Shrewsbury EdTech

Tech resources for Shrewsbury Public School educators

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Using Google Sheets as a Paper Organizer

Greetings! We know our Tech Tips have been somewhat scarce this year — but we are looking forward to having the time to publish more of them, during the upcoming school year. In the meantime, here’s one for June…

In yesterday’s professional development session for content area teachers, one of the ideas discussed was the use of Google Sheets as an organizer. This has a lot of potential and, for those who are interested, we have included a link to one which I have been using for the past couple years. Why use a Google Sheet as a graphic organizer? It has a number of benefits, including:

  • real-time collaboration and feedback
  • the ability to sort details according to their use in the paper
  • the ability to limit the view, so a student only sees the details for one section / paragraph at a time.
Here is the basic sheet I use:
In this shot, you can see some of the key features — I have color-coded areas up top for the thesis / topic statement, followed by a second area where a student can list the subtopics — categories for sections of their paper, or paragraphs.  Each comes with a pre-set abbreviation (a simple letter, from A to E.).
The next section is where kids enter their information for the paper, with columns for source information, quotes / details and their importance, and a checklist box for them to use as they move details into their paper.  The category column – color coded to match the the topic area above – is where students will indicate which section each detail fits.
Here’s an example from a literary analysis paper (where there is no “source number” column, because they only use one source…
The student had brainstormed a series of subtopics for her paper…
… and then used these categories as she entered details into her spreadsheet.  Each detail is now coded according to the categories she had brainstormed.
Once she had entered all her details,
she could then sort them, using a pull-down menu at the header for each column.  She can simply sort by category, or choose a particular section to view.  This allows her to focus on one paper of a time.
Once she has everything entered and sorted, she can paste her information into a document or organizer, to begin the formal writing process.
Another benefit to the spreadsheet format is the ability to insert a sheet which contains specific instructions for students, regarding how to use the spreadsheet.  Here is the one I include with the organizer.
Note that I color-coded specific instructions to match sections of the organizer – the thesis area is yellow, the category section is pale tan, etc.  This makes it easier for students to follow the directions.
Another benefit to spreadsheets is the ability to use the “insert comment” feature to create scroll-over hints / instructions within the sheet itself.
On the organizer, I include tips above several of the columns — you can see where the tips are, by looking for the little orange triangles in the corner of a cell.
Once you have your master copy set up for student use, just place it in a shared folder, and set the sharing settings to “anyone can view” — this way, your students can make copies of it for their own use, without affecting your master copy.
Want to experiment with it?  Feel free to access my master document, make a copy, and play around with it.  Drop me a note if you have any questions, or want to see it in action!
Happy June, everyone, and enjoy some well-earned relaxation over the summer!

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Organize all of the tasks in your life with Any.Do

Teachers are very busy these days. We have over-sized classes which means more students to help, more tests to grade, more parents to keep in touch with, and, well, you get the idea. This means that now, more than ever, we are multitasking like never before. I feel like I have a lot more on my plate right now, and it’s difficult to keep track of everything I need to get done. The answer? A “To Do” task manager!

Why do you need a “To-Do” Manager?

I use Google Calendar quite a bit for all of the events in my life. It helps me keep track of all school meetings, hockey games, appointments, and so on. It is essential for letting me know what’s going on each day and where I need to be. However, it’s not so helpful with reminding me of what I need to get done on a daily basis. That’s where the idea of a “To-Do” or “task” manager comes in. There are endless apps out there for iPhones, iPads, and Android phones that do this for you. Many of them are very basic, such as the “Reminders” app that comes installed on all Apple devices. There are some though that are much more helpful.

Any.Do is a free app available for the iPhone/iPod Touch and all Android phones. Unfortunately, it is not yet supported on iPads. I delayed writing this post in hopes they would update the app to include iPads. It is a popular request on their website, but this feature doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon. There is also an app for Google Chrome for your computer.

5 reasons why Any.Do is the best app out there

1. Choose your background.

There are two design background to choose from: white or black. Both are clean and sleek.

2. Organize tasks by date and/or folder.

My favorite part of Any.Do is that all tasks can be organized by date and folder. For date, you decide when the task must be completed: “Today”, “Tomorrow”, “Upcoming”, or “Later”. If you hold the phone in landscape mode, it will display a calendar that lets you assign tasks to specific days. You can also create many folders to sort tasks by category. The folders I use are called “Personal”, “School”, and “Groceries”. 

3. Intuitive touch gestures.

Any.Do is very intuitive and easy to use. Press down and hold on a task, and you will be able to move it to another spot. In the image below, let’s say you decided not to buy twelve tomatoes today, simply move it to another time. When you first enter a task, it may end up in the wrong folder. No problem, just move it to the the correct one! 

4. Easy input of tasks

You can add tasks using two different methods: type them into the box at the top of the screen or click on the microphone and say it out loud. When typing, it tries to figure out what you want to do. If you just type “eggs” for example, it will try to guess the rest. Some options include “buy eggs”, “egg noodles”, “egg whites”, and “egg nog”. The voice recognition is excellent and almost always enters it correctly.

5. Some pretty advanced features

Any.Do has a great design. It’s simple and intuitive to meet just about everyone’s needs. However, there are some other features that really put the icing onto the cake. You can give tasks a high priority and add notes to each task (which also supports verbal entry). The two coolest features though are the reminders and sharing. You can share tasks with others by entering their email address. If they are an Any.Do user, it will appear on their phone as a shared task. Right now, you can get a time-based reminder. This will send you an alert on the date and time you choose. A new feature that will be coming soon is location-based reminders. Using the GPS on your phone, you can “tag” locations as your Home, Work, etc. You could set up a reminder to finish photocopying the tests once you arrive at your school.

Final thoughts…

Students with iPhones, iPod Touches, and Android phones could potentially use this to help themselves stay up to date with assignments. I know many teams use MyHomework for this reason. I have never used it and am curious how the two compare. However, I think the app would be the most helpful for teachers right now.I strongly recommend you give it a shot. I spent a lot of time looking at websites, online reviews, and trolling through the App Store. Everywhere I look, they either say this app is the very best or at least put it in the top 3. The company behind Any.Do has received a lot of money from investors, and I see it only getting better in the future.

If you are looking for a task manager on your iPad, the next best choice is probably another free app called Wunderlist. It is cross platform and supported on practically every device. To use the standards-based grading analogy……if Any.Do is a “4”, then Wunderlist is a “3”.

Any.Do Links and Resources

Download Any.Do from the:

Any.Do website
Lifehacker: Any.Do is a crazy intuitive, gesture-based to-do app
The Next Web: Create “Any.Do” tasks from your Gmail account