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Scripts Aren’t Scary! Using Scripts to Automate Your Workflow and Simplify Your Life

Written by Megan Ellis @MeganRoseEllis

“Scripts – programs written for a special run-time environment that can interpret and automate the execution of tasks which could alternatively be executed one-by-one by a human operator.”

Is there anything that sounds more intimidating to a teacher tentatively dipping her toes into the technology waters than the idea of dealing with a script? Absolutely not.

“Automatically – acting or operating in a manner essentially independent of external influence or control”

Is there anything that sounds sweeter to a teacher drowning in piles of papers and email notifications than the thought of all that automatically being taken care of for him? Nope.

I stumbled my way into scripting totally by accident because, like most of us, I was trying to find a way to do things better. My students took quizzes online with Google Forms, but I was still printing out the resulting spreadsheet to grade them. I asked my students to do all their work in the cloud, but collecting online work was a pain. I was trying to provide paperless feedback on student writing, but I couldn’t figure out the best way to manage a paperless rubric. Technology was supposed to be making teaching easier for me, but it was actually costing me even more time than just doing things the old-fashioned way.

So, like most of the best things that happen to me, I discovered scripts because I was annoyed. “Surely,” I thought, “there has got to be a way to do this paperless thing that actually saves time as well as trees.”

Fortunately, there is! And even though scripts sound intimidating and difficult, most scripts for educators are incredibly well-written and actually require very little (if any!) scripting knowledge for the user. The following scripts are some of my personal favorites for automating tasks in my classroom and simplifying my own workflow, so I spend less time managing paper stacks and email notifications and more time working with my students.

FLUBAROO

Flubaroo by Dave Abouav is a great script for scripting newbies because it does what all teachers want – grades the student work for you, spits out a handy grade analysis, and emails scores to students. If you give quizzes, this script will rock your world.

AUTOCRAT

autoCrat is a handy little mail-merge script that allows you to take any personalized row-based spreadsheet data and create, save, attach to an email, and share templated documents. I like to use autoCrat to send personalized emails to parents after Back to School Night with a link to the class syllabus and my contact information (they sign in on a Google Form and provide me with their email address), or to send feedback to students after they give presentations in class (I grade them using a Google Form). Check out this video about autoCrat.

DOCTOPUS

Doctopus is the script that has saved me the most time and headaches, however. Install Doctopus on a Google Spreadsheet that has your class roster and student email addresses, and then use it to push out individual copies of any Doc, Spreadsheet, Drawing, or Presentation to each student. Doctopus adds columns to your roster spreadsheet with a link to each student’s document, making sorting and grading much faster. You can embargo assignments with Doctopus to prevent students from continuing to work past the due date, and email personalized feedback to students throughout the writing process from right there within the spreadsheet. Finally, install the Chrome extension Goobric to append your rubrics to student assignments. These slides will show you the process.

I especially appreciate Doctopus when it comes to putting students in groups or pushing out differentiated documents to students based on their needs. By simply adding an additional column to your spreadsheet, you can tell Doctopus to give the same document to all students in the same group, or to give a more scaffolded version of a document to designated students to give them more support!

I love Doctopus and Goobric so much and think they are so useful in the classroom, that I put together these instructions to walk teachers through the process of installing and running both tools. I probably run Doctopus with my students once a week, and the time it took me to learn the script has been hugely outweighed by the time it has saved me when it comes to reviewing, collecting, and assessing student work.

Scripts aren’t scary! For me, they have become my “workflow wonders,” simplifying some of the more menial classroom tasks in order to give me more time to develop exciting lessons and work one-on-one with students.


Megan Ellis is a CUE Lead Learner, Google Certified Teacher, and CUE’s 2013 Outstanding Emerging Teacher. She currently works as a 7th-grade English teacher and technology mentor in Palo Alto, California. With all the time she saves running scripts, she enjoys cooking, reading, and hiking with her dog. For lifetime technical support, or just to talk about nerdy things, you can email her at megan@eduawesome.com.

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