One of technology’s greatest gifts is the manipulation of time. In my experience, no amount of prep periods can ever be enough for the time and effort teachers spend working. Whether it’s the planning, grading, and teaching or time spent working with students, parents, and administration, the school day is packed. We need to use our time effectively.
Take this week for example. In addition to my regular teaching and coaching, I have district meetings, interview committees, and a site visit. I know that some of my classes will have subs or be cancelled, and I wanted to plan ahead. I love that my students can check my Google Site or Classroom for updates and reminders, but sometimes I want more control over the details, like scheduling.
Thankfully, there are technology tools that help us get the job done. It’s great when that technology can help make communication easier and more efficient, but it’s even better when it can improve your planning and workflow. Sometimes, it’s okay to give students a lot of information at once, but there are times when I wish that technology could be used to plan things on my schedule. And now it can.
With these free tools, you can not only improve your communication but plan to do it better by scheduling the release of your communications. These are tools that I stand by and use regularly to make simple communication easier, more efficient, and more automated in my teaching practice.
1. Google Classroom
All of the work in my classroom is organized with Google Classroom. One of the great things about Google Apps for Education is the iterative nature of the product: it always gets better. For example, the ability to reuse posts and save drafts were great additions. Two weeks ago, another important update rolled out: scheduled assignments.
You can now create your assignments and schedule them for timed release in advance. Unfortunately, you can’t yet schedule a timed release for more than one class at a time, so rely on the reuse post feature for that one. Still, this is a powerful new update for Google Classroom users. For more info, check out Dani Kennis’ blog post, Google Classroom: Scheduling Posts.
I love Remind. The product is great and the Remind team is wonderful, too. I wrote about them almost a year ago in Why I Remind, and they certainly deserve a spot on this list. I use Remind regularly to do the job the name implies--to remind my students of stuff. Whether it’s a change in the schedule, a homework reminder, or an update for parents, Remind is my go-to site and app. Earlier today, two students chatted with me about a grade, and I was able to reach out to another student who is home sick to check in.
Most weeks, I schedule a dozen reminders on Monday. When my class is cancelled tomorrow due to meetings, I have three reminders scheduled already to remind my students about their work and responsibilities. When an essay or project is due, reminders are scheduled with helpful hints. Sometimes, I just send reminders with jokes. No matter the purpose, I almost always schedule them in advance and send them to multiple classes at a time with the click of a button.
I love Twitter and Tweetdeck is my favorite tool to manage the Twitter feed and workflow. The site lets you organize Twitter by search terms, like hashtags, notifications, and more. For example, I currently have columns open for my notifications, scheduled Tweets, and hashtags #edtechchat and #satchat. I’m also logged into multiple accounts on Tweetdeck at once, so notifications for @TheEduCal and #TheEduCal are there, too.
In addition to making Twitter easier to manage, Tweetdeck allows me to schedule my Tweets in advance. I do this when I have individual Tweets to schedule; for bulk scheduling take a look at Postcron below. Every day, I schedule the #JokeoftheDay for a 2:30 PM release with Tweetdeck. It’s the most important tool for my day-to-day Twitter use.
Postcron is a tool to schedule and publish posts on social networks. I use it to schedule Tweets and Facebook posts for my blog, #TheEduCal, and to promote events.
Please note that Postcron uses a freemium model; you can add six social media accounts and program up to ten posts at a time for free. With the paid plans, you can do so much more. It’s one of the very few services I pay for, and I use it to upload a Google Sheet of Tweets--hundreds at a time--including images. Every promo Tweet from #TheEduCal or this blog is scheduled with Postcron, and the ability to mass upload Tweets with links and images is the best I’ve found. I couldn’t manage my sites and social media without it.
When technology can make my life easier or help me automate workflows, I want to let it. These tools are just some of the many resources available to help teachers make communication easier and more efficient, and to capitalize on our planning. Teachers are planners--it’s in the job description. It’s time technology caught up.
What are your favorite tools for improving or scheduling communication? Share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter.
cross posted at www.aschoenbart.com
Adam Schoenbart is a high school English teacher, Google Education Trainer, and EdD candidate in Educational Leadership. He teaches grades 10-12 in a 1:1 Chromebook classroom at Ossining High School in Westchester County, NY and received the 2014 LHRIC Teacher Pioneer Award for innovative uses of technology that change teaching and learning. Read more at The SchoenBlog and connect on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.