Sunday, February 10, 2013

Scheduling Conferences with Google Docs

by Matt Gomez. You can connect with me on my blog mattBgomez.comTwitterFacebook or Pinterest.

I used to hate setting up conferences! Don't get me wrong, I love meeting with parents, but I despised the back and forth trying to find the perfect time slot for each parent. With three boys and both parents working in our house I understand the difficulty in scheduling. My frustration was not with parents but with the process. Enter google docs. My main reasoning is it would allow parents to see all the available time slots and pick on their own. I also know that sending emails is the best way to contact my parents so I was able to send the link in an email. Using google docs might be harder if your parents don't have internet access or tech in the homes but for most I think it will be a worthwhile option. I did have two parents that were unable to use this system for various reasons so I just sent them notes or called them to finalize their time slots. Only needing to do that with a select few instead of the entire class made my life much easier. I used google docs for all three conference days last year and plan to again this year. A benefit of using google docs that I did not consider is it allows parents to change their time to other open slots. Several parents took advantage to this and it helped the number no-shows I had.
Concerns- One of the main concerns is what happens if parents mess up the document or remove other parents from a time slot. Google docs has a great feature called revision history that addresses this concern. If you read more below I explain that feature.
Here is how I set up the doc...
First you will need a Gmail account. If you don't have one you should and this would be a good reason to take that step :) Once you are logged into your Gmail you will see something like the image below. Click on drive (blue arrow) and then create (red arrow.) Once you click create a drop down menu will appear and click document.
Now you see a document similar to Microsoft Word (below) Changing the title is easy by clicking in the box (red arrow). Then you just add a title and the time slots in the main document. Once you have the doc finalized be sure and complete the steps below before sharing. Here is a sample google doc I set up if you would like to try it out. Sample Conference Schedule
Now it is time to change the sharing and editing settings so the parents can view and edit. On the top right of the page there is a blue button called share. Click on that and a box will pop-up. First click "anyone with link" (blue arrow). Then change it from "can view" to "can edit" (green and orange arrow. Dont forget to save! (yellow arrow)
After you click save you will see a another pop-up box (below) Make sure the settings say "anyone who has the link can edit" (blue arrow). If so you are ready to share with parents using the link (red arrow).  I have not had any issues with parents messing up the document or deleting others names but if you do go to the next step. I also make sure and tell parents that all revisions are saved in a google doc so maybe that helps prevent issues.
Revision history. This feature is what makes all of this possible. It takes away any issues that could happen (pictured below) To view the revision history click "file - see revision history". The revision history will be displayed on the right side of the document (red arrow) If you click any of the revision dates/times the actual revisions will show in the document (blue arrow) So in the example below I removed the 7:00-7:20 time slot. Another option is "restore to this revision" (red arrow) Let's say a parent accidentally deletes everything, all you would need to do is go to the revision that happened before theirs and restore to that revision. Problem solved.
Here is a sample google doc I set up if you would like to try it out. Sample Conference Schedule
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