However, this means then creating these events again in a calendar. Here then is a guide to managing events with GSuite and sharing them with others.


Setup Calendars

Before setting up the various events, you need to make sure that you have created the various calendars. For example, you might have one for ‘meetings’, ‘professional development’ and ‘events’.

First Start

With everything set up in Google Calendar, install the add-on in Google Sheets. Once this is done, go to Add-ons menu and run ‘FirstStart’ to populate the template to work with.

Add in Events

With all the headings provided, enter the various information, such as title, time, location and description. Also, make sure ‘Add’ is listed against each of the events in the Action/Status column.

Import to Calendar

Once the events have been added, go to the Add-ons menu and run the ‘Import to Calendar’ to create events. Once created, there is an option to update and delete by changing the request in the Action/Status column.

Share the Calendars with Others

Although it is possible to send invites via the sheet, the other option is to share the particular calendars. For schools using Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendars can be shared as an ‘internet calendar’. The other option for users without a Google Account is to download and share a copy of the iCal file. The problem with this is that recipients will not be able to receive updates if there are any updates.


One of the challenges with a solution like this is that it is dependent on someone else’s scripts and support. In addition to this, to create more than 20 events, you need to pay a subscription of a $1 US a year. For those wanting an enterprise option, Zapier provides the connections, but it comes at a cost of $25 per month. There are also a range of scripts to build upon in Github. Another option is to manually import a CSV spreadsheet. So what about you? Are there any processes that you use when automating the creation of calendar events? As always, comments welcome.


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Productivity

“Productivity” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

I have written about Trello before. Regarding supporting an instructional model and my workflow. However, I have written little about how it works or some of the different ways you can use it.

  1. Boards, Lists, Cards: Trello supports project management. It has several layers, starting with teams and collections, then boards. Once inside a Trello board, you can create multiple lists and cards. The proper model used to set up a board is the Kanban method, focusing on three lists: to do, doing and done. However, you can set a board up however you like. Once cards are created, they can easily be moved between different lists and archived when no longer required. Regarding a team situation, Trello allows you to work more transparently.
  2. Making Cards: There are four key elements to a card: description, attachments, checklists and comments. The descriptions and comments allow you to record regular information, and embed links and content. However, one of the most useful elements are checklists. You can either copy the checklist from another card or start your own.
  3. Filters: One thing you notice quickly with Trello is that things can get busy quick. One way of easing this is organising cards around members and tags. When you go to add members, you can add anyone within the team. Regarding tags, these are coloured and can be customised. I have used tags to sort between different focuses, however I also know people you use them to organise cards around priorities. Within the menu there is the means of filtering by both tags and cards.
  4. Collaboration: From a team point of view, Trello supports collaboration in several ways. The obvious way is to add someone as a member to a card. However, another way of connecting with others is by tagging people using their @username. This can be done in both comments and checklists. The other means of collaboration is sharing a link to a public board.
  5. Attachments: Whether it be from Google Drive, Microsoft Office, a PDF or a link from the web, cards provide a useful way of collecting together a range of items around a topic in one space. Attachments can be added directly or via a comment.
  6. Updates: Whether it be the checking off an item in the checklist or a comment being added, Trello provides several ways to update team members. When subscribed to a card, whole board or tagged into something, you are notified when things change. Initially this is through the application, but if unseen this summary is pushed out via email. Although you can not adjust what notifications are shown, there is the option within your personal settings to adjust the frequency to which you receive emails, with one option being never. For a different perspective, you can scroll through the various activities to see what has been happening. There is also the means of integrating updates into Slack, which can also be useful.
  7. Multiple Points of Access: Although the most obvious way of accessing Trello is via the web, there is a mobile application. This means you can add content and information wherever you are. Must of the functionality is the same across both platforms. However, there are elements such as filtering that are only  available on the web.
  8. Markdown: Regarding formatting, Trello allows you to use Markdown to change the text. One catch is that different fields involve different options. You can bold, use italics and add links. While for both comments and descriptions, you can add horizontal lines and block quotes, and regarding the description, there is the means of embedding images and adding headings. For a great introduction to Markdown, John Gruber provides a useful application which allows you to see what the markdown text would look like as HTML.
  9. Shortcut to Creating a Card: Whether it be using a Google Chrome extension or using  the email address associated with each board, there are different ways of adding to Trello. These can be useful when forwarding on various links and resources.
  10. Customisation: There are several ways to go further with Trello. This includes adding various power-ups, which often build on the APIs to help personalise how things work for your team. I must admit that these aspects are nuanced, but they provide other options none the less.

For more information, I recommend the following video to help get your head around everything.

On a side note, Trello was sold to Atlassian. The promise is that this will only make Trello better, but time will tell. It is also important to note the limits of ‘free’. Like with so many different applications, Trello provide access to a certain limit and then push you towards a premium model. The basic difference is that you can add larger file attachments and activate more Power-Ups.

So what about you? Have you used Trello? How? Or maybe you have used something different? As always, comments welcome.


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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Post originally published at eBox

I have always liked the flexibility of the iPad in the classroom, particular as a teacher device. However, one of the problems was how to transfer content, especially video and images. Although the ability to connect the iPad to different computers to transfer information has definitely come along way, the need to connect still seems a little dated. It is fine if you have a Mac providing you the ability to easily transfer files, those using Windows are limited. Google’s move to incorporate Google Photos within Google Drive has changed that. Here then is a guide to using Google Photos to easily share across various devices and platforms.

Download Google Photos App: The first thing that you need to do is download the new Google Photos app. This is available on both the iPad and the iPhone. There is the option of limited full resolution images or unlimited standard resolution. However, with Google Apps, this is not a concern. Be aware though that the initial sync can take some time.

Google Photos App

Collect Content: Whether it be taking photos of student work, recording students read, videoing a skill or creating a movie using a separate application like Adobe Voice, as long as the content is saved to the camera roll then it can be transferred.

Google Photos Sync

Sync with the Cloud: Once connected to wifi, open up the application. It will simply start syncing the content to the cloud. To me, Google Photos just adds to the growing range of applications allowing for offline use. See Brett Sinnett’s post for more ideas and information.

Google Photos Other Devices

Google Drive: Once complete, the content will then be located as a folder within Google Drive. In order to access this content on the computer, you will need to download Google Drive application. Like Dropbox, it will add a folder to your computer and will continually sync in the background.


So what about you? Have you used Google Photos? How have you found it? If not, what process do you use? As always, comments welcome.


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