Friday, September 13, 2013

FileMaker and the Band Director Part Deux

Sorry about that rant in my last post.  It was darned hot here.  It is surprising how much difference a break in the weather can make in my attitude.  Let's just say it is time the facilities around here got upgraded to the mid-20th Century.

Back to something more positive.

I did mention that FileMaker is my tool of choice for many things that I need to do.  This week the item on my plate is the student handbook signature page.

I am sure many of you have handbooks for the year.  There is a lot of information that needs to go home.  When the concerts are going to be held... what you are grading... SmartMusic/home computer information... uniform sizes...  You need to be sure you have communicated with parents about all of these things.  We have managed to get our middle school handbook down to 4 pages that spell out all of the expectations for the year.  We have a signature page on the document that needs to be returned.

Really.  We need this signature page back, because it has information we need to move forward.  We have uniform t-shirts.  The size to order is on that page.  We want SmartMusic to go to every house that has an internet connection.  Is that everyone?

We do give them time to turn it in.  Tracking that turn-in with FileMaker does make things easier.  I set-up a field in my data base for that.  I called it "handbook in" and set-up a layout with "name", "band" and "handbook in" fields on it.  Since the form has either been returned or it hasn't, I formatted the "handbook in" field as a radio button for the control style for the field.  I used "yes or no" as the two possible field values.  I started with everyone as a "no" for this field. (Command and = is a great short cut to change a field value for the found set.)  As the papers came in I would open my data base and change the no to a yes.

During the next couple of rehearsals, I am going to show kids my list of band students who haven't turned in their handbook page.  If it is in their locker and filled out, I will make arrangements to get it from them and change their no to a yes.  Others get a reminder.

OK.  Everything I have done so far could be done with a number of programs.  Here's the value of doing this in FileMaker.  At the end of today, I can find all the records of people that haven't turned in their signature page.  I have their e-mail addresses in my data base as well. (Can you see where this is headed?) So this afternoon, I am going to take about two minutes, find those kids with no spage turned in and e-mail their parents.  I am also going to attach another copy of the handbook just in case they need to print one out.

You don't really need to leave FileMaker to do this.  In FileMaker go to File>Send>Mail and this screen with some options shows up:

Basically, you choose if you want this to generate e-mails using your e-mail client or SMTP, one e-mail  or for everyone in the found set, write your subject line, add your attachment and send the message.  For addressing, I use BCC for a mail like this.  Not everyone needs to or should know who got this message.  If you use the "To:" address field, everyone who gets this message can see who got this message.

Yes, there are other programs that can do all of this for you.  Most of the time you are stuck with how they want to do the job.  There is a lot of flexibility with using FileMaker for this type of work.  If you have found other programs to do this, great.  If you haven't started doing this electronically it is time to start.

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