Apple’s Production Manager for Apple Automator Sal Soghoian is no stranger to any Apple developer. One of the names behind Apple’s Automator Workflow application he shared the stage with Steve Jobs while introducing this whole new way to work. To many Automator is just another icon in OSX yet to be explored but the reality is Automator offers us all a much more efficient way to work.
Taking the example of the education setting Sal has put together a really simple to follow guide on how Automator can come to the aid of the teacher and is actually much easier to use than you would think.
The Education Setting
At first glance, the words “teacher” and “automation” don’t seem to be a logical pairing. When thinking of “teacher,” terms like creative, inspire, lead, and mentor seem appropriate.
But if you look past the uplifting synonyms, you’ll find that words like harried, stressed, and stretched, often better reflect the realities of the modern educational systems, where more and more is asked from our educators.
In this environment, automation becomes an ally and indispensable assistant. Managing a classroom of desktop or laptop computers is daunting task, even for systems professionals.
Making sure all computers are setup correctly; that their desktops are restored and applications put away; that assignments are distributed, or are packaged and labeled properly for submission; that support materials and media are distributed and installed; even confirming that all students are viewing the same webpage; all of these tasks present challenges to teachers and can end up occupying most of their limited instruction time.
But there is help. While you can’t automate the creativity of teachers, you can automate the drudgery of classroom management. Each of the previous scenarios can benefit from automation, through the use of scripts, applets, or workflows that perform essential processes and steps automatically as needed.
For example, a simple AppleScript droplet could name and label a classroom document dragged onto its icon, and then automatically place a copy of that document into a teacher’s assignment drop-box on a server.
Or an Automator workflow could automatically close all open applications, clean off the desktops, and open the next assignment on forty computers, all triggered by the teacher selecting a single item from a menu. These solutions aren’t theoretical but exist today and are available for you to use now, for free.
Every Apple computer running Mac OS X, comes with two powerful automation tools pre-installed: Automator and AppleScript. Automator is an application that enables you to create “automation recipes” (called “workflows”) through a simple drag-and-drop process. And AppleScript is an English-like language used to write customized scripts that automate the computer and the applications that run on it.
Both of these automation tools were created and designed for use by motivated Macintosh users who want to simplify complex or redundant tasks, like renaming a hundred files, or mounting servers and copying disk items to them. The links provided below, point to online resources for learning how to take advantage of these free technologies.
In addition, specially designed for the management of classroom computers are a set of Automator workflows called the Teacher’s Helpers (see links section below). This collection of over 30 workflows is designed to work with Remote Desktop, Apple’s application for managing networked computers.
The Teacher’s Helpers provides easy access to common classroom management workflows by selecting options from an installed menu. And every workflow in the Teacher’s Helpers can be quickly and easily customized by you in Automator.
So, if you’re an educator in need of an extra pair of hands, grab a cup of coffee, sit down and browse these links. Enjoy!
Product Manager Automation Technologies
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