While the boom in tech gadgets and computer apps has created many pitfalls, the same technology offers powerful, useful tools to teachers and administrators. Here are a few tools that have proved helpful for me. All of these tools are free and available to anyone with a Google or Gmail account.
For a number of years, I’ve posted all of our major school events on a Google calendar (I opened an account specifically for the school). Parents can then sync the school’s calendar with their personal Google calendars, helping them to keep track of the school’s schedule. Events can be made to recur on a monthly, annual, or customized time frame.
This feature enables me to back up files on my computer to the cloud, allowing me to access them anywhere and from any device. This way, I can work from school and from home. It also allows me to share a file or an entire folder of files with someone else. For example, a part-time teacher is teaching a church history course in my classroom. To share all of my teacher materials with him, I simply go to Google Drive from my Gmail account, right-click on the “Church History” folder, choose “Share” and then type in the email address for the part-time teacher. That person will then receive an email with a link that allows him to open that folder, look at files there, and download them to his computer if he wants to (the person does not have to have a Gmail account to access the files).
This is a web-based document processing app similar to Microsoft Word. I’ve used this to create documents that I want to share with a group of people. We have an event at our school every March called Dad’s Day, in which the dads come to school, grill and serve lunch to the students, and play games with them. I used Google Docs to make a simple sign-up sheet for the food, then shared it with all of the men, allowing them to access the document to sign up for the items of their choice. This information updates in real time, and so it made it easy to see what items were covered and which were still open. This was much easier than other methods that we had tried in the past.
This is a tool that allows you to build forms to share with people and get their input. Registration forms allow people to register for events. You can easily create surveys to pose a particular question or issue to patrons or students and ask for their feedback. These can be set up with fill-in-the-blank responses, multiple choice, or drop-down box options. This tool allows you to share the form by entering the email address of the individuals that you want to receive the survey or form, and they will receive a link that opens the form for them. As the creator, you have access to a page that compiles all the responses.
This is a web-based spreadsheet program similar to Microsoft Excel, can also be very useful for record-keeping and information-sharing. Thanks to the suggestion of another administrator, I’m using a Google Sheet file to manage the agenda and notes for staff meetings. I have a space on the sheet for the agenda, another for notes, and another for actions taken. I share this file with all of the teachers, with a space for them to add questions or notes to the sheet as well as add items to a shopping list throughout the week. We add a new sheet to the file for each staff meeting. When the basic template is created, it can be duplicated as many times as necessary. The nice thing about this is that the notes for an entire year’s staff’s meetings are in the same file. A similar kind of file can be created for the school’s regular events, with one sheet for every event—a tab for Open House, one for Parent-Visit Day, one for Christmas program, etc. Every year, plans and notes for those events can be added underneath the plans and notes from previous years, simplifying the process of re-planning the event from year to year.