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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Use IFTTT to Help With Recess Duty

If you're at CISD with me, you know that students cannot have outside recess or PE classes when the temperature or wind chill drops below 36°. You can designate someone on your team to go to The Weather Channel's website every school day during the winter months...or you can let IFTTT {pronounced like "gift" without the "g"} do the work for you.

I've written in the past about how IFTTT can help you manage your life, but this post will talk primarily about using the service to help you know the temperature before recess {sorry, secondary teachers -- I know this doesn't apply to you!}.

1. Get an IFTTT account. It's free. All you need is a valid e-mail address. 
Once logged in, you should be at your IFTTT dashboard. It will look like this at the top, except your username will be displayed in the top, right corner. 

2. Click "Create a Recipe." Now you see this screen:

3. Click "this." Type "weather" in the search box:
4. There are 2 potential weather triggers, as shown below. Click the "weather" one {second option}.

5. Choose "today's weather report" {first option}. Your screen should change to the picture below.

6. Put about 10-15 minutes before your recess time into the "time of day" slot and click "create trigger." You should see the screen below, except the time under your weather icon should display the time you specified.

7. Click "that."

8. IFTTT offers lots of action choices. Personally, I would choose the text message action {"SMS" if you're an iPhone user and "Android SMS" if you have a 'Droid}, but the e-mail or phone call action would also work for this. For the purpose of this tutorial, I'll choose "SMS." You'll see this screen if this is your first time to use IFTTT or your first time to use text messages from IFTTT:

9.  Click "activate" if it appears. Be on the lookout for a pop-up {you may have to turn off your pop-up blocker for a second} that looks like this:

Type in your phone number. IFTTT will send you a PIN number, which you'll then type in to the next screen...just to confirm that they're connecting your IFTTT account to the right phone number.

10. Once your phone number is hooked up to your IFTTT account, you'll see the screen below. Click "Send me an SMS."
11. Now you should see this screen:

If you click inside the message box, it'll change slightly:

Click the beaker to reveal this drop-down menu of choices:

Unfortunately, there currently is not an option for wind chill, but I did inquire about it. :) You can see IFTTT's reply when/if they tweet back by clicking here. In the meantime, you can combine the "CurrentTempFahrenheit," the "WindSpeedMph," and the "WindDirection" actions.  
Just click in the text box and delete everything IFTTT automatically wrote. Type "Current temperature," click the beaker, click "CurrentTempFahrenheit," and click "add ingredient." It'll look like this:

Type "Wind speed," click the beaker, "click "WindSpeedMph," and click "add ingredient." Now the text box should look like this:
Type "Wind direction," click the beaker, click "WindDirection," and click "add ingredient." Now you have this in your text box:
12. Click "Create Action." You'll see a confirmation screen that looks something like this:

13. Click "Create Recipe." You'll get a text message every single day at the same time -- unfortunately, I have not figured out a way to specify which days to text. When the winter months are over, just go into your IFTTT dashboard and turn the weather text recipe off until next year. 

IFTTT texts me from a certain phone number, and I just programed that into my contact list as "IFTTT" so I know who it is. Because I often have morning duty outside during the school year, the weather is texted to me every morning at 6:02 am. {I put my phone on "do not disturb" when I go to bed, so I never even hear the texts on weekend mornings when I try to sleep in.} Here's what my current text thread from IFTTT looks like:

You can see that I spiced up my text message by making it tell me good morning and remind me to have a good day. Don't judge gotta take the encouragement where you can get it, amiright? ;)

Obviously, if you receive a text like my last one, where there was a 15 mph wind from the NW, you might want to jump on the weather app and check out the wind chill before taking the kiddos outside.
In the meantime, I'll cross my fingers that IFTTT implements a wind chill ingredient soon!
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Saturday, November 8, 2014


If you're a fan of Smore {read my post about it here}, you'll love Tackk! I heard about it over the summer, but I figured there was no reason for me to have accounts at two very similar websites. Now I'm kicking myself for not investigating it earlier... 
What It Is
Tackk allows users to create online posters with text, videos, audio recordings, pictures, and embedded widgets and links. Each Tackk {poster} is stored at its own unique URL for easy sharing. 

  • 100% free
  • Account not necessary to create a Tackk {only downside? Anonymous Tackks are deleted after 7 days.}
  • E-mail address not needed to create an account or sign in -- kids can sign in with a social media account or with Edmodo
  • Free iOS app
  • Customize the poster's text, colors, and design
  • Add headlines of different sizes, colors, and fonts to make them stand out next to regular body text
  • Add photos -- upload your own, grab from Instagram or a specific URL, or use Tackk's partnership with 500px or Giphy to find a photo to use
  • Adjust the size and add captions to photos
  • Add video from 150+ {YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, U-Stream, Animoto, ShowMe, etc. included -- here's the complete list}
  • Add audio from 22 sources {SoundCloud, Spotify, Rdio, Grooveshark, etc. included -- here's the complete list}
  • Add a button to make links more visible:
  • Ability to add "listings" of things you can sell directly from your Tackk {PTO and spirit shops, I'm lookin' at you.}
  • Add a contact form -- all responses are sent to your e-mail inbox
  • Embed widgets to things like other Tackks, a Poll Everywhere poll, Prezi, Listly, Screenr, SlideShare, Twitter, etc.
  • Add an RSVP {I'm thinking of field trip, class party, extracurricular group event, etc.}
  • Make your Tackk public or private
  • Option to add password protection to a private Tackk
  • "Tag" Tackks -- similar to tagging in Blogger or Evernote -- as a way to collect and/or organize data. {For instance, I would have my students tag their Tackks with special phrases to ensure I could find them easily.}
  • Customize the URL {only downside? the URL is an extension of and not your profile, so no other Tackk user can ever personalize their poster with the same name}
  •  Add an interactive comment stream -- great for encouraging conversation between your students. {Admin rights gives ability to moderate.}
  • Create an assignment template so students only have to click and edit {more about that below}
  • Saves automatically every few seconds -- similar to LiveBinders 
  • Duplicate your Tackks to save yourself time creating similar posters
  • Transfer ownership of your Tackks to a different account
  • Variety of sharing options when you're finished:

I like that I could embed all the class's Tackks onto my school webpage, or even create a Tackk that links to everyone's Tackk {how's that for a confusing sentence?} to show off student work to parents and the community.

Assignment Template Feature
I have to  share the assignment template feature with you. There is currently no tutorial on the Tackk blog that tells how to utilize the lesson template feature, but I got the inside scoop from a sweet and knowledgeable Tackk rep {shout-out to Andria!}. She's going to write a blog post about it soon, but I thought I'd share here, too. 

The assignment template feature lets you create a Tackk that is editable and share that with students. So instead of sharing a static page that no one can edit {here's example I created about ABCD drawings in a science notebook}, you share this editable page that acts as a template for the assignment. For instance, here's an editable template about the scientific method. If you give students the special link to your template, they can edit a copy of your template without ever changing your original. 
To create an editable assignment template:
  1. Create a Tackk. 
  2. Customize the URL under "Tackk options." 
  3. Make the Tackk private, and then publish it so it's live.
  4. Before sharing the link with students, edit it so that "/create/copy" in written after For instance, my scientific method page is So to let kids edit it, I would share this link, instead:
I love the idea of this for my elementary students! 

Because I only have 50-60 minutes total with each class per week in Science Lab, I often print a recording sheet to glue into the notebook -- especially for my youngest students. Not only does it help prompt them about what step in the scientific method comes next, it's a way to help speed up their writing so that we have time to do an experiment and write about it in our notebooks, too.

I can definitely see myself transferring some of my recording sheets into Tackk templates. From there, I envision students tagging each assignment with a specific phrase so that I can assess and share. 

I'll leave you with my first full assignment created on Tackk {link here if you want to see the full version on the Tackk website}. My fourth graders are actually in the middle of this assignment, so I probably will not get to use Tackk for it until next year. But now that I know the process, I'm sure there will be plenty more Tackk projects to come.