Though the work of a teacher is never ending, there are several things my school does with technology that make my day run more efficiently, thereby saving time. Maybe I’m just not good with paper, but organizing the paper flow of a teacher’s “office” has always been difficult for me and often sent me in circles looking for something. Check out these paperless options.
1. Laptops. Instead of a teacher’s lounge with desktops, like many schools have, or a few desktops in the classroom, each teacher is loaned a laptop for the year. The school is new, so the laptops are new Macbook Pros, and they are fast and reliable. (Each year the school brings on new staff, so the cost in any given year of this isn’t so far from the cost of maintaining and updating a computer lab at the school.)
2. Gmail accounts. Every faculty member and every student at the school has an email with their first initial and last name on the school’s Google server. This makes it easy to email anyone without hunting for their email.
3. Google Docs. Every meeting agenda is sent out ahead of time as a Google doc. One person at the meeting takes notes on the Google Doc. Action steps are easily accessible, and the doc can be updated at a subsequent meeting without anyone hunting for their notes. I used to have a HUGE binder full of notes and handouts from meetings. Now I just have my laptop! This means that I cannot forget where I put notes or handouts. It also means that everyone has the notes, not just the facilitator.
4. Google Calendar. If I want to meet with someone, I check their schedule in Google Calendar and invite them to a meeting, or vice versa, instead of hunting through confusing schedule documents that are often not accessible to me anyway. And if I want to sign out the laptop cart for my classes? Each laptop cart has it’s own calendar. I just check to see that it’s not already “busy” and invite it to my classroom! This much quicker and more reliable than walking to a central location in the school and check through the one existing copy of a paper calendar in a binder.
5. Teacher Pages. As part of our school’s Google server sites, each teacher has a page for his or her classes. We update the homework and provide other helpful information for our classes. Not every student has internet access at home, but the majority do, so this is an easy way to help students and parents stay on top of the work. The Google site has limited capabilities, but is extremely easy to work on as opposed to some other school sites I’ve tried to use, such as echalk.
6. Gradespeed. I’ve been using an online Gradebook for a while. For anyone not using one, it takes about 15 minutes to figure out how to use and it is a huge timesaver. If your school doesn’t subscribe to one, there are sites you can use yourself that cost less than $50 a year. But what I like even more about how my school uses Gradespeed is that we take attendance on it. I have my laptop open on my desk. After the first five minutes of class I enter attendance. That means if a student comes late to my 4th period class, I enter it into Gradespeed, and the school can easily access data about which students are chronically late to class and at what points during the day. Detention is assigned to students who are late a certain number of times in a week. I also can’t count the times that I filled out (or forgot to fill out) the old paper attendance sheet and then couldn’t find it when the attendance person came to collect it–that could easily become a lengthy disruption to a lesson (again maybe I’m just not good with paper). Gradepeed and other online grade books can be set to send automatic email messages to parents about lateness or missing homework. I’ve never used those features, but would be interested in trying at some point.
7. Google Spreadsheets for Parent Phone Log. Instead of every teacher having his or her own way of logging parent contact, there is a form that becomes data in a spreadsheet that I fill out when I make parent phone calls. I just enter the name of the student, my name, whom I contacted, the reason, the result of the conversation, and press submit. Somehow, typing that information seems much easier than filling out a graphic organizer by hand or finding the students’ note card and recording notes on the conversation. I’m actually faster at typing now than hand writing…
8. SchoolNet. This program allows multiple choice tests to be scanned and graded electronically. It does take some time upfront to load a test into it, but it eliminates the grading of anything that can be done in the multiple choice format (you can do short answer or essays, but have to grade them yourself, then enter a score for that question on a bubble sheet). I think I will need to address this more fully in another post. Of course, I don’t give that many multiple choice tests. But, for example, practice state tests can be given and graded immediately. You can link each test question to a state standard, and get data about how students scores in relation to specific standards. Finally, using that feature, I’m working on a way to grade student writing on a rubric I’ve created, then creating a “test” where each category of the rubric is a “test question” tied to a standard. Then I can plug in students’ rubric scores for each test question and have data about how students perform on different areas of their writing. That will help me track their growth as writers throughout the year. This is still a work in progress for me as a timesaver, but the capabilities of SchooNet open up a lot of opportunities–and why take time to do something a computer can do faster?
One of the only things that remain in paper form is student work. What would it be like if every student had a laptop and internet access at home? I know some schools and districts around the country are doing this. That will have to wait for another post.
[image credit: faqs.org]