Sunday, August 24, 2014

Manage Online Accounts with IFTTT

If you ever get overwhelmed with how many online accounts you have and the stress of managing them all, you should check out IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That.

IFTTT is a free, online service that helps you manage your online accounts and/or create automatic notifications of routine events. Users connect their IFTTT account to dozens of other online accounts, their phone, their Nest thermostat at home, their Fitbit, etc. and tell IFTTT what to do with those accounts. When you tell IFTTT to do something, it's always in this format:

IF {this} happens, THEN, I want you to {do that}.

For instance, let's say that I have a blog for my class, and I want to post a link to my class Twitter every time I publish a new post on the blog. IFTTT makes that easy by allowing you to create a "recipe" (or instructions) to do it automatically.

For this recipe, I would go to "Channels" and choose "Blogger." You must activate each channel to give IFTTT permission to access your account and do things on your behalf (things that you tell it to do... nothing creepy. :) ). Once you activate your Blogger channel, you can choose which blog you'd like to connect. I have several blogs, so I chose from a drop-down list which blog I'd like to focus on:

Once activated, you can scroll down the page to see common recipes that Blogger uses. Those are great to get your mind thinking of all the possible things IFTTT can do for you on each channel.

It just so happens that the recipe I want -- post my blog posts to Twitter -- was the first suggested recipe.

Click on a recipe to use it.

Since my Twitter account is already connected to my IFTTT account, all I had to do was finish the recipe by telling it what to post on my Twitter account. Since this recipe was already created by another user, most of the work was done for me; I just edited the wording a bit by typing in the box below:

Then I clicked "use recipe" to finish. Click the recipe picture below if you'd like to use it on your own IFTTT account:

IFTTT Recipe: Send a tweet when you post something on your Blog connects blogger to twitter

You don't have to use pre-created IFTTT recipes, either -- you can create your own. On your "My Recipes" page, you'll see a blue button in the top, right corner that says, "Create a Recipe." 

When you click on it, IFTTT walks you through the steps of creating your own recipe. For instance, the first page looks like this:

I would click on "this" to decide what the trigger should be. Once you choose a channel, IFTTT shows you all the things that channel can do, and you just click on the one you want. IFTTT will continue to walk you through the recipe creation process until you have your very own.

You can use IFTTT for a variety of school-related things. Here are some ideas you might like:
  • Connect class social media accounts {IF I post a picture on the class Instagram, THEN upload it to a certain album on the class Facebook page}
  • Organize online information {IF I post a photo to the class Instagram, THEN upload a copy to my Dropbox account}
  • Know when you have to have indoor recess {IF the head index goes above 100 degrees, THEN send me a text... IF it's going to rain, THEN send me a text}
  • Track tutoring payments {IF I get a new payment on my Square account, THEN add the information to my Google spreadsheet}
  • Get apps for free {IF the App Store posts apps that are free for the day, THEN e-mail me}
  • Tell parents when you and the bus have arrived at field trip locations {IF I arrive at this zoo, THEN text these people}
  • Remind yourself when the grading period is ending {IF it's the end of the semester, THEN call me}
You can turn your recipes off or trash them completely at any time by going to your "My Recipes" page and using the gray buttons to the right of each recipe:
Turning a recipe off means it's deactivated but not deleted from your account. This way, your school-specific recipes can be activated during the school year {remember the heat index one from above?} and deactivated during the summer.

You can embed recipes into your blog posts {or another class website that accepts HTML codes} to help classroom parents organize all the information from you throughout the year. For instance, you might embed a recipe for "IF Mr./Mrs. X publishes a new blog post, THEN e-mail me," or "IF Mr./Mrs. e-mails me, THEN call my cell phone" or "IF Mr./Mrs. e-mails me an attachment, THEN put that attachment in this Dropbox folder."

After you create a recipe, you can copy the HTML embed code and paste it anywhere on your site {like below the spot earlier in this post where I said, "Here's the recipe in case you want to use it on your own IFTTT account"}. This way, parents don't have to necessarily know how to navigate IFTTT for it to work for them -- tell them just to create an account and add your recipe.

Finally, you could use your IFTTT account to teach students about cause and effect. Show your IFTTT account to students, let them choose a trigger and a result, and show them what happens afterwards. Then students could create "recipes" on paper for other, non-technological events in their life {like "IF I study for my spelling test, THEN I will get a better grade"}.

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