Sunday, December 27, 2020

2020: We Did It!

2020 has been quite the year! Ups and downs, ins and outs, twists and turns. It's a relief to be able to say "I've done it! I've made it!" ... and I'll bet you feel the same. 😀I truly hope we do not experience another year like this anytime soon.

When I look back at who I was and where I was one year ago, and I think about how I was looking forward to the challenges 2020 was going to bring, I could not have ever predicted what we have all gone through. I had plans for 2020 - and then they went sideways.

I'm not going to spend today mourning what could have been. Instead, I'm going to celebrate my 10 most read blogs from the year as a recap. The pandemic played a major role in what I wrote for the majority of the year - and that's what I want to celebrate. We might all be in different spots, but there are so many similarities that bring us together.

Not surprising, many of the top read are about Google Classroom. It has become a passion of mine to share tips and resources about Classroom. And during the spring closure, I had quite the revelation: we teachers need to stop looking at Classroom (or whatever you LMS is) as teachers. We must look at it as a student and then design our Classrooms with THEM as our driving principle. That shines as a guiding principle for many of my blogs this year.

Here are the "10 Most Read Blogs of 2020" ⤸ 

#10: Google Photos e-portfolio You Can Do - Are you looking for an easy way for students to share their paper work? How about using Google Photos? This is perfect for students of ALL ages! As the teacher, create the album for each student & share it to their account. Using the comment feature, you can also provide feedback on work they upload. Best part ... it all stays connected to the students' Google accounts!

#9: Grading Forms in Classroom You Can Do - I worked closely with a 4th grade teacher to create this workflow. Grading and returning a Google Form in Classroom so students can see both their grade and any feedback you provide is not the easiest ... but it IS possible! The key is in the settings you do - and don't worry, if you don't get it right before having students complete it, you can always come back and fix it!

#8: Google Classroom Item Types You Can Do - One of the easiest things a teacher can do to better organize and use Google Classroom is to strictly stick to using the best item type for the material being posted. During the spring closure, I found a lack of understanding of what the items types are "best" for. I share an entire presentation with specifics for each item type. (Be sure to check out the final 2 slides - they are handy, ready-to-print reference sheets!) And when you post your material strategically using the best item type, your students (& their parents!) will have less confusion as to what must be done.

#7: Insert Audio (... for kids!) You Can Do - And amazing update to Google Slides is the ability to add audio! Not only can you add audio, so can your students! When I shared this out in early 2020, my focus was not just on the teacher adding audio, but I shared this geared towards showing your students how to add audio. Step-by-step directions AND a quick-print PDF makes it even easier for you to add audio. Game changer for sure! 

#6: Research Template You Can Do - Many of my blogs are inspired by my day job, but quite a few are inspired because I am also a mom. I teach in a different district than where my girls go school, so I get to see how even more teachers teach. This one was inspired by how my middle daughter was doing research for a report. In all honesty, she wasn't taught HOW to research. I realized that for the most part, we AREN'T teaching our students HOW, so I created this template that ANY teacher can take, insert their specifics, and share it to students to provide a structured approach to teaching students how to research.  

 New Quarter = New Classroom You Can Do - With our "new normal", our need to keep our digital classrooms organized is even more important. Many teachers aren't teaching students in face-to-face situations, some are in hybrid situations, and some, even though they are face-to-face, rely heavily on digital classrooms to lessen the use of paper. I STRONGLY recommend starting with a NEW classroom at the quarter/grading breaks. Use these 7 steps to help you, your students, and their parents focus on the now.

#4: A Deeper Dive into Google Classroom Posting Options You Can Do - Did you know there are many posting options in Google Classroom? And just like item types, use them strategically to "better" organize your materials and you'll reap the benefits. Topics, scheduling, and draft mode will allow you to plan ahead, organize, and have material "magically" show up just when you want or need it to. Design your Classroom through lens of your students. It will pay off. I promise.

#3: Classroom Header Template You Can Do - This is purely for fun! Google Classroom provides a somewhat random image for your header. Based on the name you give your Classroom, you might get lucky that it matches the content. However, you CAN choose your own header, or even better, create your own and then upload it for a custom look. But, this allows you to go one step further ... include your students on the design of your Classroom and give them some ownership and pride in the look of the Classroom they use just as much as you. This can be a class project!

#2: Starting Google Classroom You Can Do - How much thought have you put into setting up your Google Classroom - or other digital classroom? My second most read blog in 2020 is one where I share an 8 ideas to really put some thought into as you set up your new Classrooms. If you are an administrator, I also recommend you go through this process as it will give you insight as to your recommendations for the teachers you serve and support. Doing this process as a teaching team, or even whole building, and ultimately aligning the general structure of ALL digital Classrooms will benefit your teachers, your students, and your parents. Not having to "learn" a new structure for each teacher will lessen the frustration at home, and right now, that is super important. 

P.S. this process can work for ANY digital classroom, not just Google Classrooms.

#1: Google Classroom "To Do/To Review" You Can Do - Late summer always brings updates to Classroom and this year is no exception. This year's BIG update was a "To Do" (for students) and a "To Review" (for students). THIS. WAS. MAJOR. With a click on the "To Do", students can now see all of their assigned work for all classes, or just one class. This simple look is game changer! I also tucked in a view of the teacher's "To Review" where you will see ALL assignments, or assignments for a specific class. This blog also shares some overall guidance for Google Classrooms.

I hope you enjoy this final week of 2020 and that you are able to rest, relax, and enjoy. Thank you for reading and sharing my blog out. I absolutely love creating, designing, and sharing out what I do. I truly hope that it is helpful. I will continue to share in 2021. And thanks to a conversation with a colleague and friend, I have a pretty awesome one to start the year off with! As a district we will start the new year off remotely and she was struggling with setting boundaries with students in this digital world.

Please feel free to comment below ⤵ - Tweet at me @kiefersj - on Facebook Sarah Kiefer - or even email me I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Innovation You Can Do

Have you had an idea of something to do or try but you are stumped with how to go about moving forward? I've been there so many times and I've seen so many educators in the same boat. Today, I want to share a framework for anyone who would like to move forward with an idea but aren't really sure where or how to start.

First, a little background. I was honored to attend the Google Innovator Academy in October of 2019. The goal of the academy is to produce a project that helps others. I focused on the idea that teachers have many ideas of ways to improve education but we struggle with execution. Time, energy, and direction are the hurdles. And often, it's overwhelming to try to tackle anything more while teaching full-time.

BUT I truly believe we, teachers, hold the keys to improving education.

With that in mind, my Innovator project is a framework to help you through the process of starting with an idea, to growing and changing and enhancing the idea, to ultimately what the designer sees as a "launch". No two projects are alike or will take the same path, so the framework is meant to guide the designer, rather than dictate a specific path. Ideally, the designer will team up with someone else to work on their idea. Having someone to lean on, ask questions of, bounce ideas off of, and to support can make a huge difference. Too many ideas are sidelined because the designer becomes stuck or lost or overwhelmed.

I'm grateful to three colleagues who've utilized my framework to further an idea they've had. One of these has gone through to a launch, the other two have been put on hold due to COVID. That's another piece to this - the projects won't be lost. We decided to put them on pause and we can pick it back up when we are ready and have the appropriate time and energy to put into it.

The one project that has gone through to launch has inspired me to spiral off of it to start work on a similar project that I will also use with the framework.

I am sharing the framework with you today. I've called it "Innovation You Can Do." This framework can be used both 100% digitally OR it can be printed on paper. Of the 3 projects I've been part of, all have preferred it on paper. We wanted to jot our notes during our meetings as well as in between our meetings.

Would you like your own copy of this workbook? Here's a link to the template versionHands down, I feel the "Idea Investigation" page is the foundation. I hope if you see it having potential use for you that you DO use it. I do plan on doing a few solo projects where the "Idea Investigation" is the only piece I will use. I know this page will force me to go through the process of solidifying my idea by turning it over and thinking it through.

I'd love feedback - whether you use this framework or not. Is there something I can improve? Do you have an idea or a project you want to use it with? Feel free! Let me know if I can help or be part of it. 

Do you have a comment about this framework? Feel free to leave it below ⤵

Or Tweet at me @kiefersj 

Or connect with me on Facebook - Sarah Kiefer

So many ideas have value ... but if you don't give them the space to grow, you'll never know!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Gmail: Accounts, Categories, & Filters You Can Do

I'm baaaaaaccckkkk! I took a much needed break the past few weeks but I'm back today to share some tips on how you can wrap up the year & head into the new year strong with better control over your inbox.

I don't know about you, but these days I feel like I have to really work to keep my email under control. Communication is massively important and email plays a large role in my ability to communicate and be communicated with. I am jealous of the people who can achieve a "zero inbox". (If I am being brutally honest, my goal - NOW - is to have less than 100 unread emails!) I truly believe there is no one right way to handle your inbox, but there are several things you can do to make it your inbox better. 

I have taken some steps over the years to help myself stay "better" organized in my emails - I have strict boundaries on the email accounts I have: one for personal, one for school, one for my Tech You Can Do items, and one that I am honestly trying to wean off of entirely. I have also become a big believer in the use of categories in Gmail and as well as filters.

Let's dive into my top 3 Gmail tips. (There might even be a bonus tucked in!) Try these tips on your inbox and I promise you won't regret it!

I hope you found something worthwhile. Managing your inbox is necessary, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming.

I've linked to my GMail Wakelet collection on the final slide - be sure to check it out for some other tips and ideas for your inbox.

Have any questions or comments? Be sure to leave them below ... or Tweet at me - @kiefersj ... or email me - .