Using Workflow in the Classroom

Today I'm excited to share one of my favorite apps that has been released in the last year. This post has gone through many iterations before finally being published because I understand that a lot of teachers are not super nerds like me. An app like Workflow could become overwhelming very quickly, and my goal is to make technology more accessible, not to seem complicated. Yet Workflow can be so incredibly useful, even without understanding how to create your own workflows, that I felt compelled to write about it.

So please, don't be alarmed. I think if you read all of this post, you will have an appreciation for the power of this app, and an idea of some of the things it can help you do in the classroom.

What is Workflow?

Workflow is a powerful automation app for iOS. The app allows you to string together actions to create super-actions called "workflows." These actions can be anything from taking a photo, to saving a file to Dropbox, to getting directions in Maps, or scanning a QR code. There are hundreds of actions to choose from, and they can be chained together in powerful ways, creating very efficient ways to get complicated work done in iOS.

A few examples of workflows I use regularly outside the classroom are Make PDF which will make a pdf out of almost any input and ask me what app to open the pdf in, CalMap, which pulls up the next item on my calendar and gives me driving directions to that event, and Home ETA which finds my current location, determines my travel time to get home, and texts that to my wife.

I could spend a lot more words here covering the basics of the app, or I could refer you to people like David Sparks and Federico Viticci who have better intro resources for this app than I could ever make, and spend my time sharing how the app is helping me in the classroom.

I'm going with the second option, and I think the best way to do this is just to share with you some of my workflows. There will be links to download each of these to the app on your device, so you won't have to design them yourself from scratch.

Random Student Picker

There are a few apps out there like Stick Pick where you can input a class list and then have it select students randomly. These are great, but if you already have Workflow, you can complete this same task there.

In this workflow, I have just 3 simple actions. First, a list of student names. Then "get item from list (set to random item)," followed by "Show Alert". After inputting your students names into the list, when you run the workflow, it will instantly show an alert with a name. It's fast and easy.

The workflow can be downloaded here.

Math Problem Generator

If you're anything like me, one of my biggest struggles in teaching math is coming up with example problems. I feel like my brain always goes to the same numbers for some reason. So I created a workflow to help me generate math problems using random numbers.

Because in 2nd grade, we're primarily focused on addition and subtraction, that's all this workflow can do. If you wanted to tweak it for other types of problems, you could easily do that.

When run, the workflow will prompt you to tell it what kind of problem you are doing. From there it will generate random numbers (for subtraction, I made it so the first number is always bigger than the last), and put the selected function symbol in between the two numbers to give you a problem which will pop up in an alert.

YouTube Video

This workflow can be downloaded here.

Makeup Work Reminder

At an elementary school during the winter, the chances of having perfect attendance any given day are slim to none. For some reason, I am terrible at remembering to give kids make up work when they return. I wait too long, and then it isn't reasonable to expect the student to do as well on an assessment a few weeks after the content was taught. So I have created a workflow to remind me to give makeup work. This was the workflow that made me realize this app isn't just for nerdy tech bloggers. It has real uses for me in the classroom.

When the workflow begins, it prompts me to choose the absent children for that day from a list. It then asks me what assignment needs to be made up. In the version of this workflow that I use, it then creates a note in OmniFocus, my task manager of choice. However, I created the version I am sharing to create a reminder in Apple's native Reminders app everyone already has on their phone. The reminder will be called "Make Up (Assignment Name)", and you will be prompted to set a reminder time/date. In the notes section, it will place the names of the students who need to make that assignment up.

If you use Omnifocus, Todoist, or several other task managers, you can simply exchange the Reminders action with the action that works in that app.

Download this workflow here.

Music Timer

This workflow was one that the Workflow team actually created and published in their gallery. I use it all of the time in my classroom to help with transitions.

The workflow asks for how many minutes you want to play music for, lets you select a song (or songs), and will play music for that amount of time followed by a bell sound to let students know their time is up.

Download this workflow here.

Grading Assistant

Grading papers is one of my least favorite things to do as a teacher. I created a workflow which asks me how many points were possible for the assignment, ask me how many correct answers a student got, then tells me what grade they received. It will repeat this for the entire class and give me a list of everyone’s grades in the app Drafts so I can easily copy them into our online grade book.

Download this workflow here.


Workflow is incredibly powerful, and gains new features regularly. The team behind the app are geniuses, and having regular innovation from them makes the app well worth the price.

You can search for workflows online (insert links), but if you choose to start learning the ins and outs of the app, you are really only limited by your creativity.

For example, for Read Across America Week I created a QR Code scavenger hunt in which students would scan the code, Siri would read a question about Dr. Seuss, and Workflow would prompt them for an answer. If they got it right, the app would then read them the clue to locate their next question. If not, they had to go through the process again until they got it right.

Aside from creating 10 rhyming questions and clues, the actual programming part of this was finished in a matter of minutes because of how easy Workflow makes automation on iOS. I'm excited to see where the developers take the app next, and as I create more classroom workflows, I will post them here.

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The Class Nerd @theclassnerd