Sunday, April 26, 2020

Don't Blow Up Your Co-Workers' Inbox with Calendar Invites

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During this COVID-19 crisis, it's easy to overlook small details when communicating with colleagues, students and PLN members. I am just as guilty as anyone. Not too long ago, I absent-mindedly forgot to hit BCC when sending out my blog to my blog subscribers consequently showing everyone's email address. My mistake cost me some subscribers, and I don't blame them. I have since been extremely mindful to not make this mistake again.

In my job, I support multiple school sites with multiple administrators. Like everyone else, administrators are also feeling like first year educators. There is no "wise old man" expert on education in this crisis. We are all doing the best we can. At least I think so.

The purpose of this anecdote is that small mistakes can have larger consequences. Email, more than ever, has become extremely important for communicating with colleagues and students. Scheduling Zoom and Google Meets is a daily occurrence for some. Each scheduled video conference is accompanied by an email invitation. With emails flooding our inboxes, it can be difficult to manage and some important messages might get missed. Anything we can do to limit the traffic in our inbox is extremely helpful during this time.

The best tools to unclog your overflowing email inbox - Poynter

As weekly Zoom and Meets are scheduled, help stem the tide of emails by not scheduling each event individually in your calendar. Instead, make sure you have a shared calendar for all staff or stakeholders. Doing this generates one email for them to accept access to the calendar. Schedule the events on that calendar without inviting people to each individual event. Once they accept access to the calendar, the events appear on automatically on their calendars. This eliminates the flurry of emails and need to accept each invitation on the part of staff and stakeholders.

See below how to create a shared calendar in Google Calendar. 

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Friday, April 24, 2020

The Right Side Panel in GSuite

Efficiency and convenience are two important things when trying to improve and maximize your workflow. Tab hopping, though not difficult, isn't the most efficient method of multitasking. The seconds wasted hopping through multiple tabs in Chrome add up to minutes. With more and more tabs open, the brain power used to remember which tab is which app/site wears on you. Anything to make this process easier is welcomed.

Not too long ago, Google added a right side panel to apps such as Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Slides and Google Sheets. This panel is viewable by clicking the little arrow icon in the bottom right corner of the aforementioned apps. This side panel gives you at a glance access to Calendar, Keep and Google Tasks. 

In Gmail, Google Drive and Google Calendar, there is another button, below the default "at a glance links", for Add-ons. For example, in Gmail, you can install an Add-on for Zoom or DocUsign on the side panel. 

Using this side panel within GSuite is a great way to improve your efficiency and workflow. As an educator, my favorite way to use the side panel is the ability to add important emails as a task in Google Tasks. This helps me set reminders and due dates for action items I receive on a daily basis. 

There is also a great feeling I get every time I complete a task and it disappears from my list. When you complete all tasks, it says good job.

Something as simple as having my Google Calendar in the side panel, at a glance, while working in Gmail is another workflow improvement. This helps tremendously when scheduling emails, video calls and other tasks. 

With students, the side panel is a great way to have kids easily access notes and sources when writing. If kids take notes from different sources in Google Keep, they can open Keep in the side panel while in Google Docs. Any notes can be added directly into the Doc to jumpstart their writing.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Keep Your Inbox Decluttered and Keep a Record of Distance Learning Interactions with Gmail Filters

Now that we are waist deep in distance learning, there are a myriad of issues we have to deal with. One issue is that of a cluttered inbox. Distance learning brings email to the forefront, more than ever, of our day to day communication. Accountability is another thing. I have heard of governing bodies planning to audit LEAs and districts for how they attempted to connect to students during this crisis.

A way to kill both of those birds with one stone is Gmail filters. If you are using labels to organize the messages in your inbox, you are part of the way there. The issue is that you need to take the time to actually move those messages into labels. Gmail filters can expedite and automate this process. 

Bulletins Label
As a tech coach who supports multiple school sites, I get emails daily for the school bulletin. Before the crisis began, I created a filter that funneled all daily bulletin emails directly into a bulletin label. If I felt the need to see the bulletin, I simply opened the label and quickly found the email for that day. 

Google Classroom users know that an email is sent to you every time a student comments or turns in an assignment. This leads to a steady stream of emails that can easily make a nightmare out of your inbox. Veteran Google Classroom users will simply go into the settings and turn of email notifications. But in this crisis, when we may be audited for how well we communicated with students, you may want to keep the email notifications on. This is where Gmail filters come into play.
Google Classroom Emails Label

A filter can be set to funnel all Google Classroom email notifications into one label. In the case of an audit, you can simply show this label to concerned parties as evidence of your various interactions with students. 

To set a filter for this, follow these initial steps.
- Go to settings gearbox and click settings
- Click Filters and Blocked Addresses
- Click Create New Filter

The next steps for setting up the filter are as follows.
- Type (Classroom) in the row that says "Has the words"
- Click Create Filter
The final steps are as follows.
- Check the box that says "Skip the inbox"
- Check the box that says Apply the label
- Click the label of your choice
- Click Create Filter

When you finish this process, those Google Classroom notification emails will be funneled into your label. This does put the onus on you to check the label from time to time and as needed. But in the event of an audit, you'll have easy access to the various Google Classroom interactions you had with students.

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Google Meet Now Integrated Within Gmail

As Google Meet has surged in popularity, Google has integrated this tool into Gmail for GSuite users. This has yet to roll out to consumer accounts ( What this does is allow you to start and or join a Meet straight from Gmail. 

Your text chats via still remain below the Meet options. When you click on them, you can still video call someone via the Classic Google Hangouts interface. 

The video below demonstrates how this works.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

One Way SPED Teachers Can Support Distance Learning Via Google Classroom

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In a distance learning environment, it can be very difficult for SPED teachers to support classroom teachers as well as the students on their caseload. If your school is doing a SPED teacher co-teaching model, one idea is to have the SPED teacher be added as co-teacher in the Gen Ed teacher's Google Classroom. 

From there, the SPED teacher can help differentiate instruction as well as provide alternative assignments that meet SPED students' accommodations and learning needs. Below is a simple example of this. 

- Gen Ed teacher adds SPED teacher as co-teacher in Google Classroom
- Gen Ed teacher assigns an article to read and write a paragraph summary on Google Docs
- Gen Ed teacher assigns to all students except the SPED students
- SPED teacher (if having text read out loud is an accommodation) uses Screencastify (or any screencasting tool) to read the article out loud as a video
- SPED teacher creates assignment (assigned only to SPED students with this accommodation) with read aloud video instead of article for SPED student to use before writing summary

In the sample above, SPED students with accommodations will only see the assignments that have the accommodations. The SPED teacher will have an easier time evaluating their work as well. 

The video below shows how this idea can be executed. 

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Did Your Google Classroom Mysteriously Disappear? Check Archive!

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As we have transitioned to a distance learning model, for GSuite users, Google Classroom has become more important than ever before. Since the quarantine began, I have led numerous virtual training sessions on the many aspects of Google Classroom. As more and more teachers have begun using Google Classroom to facilitate distance learning, I have received a handful of SOS messages saying their Classrooms are not showing up when they go to Google Classroom.

The likely culprit to these mysterious disappearances is Classrooms being accidentally archived. As odd as it sounds, this is more common than you'd expect. Even a Google Certified Trainer and Innovator like myself has fallen victim to the accidental archive of a Classroom. If you are caught in this situation, don't fret. Simply click the "hamburger menu" (three lines) at top left corner of the Google Classroom page. In the sidebar that appears on the left, scroll down to the bottom where it says Archived Classes. You'll see all of your old, archived classes there. Find the one you want, click the three dots on it and select Restore. From there, go back to Classes in the sidebar menu and you'll find that Classroom back among your current list of Classrooms.

Check out this YouTube video below to see how this is done.

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