Sunday, May 21, 2023

End of Year Tech You Can Do: Tip #1 Reflect

My final end of year tip could possibly be THE most important. It's one I take very seriously, but I didn't always. I'm tired. You're tired. We are all tired. BUT ... take time to reflect before you go full on summer mode. 


This year is freshest in your mind right now. All the ups and downs, the back and forth, the good and the bad. You'll never have a better view of this school year than now. It's also a great way to wrap up and end the school year. (And over your years in education, what a nice collection of reflections you'll have.)

Here are some of my guiding questions:
  • What were the 3 "best" things this year? 
  • What were the 3 hardest things this year?
  • What are 2 things that you do NOT want to change next year?
  • What are 2 things you feel you MUST change or do differently next year?
  • What was your happiest moment/activity/event?
  • What was your saddest moment/activity/event?
  • Who helped you make it through this year? Reach out to them and thank them.
The numbers on the above questions aren't magical. You can change them to best suit you. If you want to simply narrate your year, that's a great idea, too! 

When I was young teacher, I didn't take time to reflect. I really wish I had. Can you imagine the collection of year end reflections I'd have right now as I am wrapping up my 22nd year in education? I also reflect on my "to do lists", routines I did or want to change, and how I keep track of what needs to be done.

The best part about reflecting is that it can't be done wrong. But it IS an important part of wrapping up a school year, so please take the time to do your own reflecting.

Now ... on to enjoy summer!

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Sunday, May 14, 2023

End of Year Tech You Can Do: Tip #2 Clean up your LMS/Google Drive

This week’s tip is very important. I know we are all exhausted - you might you are too exhausted to tackle this. But I promise you won’t regret it. Depending on your LMS and how your district is set up, you might think you are in good shape, but there are a few key steps you really need to make sure happen.

Step 1: Return ALL ungraded work. Most LMS’ have a handy spot to see what work this applies to. In Google Classroom, go to your “To Review” list. In Schoology, on your main page, there is an area in the upper right corner that shows you what work needs action. Ideally this is a step you do on a regular basis throughout the year, so it shouldn’t be a lengthy task.

Step 2: Archive/preserve your current content. This depends on your LMS. 

With Schoology, your district might have it set to archive your courses automatically when the grading period is over. They might not. If they don’t, make sure you know how to - the last thing you want is to see all of this year’s courses when you start off next year. You might also want/need to do this with any course or group that you have custom created during the year. While you can access your archived courses fairly easily, we still recommend out teachers save their courses - if they want to - to their resources.

With Google Classroom, you will need to archive your current courses to clean up your Classroom homepage. Your district might be syncing your courses for you, which will take care of this step - minus any manually created classes you created. Teachers might overlook this step, but this one is SUPER important for your students, too! Any class their teacher has not archived will still be there for them next year … and that makes it tougher for them as they are still mastering the use of digital classrooms. You can re-use content from these classes even when they are archived. It will also keep YOUR homepage clear of clutter.  If you are looking for a more detailed explanation, please check out my End of Year Google Classroom You Can Do.

Step 3: Clean up Google Drive. Using an LMS like Schoology or Google Classroom is beneficial when it comes to your Google Drive. Both of these systems take care of the organization with work and assignments. This will leave you time to focus on cleaning up/organizing the random non-LMS related files we all accumulate over the course of a school year. I highly recommend setting a timer for this step.

Steps to take if you are leaving your current district: 

Now, if you are NOT returning to your current district, please still complete the above steps AND keep the following in mind:

Decide what you want to and are allowed to take with you. This is not as clean as you might think. Check with your Tech Director or IT person to find out the steps to take if you want to take files with you. 

I recommend to our teachers to make a folder in their Google Drive and move any/all files in there they want. Then download THAT folder. It will create a zip file. Click the file ONCE and then move the blue folder onto a flash drive (or if you are able to, upload it right into your personal Google Drive). This will preserve the files as Google files. Don’t open the blue folder! Also, do yourself a favor ... don’t take everything! You don’t need it. It might feel better to take everything, but really, you are just taking a lot of unnecessary items that you aren’t using now and won’t use in the future. 

In Classroom, all work basically funnels through Drive, so as long as you take the files you want, you should be good.

In Schoology, there are a few different thoughts:

  • if you are moving TO another Schoology school, this video by JillR "Schoology - Export Course Content/Importing into LMS (Schoology)" might be helpful

  • if you are moving to another school that does NOT use Schoology, I did find a page Export AND Download your courses from Schoology from the Forest Grove School. It provides specific steps as well as what can and cannot be downloaded.

  • I've never had much confidence in exporting for future use with Schoology - but that doesn't mean it isn't possible! If you create most of your items in your Drive and then use the Google Drive assignments, you should be good to go!

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Sunday, May 7, 2023

End of Year Tech You Can Do: Tip #3 Clean up your email

Email can quickly get out of control. I try to "tame" it on a regular basis, but I take special steps at the end of a school year. Today, I'm sharing them with you. You can use these at any time of the year and the more you keep your email in check, the less you feel like it's a battle. Let's jump in!

Make next year's folder:
I do this for NEXT school year at the end of the year. For example, I've already created a 2023-2024 folder. That way, when items start coming my way, I can go ahead and tuck them away.

Unsubscribe to unwanted/unread listservs:
Do people call them "listservs" anymore? I get a TON of these kinds of emails - thank you conferences - and it really helps me keep my inbox clean when I click the unsubscribe buttons. It takes about 6 seconds ... which I remind myself, that would be what it would take for me to delete that company's email for 2 months. So really, I'm saving myself time in the long run.

Create a "summer vacation" autoreply:
This might something worthwhile, but not necessary ... depending on your personal feelings. Crafting a "I'm on summer vacation until XXX. I'm resting, re-energizing, and recalibrating so I can start off next year strong."  ... then possibly add a message about the frequency with which you check your email over the summer. It could be that you won't be checking regularly or however you are comfortable sharing. This is TRULY OPTIONAL!

Adjust your email:
I find teachers sometimes use their school account for personal email items. I do NOT recommend this. I strongly encourage teachers to switch these to their personal accounts. This might only cause issues down the road. And if you don't have a personal email, make one and then make the switch. Gmail is a completely free option and there are plenty of other ones out there.

Go through your spam/junk folder:
I know this might seem backwards - why would you go through this folder? I've found that there are emails that I've missed because they've been tagged junk. The longer they sit there, the more I will miss them and some emails I've found in there are ones I need to respond to. (This is probably good practice every month or so.)

I don't do this often enough. I hold onto emails thinking I'll get back to them. And I don't. I go ahead and delete them at the end of the year. Seriously .... the delete button is sometimes your best friend!

P.S. I do not subscribe to the "zero inbox" rule and I DO use my inbox as a "to do" list. While these aren't bad ideas, zero inbox stresses me out beyond belief and I'll keep emails until I tackle that project/need/request and then I take care of it.

Bottom line - how you do email is a very personal thing. I hope my suggestions above help you feel more confident in control over your email.

If you are a Gmail user, I have written several blogs focusing on tips & tricks and helping you clean up your email. You find them under my Gmail label.

What is your top tip when dealing with email? I'd love to know! You can post it in the comments or email it directly to me - .

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Sunday, April 30, 2023

End of Year Tech You Can Do: Tip #4 Plan Your Summer Activities

I love lists.
I love being able to check things off said lists.
I love how organized I feel.
I love seeing what I've accomplished.
I love having a plan in place.

This week, I suggest you carve out a little time and create yourself a summer to do list. 

It doesn't need to be fancy ... but you can make it fancy. It doesn't need to any length ... you can always add to it or subtract from it. There is NO requirement. It's summer. I like to get a lot of home projects done during the summer. 

I started to create mine this weekend. I used the page in my notebook where I am planning each month's big picture to do's. It's the page right between June & July. So far, I've only added a few things - family pictures, family vacation, my oldest daughters - gasp! - senior pictures, and a couple of professional activities that are already scheduled. 

This week, I am going to add three categories that I know will have things I want to complete: home DIY projects, professional learning, and items to get done for school. My list will not be complete until summer is over; I'll add and subtract from it.

My goal is to check everything off, but plans change and somethings things aren't meant to get done. Ultimately, I do the things I CHOOSE to do - summer is my time. I WANT to do the things I put on my list. And believe me ... I get in plenty of rest and relaxation and sunshine, too!

For my summer professional learning, I'm planning to do a variety of activities: 
  • A couple of books I want to read
  • A certification or two I want to work towards
  • Podcasts to catch up on
  • Templates and activities to create and share on my blogs
If you are interested in starting to plan your list, be sure to check out the Professional Learning page here on my blog. I have been collecting free & low-cost ways for teachers to continue learning for quite some time. Many are in the "on-demand" style so you pick and choose and do them in your own time. I've begun adding some books that I have found valuable as an educator - these can be found by choosing "Book" in the secondary focus filter on the table. I plan to add podcasts, too.

What's on your agenda? Have you started thinking about it? I'd love to know what you are planning - whether it's school related or not.

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Sunday, April 23, 2023

End of Year Tech You Can Do: Tip #5 Clean Up Your Bookmarks

Over the next 5 weeks, I'm going to share a suggestion for you to wrap up the school year up. Each week one tip will ask you to focus on one major aspect of your "life" as far as teaching goes. Breaking it down like this will allow you to move into summer with a cleaned up digital life and be ready to start next year on better footing. (I also hope it will help you develop good habits moving forward so the clean up at the end of each year gets easier!)

Tip #5 is to go through your digital bookmarks. 
Let's do one of 3 things:
  • delete ➔ 
    • these are ones you don't even know why you have them OR
    • they were a one-time bookmark & no longer need them

  • organize 
    • put in an order for easy location OR
    • create/add to bookmark folders for groups of bookmarks

  • leave alone 
    • these bookmarks are perfect right where they are
You might be wondering why I suggest cleaning up your bookmarks ... I frequently see teachers struggling to find the sites they have bookmarked. We don't have a lot of "time", so bookmarks can be deceiving if you don't have them organized. They can easily become like your junk drawer. Lots of things go in there - good things, important things - but you can never find anything. 

If you want a more detailed explanation of how to make folders and other bookmark tips, check out this blog, Organize Chrome (in 5 Steps) You Can Do.

Take the time once a year to clean them up and you'll start next year off a little more organized ... and maybe even with the plan to keep it that way. My ultimate goal is that I don't have any bookmarks trailing off my bookmarks bar. (I DO have some folders, but they are necessary to keep groups of bookmarks together.)

Don't spend a ton of time on this. Set a timer for 15 minutes. If you are still working through your bookmarks, take a break and come back. 

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Saturday, February 25, 2023

Docs Scavenger Hunt You Can Do

I have been spending some time in 3rd grade classes lately and recently, I had the pleasure of showing them a little more about Google Docs. Docs is where most adults start when using Google tools, but it's the 2nd tool that students use (behind Google Slides). And at 3rd grade, our students already have a bit of background, so I used a "scavenger hunt" rather than a blank Google Doc.

The couple of weeks leading up to this tech lesson, we had dug into Google Slides, so I started this lesson off with "hands off" and just looking at your screen, compare Slides to Docs. [I HIGHLY recommend doing a visual comparison before jumping in ... you can quickly gauge how much each group knows/doesn't know so you can more easily pace your activities.] It's always amazing to me what stands out and what doesn't stand out. Some students notice very small things (one commented on not having the paint bucket in Docs) and others find much bigger things (the color of the "Share" button).

Moving into the actual scavenger hunt, I let the students know that I did not originally create it, but I DID modify it to better fit them. [Thank you, Catlin Tucker!] I've used this before with students and it works really well! This year, I broke up the questions a bit more to fit the amount of time I get to spend with them - my goal is one page per visit. 

I'm going to share the link to "Google Docs Scavenger Hunt for 3rd grade" here, but the link is going to take you to my co-written blog, Templates for Teachers. Keeping all of the student activities together makes a lot of sense. Now, I call it "for 3rd grade" because that is the group of students I use it with, but you are more than welcome to change it or take it off completely. Please also feel free to modify to add/subtract the "hunt". 

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Sunday, January 15, 2023

Google icon names You Can Do

How many times have you heard someone stress the importance of your words? I think about this often whether I am working with a group of students, teachers, or with individuals. 

I think about this when I refer to tools or files or actions and most definitely icons. Working with our youngest learners often forces me to describe icons or logos or "things" in order to get students to the correct spot. (And teachers find such humor in the names!) If you spend any time in a classroom - of any age - you quickly find you simply HAVE to be able to direct students to where you want them with your words.

After one of my recent classroom visits, I really thought about how I use words to describe. Probably the best way I can share this is with a video. I use these references with adults and kindergarteners ... and I honestly couldn't tell you who I get more giggles from, the adults or the students!

Additionally, I do my best to NOT be the "driver" in the lesson. For example, if a teacher asks for help cleaning up their drive, or how to clear their cache & cookies, I will walk them through it - but I do NOT touch their device. When I'm in classrooms working with students, I do my absolute BEST to NOT touch any of their devices ... I want THEM to do the clicking and moving. I often catch students (& teachers!) "helping" others by doing it FOR them. When that happens, I remind them to "Cheer them on! Point to the screen ... use your words."

After all, the person/people doing the "driving" is the person doing the learning. 

Now, go find those shark tooth's and pancakes and snowmen ... and listen for the giggles!

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