Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Using Google to Manage your SBG Workflow - Gmail & Calendar

This is Part 1 of resources from a session at TMC13 to help you use Google to manage all the tasks that may overwhelm you. Instead of creating my own resource which may quickly go out of date as Google updates their products, you will notice I mainly link you to Google created resources/tutorials.

Part 1 Google Resources:

  • labels
  • filters
  • canned responses

  • sharing calendars
  • posting/embedding calendars
  • view work week/hours only
  • add event from your email
Managing your inbox can be annoying for those of us who like it to be empty and then their are others out there who shall we say their inbox is far from empty. One of the first things you can do is to set up labels (think of them as folders but with special abilities). Instead of one ginormous inbox, sort those emails into various labels. One tip, I have two labels I use often called "parent contact" and "student contact". The labels are sorted alphabetical. I wanted those two labels to be at the top of the list so I added an exclamation point to the label name to make them be at the top. 

Filters are another feature I use. I have many filters set up to put incoming email directly into a specified label and skip the inbox entirely. For example, I subscribe to some of the Smart Briefs by NCTM and ASCD. Sometimes (often actually) I just don't have the time to even browse through those. Instead of those newsletters cluttering up my inbox, they get sent to one of my labels. Then I don't feel the need to have to read them or do something about them right now. Instead, when I get a chance I click on the label and then browse the newsletters or just decide to delete them. Since our school district uses Google Apps for Education (GAFE), I was also able to easily set up a filter to send emails from students to my !student contact label. 

Another Gmail feature I use a lot is canned responses or email templates. I found myself having to respond to the same type of emails over and over again. Some common ones from parents/students are the "How can I get help" or "Where can I get extra practice" emails. I created a email template that I can easily use to respond to those emails. It is much faster than copying and pasting, it is a reply to option. One tip when creating your template, make sure the body of your message is completely blank. For example, if you have a signature that is automatically added, do not include it in the template otherwise it will appear twice.

Gmail guides/tutorials:

My wife and I are pretty organized. We both have android phones and have a personal Gmail account (along with our work/school account) that we rely on heavily. We have our accounts set up so that we can see each others events (and our kids). No more missed birthdays for me and I easily find out if I can play cards with the guys on a certain night.

One tip if you keep a personal vs work account, share any calendars from your work account with your personal account but not vice versa. As much as my life revolves around school, they don't need to see what I do when I actually have some free time. By sharing your calendars, you can create events for your work calendar(s) even though you are logged into your personal account. 

I have a calendar for each of my courses. 99% of the time my 1st hour Math 8 class is doing the same thing as my 2nd hour Math 8 class so I just use one calendar called Math 8.  I have that calendar embedded on my class webpage for students and parents to view. Students and parents with a Gmail account can also easily subscribe to the calendar so it automatically shows up on their Google account calendar. They now do not even have to visit my webpage. Whatever I put on that calendar automatically shows up on their calendar.

Since your work account probably only deals with Monday through Friday and only certain hours of the day (say 7am to 4pm), you can set up your calendar view to only show those days and times. This gives your screen more space. You can still create events for outside those dates and times, you are just setting up your view to default to a certain time frame.

One newer feature is the option to add an event to your calendar directly from an email. Say a students emails you asking to meet with you for help. If in their email they included a day/date and/or time, in the email message you will notice that Google makes that a link. If you click on it you can then add it to your calendar without having to manually create the event yourself. 

Google Calendar guides/tutorials:
  • To learn how to use Google calendar including the tips I mentioned above, view the calendar guide on Google Apps for Education Training Center.
  • There is not an official "Ninja" guide for calendar created by Google by another user did create one here.

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