This guest post was written by Andy Waters @peorbust.
With it being such a busy time in education with the exam season being upon us I have been looking at ways to try and improve my productivity. It was suggested that I could worker longer hours…….. that got a sarcastic and rude reply. Instead, I have been looking for a way to get more organised during my PPA’s, more productive during any gained time and more proactive in completing my to-do list.
The main thing I like about Google calendar is its flexibility. It has the potential to do so much for me and can be used in so many different ways. In this post I want to give you some examples of how I am using the calendar to help me achieve my goals listed above.
Calendar as my timetable
By entering my classes as reoccurring events and colour coding them I have set up one calendar as my time table. My PPA’s are left blank and when we get to this time of the year I can start to delete events as I lose Yr 11 classes.
I have a shared mark book that I link to in each event so that I can enter data on each class as I have them. I also use this feature to plan lessons and either link to slideshows in my Google drive or websites that I am using in that lesson. It takes a bit of setting up at the beginning of each year but the effort is well worth it. I have had a few issue with a 2 week timetable but by deleting specific events you can make sure that you roll from one week to another even with a holiday in between.
To book equipment
Within my department we have a class set of iPads. A fantastic resource that gets a lot of use, but to make sure that the whole department knows when they are being used I have set up another calendar. The calendar has been shared with the department who simple book out the iPads by creating an event in the calendar. All staff can then check on the availability of the resource from anywhere including when planning lessons at home. This could be used to book out any resource, from science equipment to class sets of text books, from IT suites to the school camera! It is a really easy way for people to keep track of where resources are and by sharing the calendar and allowing multiply editors anyone can book out equipment as and when they need it.
To make appointments
Using a 3rd party system called YouCanBookMe you can set up a booking system straight into your Google calendar. For schools that have not already invested money into a booking system this is a great free alternative. Parents evening appointments can be booked straight into the calendar by the parents themselves with email notifications being sent as confirmation. The system also allows for messages to be sent post meeting which is really useful, if like me, you normally end up with a dozen post-it notes with various things to follow up on. The shortest bookable time with this system is 10 minutes though, which for most schools is too long. Ideally, a 5 minute block would be much more useful for parent’s evenings but as a free alternative to an expensive booking system you cannot complain. As a Pastoral leader in school I also use this system to allow parents to book into see me regarding any issues that they might be having. It is an extremely flexible system and can be set up to ensure that you can only be booked when you want to be. So if you have a fixture one night after school you can block that time out and no one can book a meeting with you.
Goals are the new thing in Google calendar, recently released and promising to help you achieve everything you have every wanted to……well nearly.
Goals are easy to set up and to use and can be a great way of becoming more productive. In essence they are events that you set up but can then defer or override if another event clashes with it. If this does happen Google calendar will then reschedule the goal event for another time so that it is not forgotten about. When Google released this new feature I think they had in mind goals such as – go for a run, exercise more and that sort of thing. But it is not limited to that and I think it is the perfect tool to help you get more done. Let’s say you have to review the scheme of work for Yr 9, you set that as the goal, you then answer a few questions such as “how often” and Best time of day”. Calendar then looks at your calendar and schedules the best time for this goal to be achieved. By limiting it to once a week, and setting the time frame up for school hours your calendar will pencil in your goal event in an appropriate slot. If a meeting comes up or you want to defer the session calendar will reschedule for another time that week. And the best part of this is, the more you use calendar the better it gets at scheduling the goal events at times when you are most likely to be able to do them.
I have found this feature to be incredibly useful. It means I no longer have to check my calendar for a space to do the important things(!) such as PEP reviews or progress checks, events are created once a week and one way or another I get time to do them.
The potential of this system is limited only by your imagination and the fact that Calendar must be turned on by the GAFE administrator in the admin section of the system.
The only limitation at this moment in time is that Goals is only available on mobile systems (iOS and Android) and not on the desktop version, a mistake by Google looking at the forums!
So, whether you are setting yourself a new Goal, wanting to take more control of the school resources or looking for a free alternative to a parents evening booking system Google Calendar has everything that you need and more.