“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” ~ Gustave Flaubert
Learning online can be an incredible journey but at some point you may feel overwhelmed with the surplus of information and resources. You may feel very excited about a resource you come across, but want to access that resource at some other date. Perhaps, you are teaching your students how to research online and they want to bookmark and create notes on websites. Many free webtools exist to help us quickly save, bookmark, categorize, store, and share information. These tools are very advanced and store our information in the cloud. Our information and the way we organize it is stored in cyberspace so that we have access to it when we connect to the Internet. Below are ways that I use this technology to keep me organized wherever I go. I hope the following tips and resources will help you and your students keep organized.
Jump on the bandwagon and get a Google account if you haven’t already. Google has so many tools that keep you organized and save you time. I will list a few of my favorites and how to use them. Learn more about each and download them here.
G-mail – Make the switch to g-mail. It has so many features and ways to keep organized. You can keep emails in various folders, star those that have priority, and filter emails into folders by keywords. The search feature is amazing and quick. Plus, the interface continues to get more intelligent and integrates with various Google apps and tools. For example, when my email has a date, my gmail will often pick that up and give me options to schedule that event on my Google Calendar. Another feature I enjoy is how easy it is to create contacts and categorize them. Next to each email, on the right-side, I can see an image of the contact if they are on GooglePlus or have a Google Profile, I can add them to circles, chat with them, or edit their details. My Android smartphone automatically syncs these contacts with their information and images.
Google Drive – If you haven’t already, make the switch from Google Apps to Google Drive. You have to sign-up for it and it will take a few days to be accepted. Once you do, you will have access to a storage platform that goes wherever you install it. It allows you to create and store text documents, PDFs, slide presentations, videos, spreadsheets, forms, surveys, and more! You can categorize the files in folders and give links to anyone you want to have access to them or edit them. The search feature is very advanced with many options. The best feature, though, is that whatever is on your Google Drive goes everywhere you go because you can install Google Drive on your desktop, mobile device, or laptop. You can even offline documents.
Google Chrome – This is my browser of choice, because it doesn’t matter what computer I use I just have to download the browser and login to have access to my bookmarks, favorite sites, and more. I carry my browser wherever I go with my preferred settings. Often, it will even remember passwords and login details for those I have previously allowed. This saves me a lot of time and aggravation when I cannot use my laptop. There are many customization options so I can personalize the background and make it look nice. Also, it has a very user-friendly interface that shows me clickable thumbnails of the places I visit the most. I can download several apps that tell me the time in all time zones, give me access to my bookmarks, and so much more. I can quickly install bookmarklets of the various online tools I use and they will be easily accessible in my browser’s toolbar.
Google Calendar – Create events and send yourself and students reminders. You can create and share various calendars with students and their parents. You can create a calendar for each class. One of the best features is that you have the option to send yourself and your students alerts a week/day/hour in advance. The alerts will pop up on your mobile device or you can choose to text the alerts to any mobile device to remind students and their parents of important events (like a parent-teacher meeting) or homework.
A bookmarlet is a tiny icon that can be dragged and dropped into most browsers. Many online tools like Diigo, ScoopIt, Pinterest, and Delicious have bookmarklets. When you click that icon, you will be able to use the features of that tool quickly. For example, when I click my Diigo bookmarklet, a small box pops up and I am able to quickly bookmark a website, add tags, categorize it, and share on social networks.
There are several free webtools that allow you to quickly bookmark, organize, and share resources. This means you have access to your bookmarks wherever you have Internet access. When you bookmark on any platform (a laptop, a friend’s computer, your mobile device), it automatically saves it to be accessed anywhere. Great bookmarking tools include Diigo, PearlTrees, LiveBinders, ScoopIt, Pinterest, Delicious, 19Pencils, MentorMob, and Magzinr. The best one of these, however, is Diigo. Diigo has so many options to get you organized and save you time. Additionally, you can bookmark from your mobile device with the free app and it has a bookmarklet. It allows you to create notes and highlight information on websites you bookmark. You can easily share your resource on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. You can set Diigo to create automatic posts on your blog of all the links you bookmark for the week or you can autobookmark any links you retweet or favorite on Twitter. The hashtags become the tags that categorize the information.
Your mobile device is your bestfriend when it comes to organization. Download free apps like Evernote, DropBox, Diigo, Google Drive, PowerDocs, and more to stay organized.The trick is to download the free apps that are linked to the organizational tools you already use online. This way you have all the information available on all your devices. Below is a description of two these apps.
Evernote has a desktop and online app as well as a mobile app. Create text, photo and audio notes that auto-synchronize your notes to your Mac or PC. Makes text within snapshots searchable. Add, sync, access, and share files (PDF, Word, Excel, PPT, and more) among the different versions of Evernote. Free version available on iPhone, iPod, Android, and Blackberry.
Dropbox has a desktop and online app as well as a mobile app. It gives you 2 GB of storage for free to upload photos, videos, documents, presentations, and audio. You can make these private or public (provides you a link to share for others to download). Save photos and videos taken with your phone’s camera, share and send files via email, or copy and paste links to share with another app. Export files to other apps and favorite them for offline viewing. Free version available on iPhone, iPod, Android, and Blackberry.
What are your favorite organization tools?
Be sure to bookmark ESL-Library’s Lesson Plan Calendar for supplementary material ideas you can use each month. Find links to lessons on special events, birthdays, holidays, and more. ESL-Library subscribers also receive a special file folder system to keep track of lesson plans and flashcards that they use for each class.
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Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a teacher trainer, instructional designer, and author. She has been recognized by various entities, such as the ELTon Awards, The New York Times, and Microsoft’s Heroes for Education as a leader, innovator, and visionary in the movement of teacher driven professional development, education technology, elearning, and mobile learning. She is the co-founder of #Edchat, the Reform Symposium Web Conference, and The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators. She has trained teachers and taught learners in 100+ countries and has consulted with organizations such as UNESCO Bangkok, The European Union aPLaNet Project, Cultura Iglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, and the British Council in South East Asia. She is the host of American TESOL’s Free Friday Webinars and shares regularly via TeacherRebootCamp.com, Twitter (@ShellTerrell), Facebook.com/shellyterrell, and Google.com/+ShellySanchezTerrell. She’s the author of Learning To Go, Byte-sized Potential, and The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers published by Routledge. Recently, she was named Woman of the Year 2014 by the National Association of Professional Women and awarded a Bammy Award for #Edchat. Website: http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/ Twitter: @ShellTerrell