Microsoft Bookings for the Family Communications Win!


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By Tammy Brecht Dunbar, M.Ed., STEM, The Tech-Savvy Online Educator

If you’ve been teaching as long as I have, you will not have fond memories of organizing family meetings during Conference Weeks.

Sending home flyers with proposed days and times, hoping they don’t get buried in a bottomless backpack, never to be seen again. Having a beautiful, organized conference schedule written out neatly as you waited for confirmations to come back, only to see things like: “That day or time doesn’t work for me,” or “Can we do it next week?” or – every teacher’s least favorite – “Are you available at 7:30 p.m.?” After so many erasures and changes, you had to rewrite the schedule again and again while still trying to get any response from one or two stragglers.

Enter technology.

Office AppsThere are many online appointment apps with which I’ve experimented and tested. Without naming names, the problem for me was they took a lot of my time to set up. They were neither intuitive nor easy to manipulate, and, once I did manage to figure it out, they wanted to charge me to get rid of advertising which nearly crowded out the content.

Then Microsoft introduced Bookings.

Bookings is integrated with your Microsoft 365 calendar, and it allows you to create multiple Booking events, customize appointment details (especially days and times), and make it so easy for families to click and schedule a conference day and time that works for them.

Look in your Microsoft 365 account: click on the waffle, and, if you don’t see Bookings, click on “Explore all your Apps.” You’ll be excited to discover this incredible new app that saves us precious time and is, what I like to call, a teacher’s favorite “F” word – Free!

Booking process When you click on “Bookings,” you’ll be taken to a screen that shows your Personal Booking Page. If your district has shared a such pages with you, you’ll see that, too. But what you want to click on is “Go to my booking page” to get started creating your Conference Week sign up.

If you’ve never done this before, or even if you have, just click on the plus sign (“+”) to create a new Booking!

Booking process 2Once you’ve done it several times, you’ll see all the past Bookings you’ve created, so if you can’t remember how you organized your last conference week, it’s easy to click and look back!

Title your Booking, then add any text you like to inform families what you expect from them. With a toggle, you can even have Bookings generate a unique Teams link for a family to use when they set an appointment (which will appear on your Microsoft 365 calendar and which they can add to theirs). That link works for anyone, inside or outside of your district’s domain! Set the length of each meeting, then choose “Public” if you want everyone to see your booking page or “Private” so only people with a booking link can see it.

Conference WeekNow you can customize the days and times you are available to meet with families by clicking on “Use custom availability hours!” Tip: Use the plus signs (“+”) at the end of each day of the week to add more than one span of time. This is especially useful if you’d like to leave some time for lunch! Advanced options allow you to buffer meeting times as well as customize and send email reminders and follow-ups!

Once you’re happy with your Booking, click on SAVE at the top right! Now it’s time to share! The SHARE button lets you either copy the link to your Bookings page so you can copy and paste to post it anywhere OR click on “Email” so you can just add email addresses right there and click send!

I used Bookings for our first Trimester family conferences in Fall of 2023, and it worked perfectly: I spent less time worrying about setting up the conference schedule and more time working on what I wanted to share and say to each family about their wonderful students! Plus, all my families signed up – most telling me how easy it was to use – so I had a beautiful schedule in my Microsoft 365 calendar that I never had to erase or rewrite.

Try Microsoft Bookings and save yourself a lot of time!


Tammy DunbarWritten by the Tech-Savvy Online Educator 

Tammy Brecht Dunbar, M.Ed., STEM 

@TammyDunbar 

 5th Grade Online Academy Educator 

Manteca Unified School District 

MIEE Master Teacher Trainer 

Fulbright Fellow & CA Woman of the Year 

 

NCCE Professional Learning Specialist 

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