Ammar Aquil is one of Microsoft in Education Canada’s Learning Development Specialists. He recently took Microsoft Flow for a test-drive, and it changed his digital life. Learn from a digital learning expert about how you can streamline your online!
“Just go with the flow.”
Has that saying ever actually relieved anyone’s anxiety? I know I’ve said it to a few of my students, and I also know it didn’t help them much. But now I think I’ve actually figured out how to put that advice into practice by letting Microsoft Flow handle my digital workload. You should definitely check it out! With all the time and effort you’ll save, you’ll be able to spend your days meditating, sunbathing, playing Minecraft, or however you choose to spend your time in between report card seasons.
Flow is a Microsoft product included with Office 365, meaning educators have free access to it as long as their school board has it enabled. There are a lot of neat things Flow can do, the core of which is connecting apps across platforms. Here are some basic examples. Flow can make it so that whenever you create a file in Google Drive, it automatically gets backed up in OneDrive, and vice versa. Or if you’re big into social media, Flow can make it so that each time someone tags you on Twitter, you can get a text or email notification. Now you know exactly why your ears are burning, as soon as you’re notified! Is it time to mark student work, and you want to head over to the local cafe? No problem. Flow can automatically copy all files from a given folder and sync them to OneDrive or Google drive in real time. Basically, Flow can be set to automate tasks so that you never forget, and you can spend your time contemplating more important things—like what’s for dinner!
If you’re as eager to go with the flow as me, head over to your Office Dashboard. Log in through office.com with your school board credentials, and Flow should be available under apps. If you don’t see it in the apps screen after logging in, click on “Explore all your apps” and it should be available there. Get started by clicking on the existing templates. That’s going to open up a search engine for pre-created, commonly requested Flows. This is the best way to get an idea of how Flow works. But if you want something that hasn’t been created yet, don’t worry! You can always make your own custom Flows as well! For now, let’s talk about some neat templates.
One of the most common requests I’ve received from school boards that are new to Office 365 is whether Google Calendars can be imported to their Office 365 calendar. Through Flow, not only can they be automatically imported and exported, but you’ll never have to worry about where you’ve updated a calendar! Through this template, every single time you update your Office 365 calendar, the same entry will be entered into the Google Calendar. Flow also has a template which allows Google Calendar to export entries created there to your Office 365 calendar!
If you’re already using OneNote Education, Flow has a variety of ways to plug in. If you’re curious about whether students are working on a particular OneNote, you can program it so that you’re given a notification through your phone every time OneNote is updated. If students are doing any kind of media analysis project on Twitter, they can set it so that tweets on a given hashtag are automatically sent to OneNote as well.
Maybe you’re still a bit too shy to dip into the Office 365 pool. No problem! Flow has you covered. You can find templates that can keep you comfortable in your work environment of choice without ever interacting with any other Office 365 product.
There’s so much more I want to share about Flow! It can automate approval processes for Teams or SharePoint. If you’re working with students on IEPs and want to share their progress with a teaching team, it can send out notifications specifically targeted at those students through Office 365. Automatically archive emails from specific senders, send phone notifications for important emails—I could go on forever! But right now I encourage you to explore how you can make your work a bit smoother throughout your digital landscape with Flow.
Head over to the education site for Flow and start exploring the possibilities!
If you’re looking for support in the classroom, Ammar or one of his colleagues on Microsoft’s Learning Development Specialist team are available for free, in-class PD or student sessions all across Canada. Book a session for your school at microsoft.ca/education. You can find additional PD resources, lessons, and a community of passionate educators at the Microsoft Educator Community. And if you’re interested in learning about the latest research into the needs of today’s students as they become tomorrow’s leaders, take a look at TransformEd: Class of 2030 for research, our future-ready toolkit, and educator summits across Canada.