Information is sent to educators daily through email. Announcements and to-do lists are sent, files are shared, and companies and associations sell their products and services. Inboxes fill quickly, and in a Google world, Google Drive’s Shared with Me can become an endless list of files. In any given day, I can have up to 70 emails in my Inbox, with countless attachments and important notes. I know my staff’s inboxes are filled with the same information as well, much of it sent from me!
With so much information coming our way through email, it is important we sort through it efficiently. Even more than that, it is critical that I, as a leader in my building, find the most effective ways to share information with my staff so that it doesn’t bog down everyone’s email and is easy to find later.
Since I work in a Google Apps for Education district, we have many tools available to us that make information sharing so much easier. In the past, I have used Gmail and Google Drive for sharing. However, by using these solely, I am contributing to the overabundance sitting my staff’s Inbox. So, after talking with others in my PLN, this year, I am going to try sharing with another Google tool – Google Classroom.
Google Classroom streamlines announcements and assignments in one place for our students. A teacher can assign homework, share a link to a video, and make announcements for the upcoming field trip, all in one place for our students to see. Easily managed and files placed directly into Google Drive, Google Classroom allows teachers to effectively and efficiently communicate with students in one place.
If it is so easy to streamline information and share with students, why not use this with staff? This year, my staff is willing to give it a try with me. My goal is to centralize information, announcements, and files in one place for my staff. I will still share ideas with them via email and Google Drive sharing, however, I am focusing my sharing in Classroom, so teachers just need to go to one place to find it.
Over the summer, I set up “classes” in Google Classroom, but instead of classrooms, I created grade level and specialty area “classes”. Each grade level has its own “class”, so if I have information to share with just one grade level, I can put it in their Classroom. I also created a “class” for my leadership team and AdvancED, our accreditation process, giving the co-chairs of the school improvement steering committee the ability to be co-teachers in that “class”.
With “classes” set up, it was now important to share my vision before inviting my staff to each “class”. I decided to plant the seed of this idea in my summer notes to staff so they knew the “Invite” would be coming their way. I shared my vision of streamlining information with them, receiving positive feedback in return. With the vision out there, I invited my staff to their respective “class” in Classroom. Since my staff knew it was coming, they accepted the invitations quickly.
There are a lot of documents shared at the beginning of the school year. With Classroom now in place, I decided to share it all through this medium. I focused “Announcements” in Classroom on the beginning of the school year files and Drive folders that I needed to share. Each Announcement was titled according to the file name, making it easy to find in the Classroom stream. For staff “To-Dos”, such as sign-off forms and other tasks, I created an “Assignment” for each item. Within Assignments, I am able to note “due dates” as well, and teachers can mark when they have completed the task by clicking “Done”.
With so many “classes”, I can post Announcements and Assignments to all “classes” at the same time, so identical messages and information are shared. If I do need to make edits, I have to go into each “class” separately to do that. I also want to be sure my stream does not become too long for staff, so I need to be sure to frequently review the Announcements and delete old information.
I have always found a critical component to any roll-out is follow-up with the staff. And so, I followed the posts with two key tasks. First, I followed-up with an email to my staff about the Announcements and Assignments. Since it was still summer break, many staff relied solely on their email before coming back. Since they were going to get an email with each shared Announcement and Assignment, I wanted them to feel at ease with what was happening. So, my first task was one email, highlighting what was just posted in Classroom. Along with that, I let them know we would be looking at this together on the first staff day, ensuring they would not be overwhelmed by all the information coming their way.
Here is my email to my staff:
Today, I invited everyone to a Google Classroom “class”. Our purpose of using Classroom is to have ALL files, videos, etc., all in one place for you instead of spread throughout your Google Drive. Once you accept the invitation, you will find all files I share in yourClassroom folder in Google Drive. On our first day, I will share this with everyone as well. My hope is that all our files and sharing will be easier, streamlined, with great opportunities for collaboration using Google Classroom! Please don’t hesitate to ask questions!
I have finished all the beginning staff videos for you … I expect these to be watched and signed-off on by August 31st.
If you have any questions regarding any of the information presented, please be sure to ask – you probably aren’t the only one with that question! I can cover those questions during our first staff meeting, so send those questions my way!
I look forward to seeing everyone soon!
The second task was the face-to-face follow-up during the first staff meeting for the school year. Everyone brought their devices, and for instructional assistants who didn’t have a device, I made sure we had extra Chromebooks for them to log-in and take a look at Classroom. I had everyone in the room hop on Classroom so they could scroll through the Announcements and Assignments, asking questions freely. It was a fabulous time, sharing this new streamlined process, as well as teachers helping each other. Feedback was very positive, and teachers were excited about the possibilities of everything they MUST know was now in one place.
Forming the Habit
Now that Google Classroom is in place to start the school year, my biggest hurdle will be to keep this momentum of sharing through Classroom. Once the beginning of the year forms and files are in place, I want Classroom to become a place not just for Announcements and Assignments, but for sharing of inspirational videos and articles, ideas and collaboration.
As a school leader, it is vital that I find ways to share information more effectively and efficiently. I want my staff focusing on the students in the classroom, planning lessons and analyzing data to better prepare our children for the skills they need to be successful. I do not want my staff spending time searching for files and emails containing important information and announcements. Google Classroom will pull everything together for teachers, so instead of them spending their time looking for that one email, they can focus their time on their students.