Introducing the Four D's
I was introduced to these recently and I like them. They seem like a really good way of effectively managing your work email account.
The fastest and easiest way to clear out your inbox. If the email doesn't apply to you, doesn't interest you or requires no further action from you, DELETE IT! Leaving them in your inbox is just going to clutter it up.
If you have an email that can be actioned or responded to in a few minutes, then do it! Handling small jobs on the spot and moving on prevents your future self being burdened with a pile of smaller tasks.
In some cases the email may not concern you or may be better handled by someone else. Pass it on. It is often wise to respond to the sender, copy in the person you have delegated the email to, explaining the situation and thus avoiding the sender thinking you have ignored them.
Delegation can also mean filing. We sometimes have emails with useful information we just need to keep. This is when we delegate that email to a folder for future reference. I have a whole library of folders that I use to file away important emails so I can access them as I need them. I have folders in relation to day to day operational things, parent communication, online subscriptions, professional development records, receipts and so on. The types of folders you create will rely on what you need in your individual role.
Deferring seems to be everyone's favourite way to deal with emails. Most of the time we are either making work for our future self that can easily be forgotten or adding emails to increasingly large pile we never get back to.
Deferring emails must be done carefully. If you have an email that will take a little more time to respond to or that requires some thought, you can defer that for your future self to take care of. Do this purposefully by flagging it within your email client which will add it to you to do list.
Manage your subscriptions
You don't always have much control over who emails you at work. But you can manage your subscriptions. Many teachers are members of online programs, professional learning networks and social media. Managing your preferences on these accounts or unsubscribing completely from email communication can go a long way in cutting the junk that clogs up your inbox.
I hope your have found this guide helpful. Please share any other strategies you find useful when it comes to dealing with your email inbox.
I see it almost daily as I make my way around the school. Teachers laptops, with desktops that look similar to the picture below:
Setting it up
We have a mixture of devices running in our 1:1 classroom environments. The majority of our students are still working on iPads, but this year we have opened up our BYOD program to include Windows 10 devices. Office 365 and OneDrive works across platforms, so all students can access the suite of Office applications and OneDrive easily on any device. In addition to this, our trusty IT team has very cleverly developed a script that allows student OneDrives to connect automatically when they log in on a shared school device in the Lab. This allows our students to work across operating systems and provides a place for students to save their work regardless of what they are doing or where they are.
Teaching good habits
After setting up student OneDrives, I have worked with each class to help students learn to manage their files in OneDrive. Student OneDrives will follow our students all the way through their senior years of schooling and in those years could well get out of hand. I compared managing their OneDrive storage as similar to managing a drawer of clothes and that it was much easier to locate a pair of socks in a well organised drawer than a big jumble of random clothes.
With a little guidance, the students created a folder for the current school year with sub folders for different subjects. Some older students who have been 1:1 for a couple of years, created folders for their previous school years and tidied up their old documents also. Considering that we were doing the digital equivalent of cleaning their rooms, they were pretty enthusiastic.
The second key point made with the students was about what students were calling their documents. So many students had a list of Word documents called "Untitled", "Untitled (1)", "Untitled (2) or other generic names like "maths work". When asked what they were, the students had no idea. This helped me push home the point about labeling documents well. I was able to demo how a well named document could be found using the search feature on any device.
Even if the students take a little time to get into the swing of saving to their OneDrive, I do think making students responsible in this way is going to give them the opportunity to develop stronger file management skills and organisation. It also broadens their thinking about digital systems, data and data transmission.
A recent update to OneNote is the ability to embed Microsoft Forms into a notebook simply by dropping the direct link on the page.
Microsoft forms allows you to create simple quizzes with multiple choice, ratings, or short answer responses. It boasts a really clean user interface, that is easy to apply an attractive theme to as can be seen below. Creating a quiz is quick and easy to do. You can share your quiz via a link, QR Code, via email or it can be directly embedded. I have found it useful for creating lesson exit tickets as well as formative and summative assessment. In today's lesson with year 6 students, I used it to collect student reflections and peer reflections via the Class Notebook.
After completing their product, the teams had to complete the self reflection in the OneNote Class Notebook. The feedback Form was on the activity page that was distributed to all of the students notebooks (using the Class Notebook add in). The students did not have to leave OneNote to complete and submit the questions which made collecting student feedback and reflections very easy.
Minecraft Code Builder
I am guilty of trying to avoid the Minecraft craze in schools, hoping it was just a phase. It seems Minecraft is here to stay and is going to be even more useful now that Code Builder for Minecraft has been introduced. I have always been for tapping into student interests and making educational connections, but never really made the connetcion in Minecraft until now. This feature will provide a highly engaging way to directly address key curriculum descriptors in a highly engaging way.
Code Builder for Minecraft: Education Edition is a brand-new feature that allows educators and students to explore, create, and play in an immersive Minecraft world. Partnering with familiar learn-to-code platforms like ScratchX, Tynker, and a new open platform called Microsoft MakeCode, players can not only develop computational thinking but can also apply their creations across the curriculum.
So I now join the Minecraft party, kicking and screaming. I will be spending a day while in San Antonio for ISTE, doing a 1 day Minecraft Education Teacher Academy. You can sign up to do this here.
Shiny New Devices and Operating Systems
In my experience over the last few years, the touch screen and digital inking capability of the Surface Pro 4 has made it a standout in the classroom. While the iPad Pro also boasts a lovely inking experience with pencil, it lacks the full operating system and the possibilities that come with that. Buying an iPad pro in Australia with keyboard, pencil and similar specs puts it in the same price range.
Pairing with their new devices, Microsoft launched Windows 10 S, a shaved down version of the operating system which also boasts tight security and speedy deployment features. These are ongoing issues in schools, as is the need for quick reboot between users of shared devices. In the demonstration, the device running Windows 10 S did boot up at an impressive speed. Anyone who has taught in a school computer lab situation, will know how very dreamy this is.
Microsoft Teams - the New Classroom
I am sad to hear that Microsoft Classroom will never leave preview. After using it this year I was disappointed but had high hopes for it. At any rate, it seems as if Microsoft have taken the best of Classroom, combined it with Teams and will launch a Teams for Education later this year to coincide with the start of the American school year. The demonstrated version highlighted the collaborative nature of Teams, but I understand more is yet to be revealed in the coming months.
This approach is bigger than just going back to the good old days of integrated studies units on such topics as "Pirates", where you painted a pirate flag in art, wrote a story about a pirate in English and floated your pirate ships in tubs of water in Science.
****** pauses to reminisce about the good old days of teaching ******
We are teaching in a post-curriculum-apocolypse, where the curriculum was torn apart and reborn into highly specialised and specific areas. Bringing those areas together is one thing. The second and even more difficult part is bringing them together in ways that have authentic connections and links to the real world. We are wanting our students to work the way real world Scientists, Engineers and Mathematicians do to develop solutions to needs they identify and in ways they control.
On behalf of teachers everywhere...
(and sorry kids....the Pirate party is cancelled...)
Its not all doom and gloom
Anyone who has played then game long enough knows, this is how education is. While change is daunting and letting go of those unit plans you spent hours on is heartbreaking, working on new units of work is always exciting and it's an opportunity to create something even better!
So, 2017 has become my year of opportunity as we move into developing our STEAM units across the Primary Campus. The teachers of each year level have worked alongside our Teaching and Learning Coordinator and myself to develop ideas for our units this year. It was a big undertaking to be sure and while I don't think we will get it 100% right the first time around, I wanted to share an example of what we are doing.
A STEM approach to learning combines Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to fuel student centered inquiry or problem based learning. In more recent years the Arts has been added to the acronym causing much debate and differing opinions on its validity in the mix. But, lets leave this debate for another blog....
Year 6 Unit: Our first attempt with STEAM
I am really excited by the Year 6 STEAM unit that is currently underway this term and what is even better, the kids are too! Last year I sat down with the year 6 teachers and pulled together as many relevant descriptors as we could to build our unit. The difference from past approaches to integrated units was that we focused on connections to the real world, student centered learning and a problem based approach. We wanted our students to be thinking about designing solutions with real world applications.
From here, using Solar Buddies as a model of design thinking and real world application, students will design and build their own solar power products using a variety of materials, including Little Bits. The aim is for their designs to be made to address a specific need or problem they have identified. Students will need to develop their solution and suggest its potential impact. The culmination of this unit will be a Solar Energy Expo where teams will showcase their products to parents and members of the community. Other curriculum areas, such as Mathematics, English, the Arts and even Geography have been neatly tied in to support the unit.
While the unit is exciting on paper, it is a little scary as well as it relies heavily on students taking charge and leading the way. It is "teacher as facilitator" in every sense of the word and it makes me nervous for sure...but you cannot discover new lands without stumbling through the wilderness a little.
Stay tuned to see if I make it out of the wilderness alive...
Read all about my thoughts on teaching in the 21st Century, my experiences with technology in the classroom, running a Maker Space, launching STEAM and Design Thinking with students, coding, robotics and much more!
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