Get Your Digital Space Ready for a New School YearMay 11, 2021
At the end of a school year, most teachers are dreaming of the days when alarm clocks do not have to be set and coffee can be drunk in a leisurely fashion. But, just as we dream of summer, many of us are also guilty of planning and preparing for the next year long before the calendar changes to August. I am no different! I really love getting my classroom setup for a new year and finding new ways to make my classroom space more functional and inviting for students.
As 2020 taught us, we can’t just consider the physical space that students will be attending in the fall but have to give some of our attention to our digital classroom space as well. Depending on what your district decides is the safest option for students in the upcoming school year, your digital space might be visited just as frequently as your physical one! Plus, it can have a variety of visitors beyond just students including parents and community members. It is well worth the time to add your digital space to your list of back to school preparations!
1. Organize Your Computer Files
Starting a new school year allows you to have a clean slate. To get that same effect on your computer, you will need to take some time to delete and organize items into folders for easy access.
To make this job a little more fun, you can utilize the tools available to make your folders more visually appealing. For instance, you can pick color schemes and even add emojis to the file or folder name by copying and pasting them from a site like Emojipedia.com.
Did you know you can also update the look of your desktop folders by changing the icon away from that boring blue folder? I learned this from A Primary Kind of Life on Instagram. To begin, you need to have an image that is 500 x 500 pixels (6.94 x 6.94 inches) and has a transparent background. You can easily design your own by using Slides, Powerpoint or Canva. Once you have an image you like, you can copy the image and paste it into the information for the folder. Watch this quick video for a tutorial on how to do this on a Mac. If you are a PC user, check out A Primary Kind of Life on Instagram for the step by step directions which are saved in her highlights.
2. Setup Your Google Classroom
Out with the old, in with the new! In order to get your Classroom setup, you will need to archive your old classes. You do this by clicking on the three dots in the upper right corner of each class.
Remember---even if you archive a class it will still appear in your “Classroom” folder on Google Drive. Since you just cleaned up your Google Drive, you might also want to pop into that Classroom folder to separate your archived classes from the new ones you are going to add. I would recommend that you DO NOT DELETE ANYTHING from this folder. Instead, you can create a folder within it to drag and drop your archived classes into to keep this folder as organized as the rest of your computer. These old, archived classes come in handy if you reuse assignments from year to year!
When you are ready to add your new classes, spend some time designing one awesome class template with all of the features you like. For instance, personalizing your banner so students can easily find it amongst all of the others and setting up the notifications the way that you like them. Then, you can copy that template class and use it as many times as you like for all of the different ensembles or sections you have. To copy your class template, you click on the same three dots you used to archive your old ones. This time, choose copy instead.
3. Update Your Website
If you have a website, the beginning of the year is a great time to clear out all of the old and outdated information such as calendars, dates, or activities that are from the previous year. It is also a great time to revamp the functionality of your site for the ease of student use. Take a minute to view your site from the student perspective. How does it appear on the device students are using (if they use something different than you use to create the site)? Is it clear to figure out where they need to click? How many clicks does it take to navigate to the information that they need?
One great functionality upgrade you can add is a clickable launchpad. A launchpad would be housed on your website homepage and serve as the launching spot to all of the other pages on your website that the students may need. Like with your desktop folder images, you can use a variety of design websites to create something that is both visually appealing and easy to see on your homepage. Remember that Bitmoji classroom you made? This is a great use for it! This is especially useful for non-readers to be able to navigate through your site on their own.
4. Plan to Practice
Once your digital space is ready for the new year, don’t forget to plan for teaching students how to use it, just like you teach routines in your physical space during those important first 6 weeks of the school year. Plan for activities students can participate in that require them to access digital resources or opportunities to practice navigating through information like a scavenger hunt. The more chances students have to practice while you are there to help will make them that much more successful if they ever need to navigate the digital space from home.