5 Ways to Refresh Your Teaching and Tech-ing Practice during a break

1.  Podcasts

Play them while in the car, doing household chores, at the gym - it's free PD, whenever! There are a growing number of Ed Tech podcasts, but a lot of general teaching shows too. They vary in length, style, and quality.  One notable exception is my personal favorite, the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast.  I love it because she holds short, practical conversations with real classroom teachers about how to improve a small slice of their teaching practice or implement a new idea.   Here are a few in regular rotation on my phone:

2. Social Media

Many teachers lean on Pinterest, TeachersPayTeachers, and YouTube as their go-to social media platform for educational materials and ideas. But what those platforms are missing is the social part - connecting with other real teachers for practical advise.
  • Facebook Groups: There are many groups set up for educators around a particular content area, topic, tech tool, or other focus.  Two of my favorites is Teachers Throwing Out Grades (TTOG) and Teachers Going Gradeless (TG2) - perfect for teachers moving away from traditional point-based grading systems towards either a gradeless, Proficiency-Based, or Standards-Based Grading system - or anyone looking for creative assessment ideas.  I'm also in groups for National Board Certification, Flipgrid, Breakout EDU, and Technology Specialists. Do a search in Facebook for an educator group near you!
  • Twitter:  So you created an account once, then never used it.  Don't feel alone - you're part of the 54% of Twitter users who have an account but don't use it daily. But if you do feel alone as a teacher, Twitter is a great way to get off your teaching island and connect with like-minded professionals outside of your building.  It can seem daunting at first, but here's a great article on how to use Twitter for beginners. Follow a few people (like me! @SantosTechCoach - then see who I follow for ideas!) and lurk for a while. When you're ready to join the conversation, hop in!
  • Google Plus:  Google+ is no longer available to regular Google users, but anyone with an Education account can still use their school credentials to get in. Similar to Facebook groups, there are "Communities" you can search and join with like-minded professionals. When I need a tech tip, this is one of my first go-to locations!

3.  Blogs

Gone are the days when you need to sign up for an expensive class, buy and read entire books, or pay for peer-reviewed journal articles to get good teacher development training.  Here are a few blogs out there that have helped me along over the years. Most have an associated email list you can sign up for to get updates. Most also offer some form of (paid) online training if you are interested in diving deeper into a topic.  Don't forget to look the authors up on Twitter as well!

4.  Books

There is no shortage of educational books, and though we can usually count on our schools/districts to provide a quality text for a required book study, you may want to choose a specific topic to focus on to supercharge your teaching.  AJ Juliani published 100 Books Teachers Should Read, so I try to pick a few off of that list every year.   Aside from just pedagogy and strategy, I try to read something that involves education, children, or social justice in a way that is more about connecting with my "why" than it is digging into the details of "how".  I find it refreshing to re-read books like Water is Wide, The Education of Little Tree, and my favorite, Letters to a Young Teacher (or anything by Jonathon Kozol).  The part about Mr. Rogers visiting a school in the Bronx gets my allergies acting up every time.

5. Google Certification

One of the top 5 experiences that changed my teaching career was getting Google Certified. For me it was more than a badge and a resume builder. I learned enough about how to use the free tools at my disposal - and how other teachers were already taking learning to a higher level - that it shifted my entire teaching philosophy.  Although experienced G Suite for Edu users are probably already well prepared, it's worth the time and effort to go through the online coursework to find those hidden gems - tips, ideas, and mindsets that help you truly transform teaching and learning for students using technology.

There are many supports for teachers engaging in the process out there - I created one for District 83 Teachers at bit.ly/gce1mms, but you can look into Eric Curts and Kasey Bell for a good foundation too.

However you choose to recharge and relaunch your teaching next year, I hope you have an enjoyable summer and make tech integration one of your ongoing goals! Enjoy your break!

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Manage "Reply All" messages in Gmail

Please note: this tech tip is not in response to any specific individual's actions - it is simply an often-requested technology tip and etiquette question from teachers.

Muting Reply All

Occasionally we all find ourselves on the receiving end of group emails - and multiple replies - that do not apply to us.

To stop receiving replies to emails in an email chain, you can use the "Mute" function of Gmail:

1. Open the email message - either the original or any Reply All to it.

2. Click the three dots on the menu bar at the top of your inbox.

3.   Select "Mute"

This will prevent future replies to that email chain from reaching your Inbox.  Keep in mind, you'll then miss any future replies, so be very certain that there's no chance of missing something pertinent down the line.

Preventing Reply All on Emails You Send

If you are initiating a group email and want to prevent Reply All - for example, when emailing a group of students, you don't want them all replying to one another - @liblady83 recommends putting the recipients in the BCC field of the email instead of the To field:

1. In your new email, click the BCC field on the right:

2. Type the recipient(s), including Group email addresses, into the BCC field.

Keep in mind, BCC stands for "Blind Carbon Copy," which means none of the recipients will see who was BCC'ed. But that means they also won't be able to reply to anyone in the BCC field either.

And Now, a Word on Email Etiquette

Nowadays we all receive many emails, and it can be a daily struggle to filter through them all to determine which are a priority to us, which can wait, and which are deletable. That means it is also important etiquette to use discretion when sending messages to a large group.

When you click on the Reply arrow button in Gmail, it defaults to Reply - which sends your response just to the sender of that message. For many situations, this is the best option.

Clicking the three dots and choosing Reply All sends your response to everyone on original sender's email list. If it is sent to a Group email address, then everyone in that group will receive a copy of that message.

Reply All is a conscious choice that should be used when you have a question or comment that is pertinent to everyone, or at least  on the email chain. Some examples:
  • A logistical change that affects everyone - such as a time change for an event, a location change for a meeting, etc.
  • A question that multiple people in the group may want to give input on. 
  • All or most people on the chain need to be updated on future responses and shouldn't be excluded.
  • You are saying something that is appropriate to say to / in front of a large group (specifically, the group(s) you are emailing) and you need them all to hear it.
You definitely don't want to exclude people or groups from messages they need to hear. But good "netiquette" also involves being mindful of flooding inboxes.

For more perspective on the use of Reply vs. Reply All, as well as the CC and BCC fields and more, check out this blog post.

Happy Thoughtful Replying!

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Schedule Gmail Messages!

Gmail recently added a much needed feature: The ability to schedule your messages to send at a future date. Compose your email as normal, including recipients and any attachments.  

Instead of clicking "Send," click the dropdown arrow next to the Send button. There are pre-set times you can choose from, or select Choose the date and time to send. It must be at least a couple minutes in the future.

Here's what it looks like in action:

You can cancel the message by going to your newly created "Scheduled" folder on the left:

Either click the Delete icon (garbage can), or open the message and click "Cancel Send":

At this time, there doesn't appear to be a way to edit a scheduled message, but if you provide Google feedback, they may add that feature in the future!

Happy Scheduling!