Automation is a process all teachers can benefit from, but the effort involved in setting up useful automation often dissuades us from organizing such a workflow. We think to ourselves “This takes more figuring out than I have time for right now. I’ll just do it the way I’ve always done it.” not realizing that learning the automation may take 30 to 60 minutes, where it will save us countless hours down the line.
With the amazing speed at which developers are creating more and more useful automation systems, we don’t have to worry as much about the setup, and we can simply take advantage of the systems that others are already creating for us. We discussed how this works with IFTTT previously, and today we’re going to look at an app that automates directly INSIDE your iPhone – Workflow.
Workflow connects apps together with pre-defined “actions” to automatically do the things you’ve been clicking, swiping, cutting and pasting for as long as you’ve had your iPhone.
Because there is so much to play with in Workflow, I’ve decided not to make a video. I would get overwhelmed with the possibilities of what to share and it would easily turn into an hour long video. Instead I’m limiting myself to sharing a few examples here to help launch you into what can be possible for you both as a teacher and in your personal life.
Notice: I’m only looking at workflows that are already designed in the app. You have full design privileges to create your own workflows and customize them as you like. My advice is to start with the pre-made workflows, then start playing with making customized adjustments to them, then if you’re really nerdy, start making and sharing your own! Ambitious teachers could even encourage their students to use it to create their own “coding” opportunities in class, which would be awesome.
Action 1: Make a GIF
Sure, there are plenty of apps out there that already help you make GIFs, but since Workflow uses this as their “tutorial” piece, I thought it would be a good idea to share. If you send out pictures on social media or on your blog, this is a quick and easy way to share something useful.
You can choose the speed, number of pictures, etc. Some teachers like to showcase their students’ work, which this would be a perfect use case for.
Action 2: Mail Merge
As much as I loathe having to log onto my Microsoft products, Mail Merge is a very useful function. With Mail Merge in Workflow you can set your mails to customize your messages to your students, parents or colleagues for that personal touch. The default version is pretty straightforward – simply adding the name of a person into the mail, but with a little creativity you can start pulling other resources and possibly even using it as a way to generate report cards (don’t quote me on that yet! someone would have to try to build it first, but if YOU choose to try, let me know how it goes in the comments!).
Action 3: AirDrop Screenshot
AirDrop is still an underutilized feature on the Mac, largely because Apple took so long to release it and never really shared how it works. Still, it’s a nice way to share files back and forth between your phone and your computer, and if you’re the type who snaps screenshots on their phone regularly for inspiration, this will set you up to make things much easier. Just turn the workflow on, and open up your last picture on your Mac.
For the more ambitious in the crowd, you’ll find that Workflow can be set up to do some pretty amazing things. The one gripe I have is that Workflow hasn’t created a community for people to communicate with each other, but to be fair the App is only a week old. You can share your creations and look in the “Gallery” for more information, but for those who are inexperienced, some of the automation processes might seem a little intimidating to play around with.
In those times, I recommend remembering the old maxim we tell our students: If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Despite how much better services like IFTTT and now Workflow make things for us, there’s always a curve. Embrace it and come out the other side victorious!
I look forward to seeing what you come up with!