Tag Archives: information management

Get a grip on Google

5 Sep

Last week I led a series of PD sessions on ways to use Google Education Apps to make life easier in the classroom. Jumping on the Google Apps bandwagon can feel chaotic at first. Last month I posted a few Google Apps tips on this blog, but I wanted to play around with Google sites so I went ahead and created a site. It features some suggestions and walk throughs on some basic strategies for managing 100+ students, and hopefully minimizing the somewhat inevitable chaos that will ensue when they first start creating and sharing assignments with you.

Check out the site here.

drinking from the fire hose…safely

24 Jul

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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….

a drink from the fire hose

23 Jul

Lately I’ve been feeling a lot like a character from a favorite movie of mine, UHF

No, not Weird Al.

I’m feeling more like little Joe Miller after finding the marble in the oatmeal…

thanks Stanley Spadowski.

I jumped on the Google Reader bandwagon last fall when I started feeling like I was killing too much time surfing the web (I blame you StumbleUpon) thinking that it would streamline the assortment of internet gems that were consuming too much of my precious time. The end result was a huge organizational improvement. Thousands of articles on science, education, sports, trivial factoids, all a few clicks away!

An unintended side effect was that the ease of organizing and adding feeds led to extra feeds finding their way into my daily routine. I love the amount of personally selected, relevant info available in one central location but its hard not to feel like little Joey drinking from the not so proverbial fire hose.

My recent foray into Twitter has only compounded the flow of information. Just starting to get that dialed in but digging the possibilities, so long as I can convince a few folks to start following me who aren’t tweeting about #justinbieber or #freeipads…

PLN is a buzz word (acronym?) that teachers can’t seem to get enough of these days. While I’m the first to admit that I’m a huge slave to fan of connectivity, I’m also continually reminded how much I value interacting with human beings and how this is often lost in all the tweeting and blogging about PLNs. Maybe it’s the summer vacation away from my teaching buddies but I’m looking forward to getting the ole gang back together again.

The notion of information management is one that I’ll be revisiting again soon, right after I finish reading these 6,328 items in Reader…

fyi: if you haven’t seen UHF before, put it at the top of your Netflix queue – you’ll thank yourself, and then me.