The other day I was lamenting the challenges of dealing with the overwhelming amount of information at a mouse click’s distance. Last year our school made the move to Google Apps for Education, which I was genuinely excited (some might say stoked) for. I’d already been using Google Docs a lot by requiring my students to create a gmail account and register their info on a Google Doc. Loving the collaborative benefits of Gdocs, I figured I’d have my students put lab data into a class spreadsheet and then create lab reports in small groups. 36+ emails later with (or w/out) various subject headings, email names (e.g. cutiepie70356) that are unidentifiable, and entirely informal content.
A year later, and slightly wiser, I’ve learned a few things. A few basic steps ahead of time can make life a lot simpler. Here’s a screenshot I marked up to show a couple of these tips described below:
- Labels – these are great for organizing the daily glut of emails. Labels are superior to folders (sorry Outlook) because you can have multiple labels on the same email, whereas an email can’t be in multiple folders at once. Labels can also be nested so that they are organized under other labels (e.g. classes>apbio). This is easy to do, just add a a new label that is preceded by the desired parent label followed by a backslash (classes/apbio) See (a) & (b)
- Standardized titles – When kids first started sharing boatloads of Gdocs with me, they were coming in a totally uncontrolled fashion. Now I require that any doc they share with me is titled in the following way: FirstLastName_Period_Assignment….This makes it easy to sort them out into folders. I create folders for each class in my Google Docs page and then subfolders for each assignment. See (c)
- Filters – I require each student to include in their signature (call me old fashioned but I require that they actually address me with Mr. Paulson and conclude their message with their name) a label that identifies their class. For example, “apbioC10” corresponds to my (surprise) AP Bio class, in period C, 2010. I’ve created filters (see (a) in the pic) that automatically direct messages containing the content “apbioc10” to be labeled “classes/apbio/c” This is a tiny thing initially but saves me the hassle of manually labeling each message day to day. (UPDATE: forgot to mention that filters could also be designed to sort out shared documents based on their titles, provided they follow a standardized format like described above. For example, I could create a label for the assignment “photo vocab” that was nested – classes/apbio/photo – and use the “Has the words” criteria to select for emails that were sharing their presentations with me automatically.)
That’s the tip of the iceberg anyways. I’ll revisit Google Apps again soon…a Wave post is in the future blog pile….