Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Google Calendar: A Geeky Teacher's Best Friend

I have said it before, and I'll say it again: I LOVE GOOGLE!  A few years ago, I had no idea that Google was anything more than a search engine but it really does so much more.

Google Calendar has completely changed the way I prepare for classes and organize my personal life.

As with all of their application, Google has an excellent selection of help articles online for those interested in trying Google Calendar.

I use one calendar for my personal life, one for school bell schedule and meetings, and one for each course I teach.  Events on each calendar can be made visible or hidden with one click.  It's been a few years now, and I don't think I'll ever go back to a pen-and-paper calendar!

Here are a few of my favourite features:

1) A calendar and daybook I can organize at home, at school, or on an iPhone
I wouldn't have admitted it publicly before, but I was ridiculously excited to receive my first "real teacher" coil daybook.  The excitement wore off, however, when I realized that I prefer to organize a month, not a week, at a glance.  I also realized that I would have to lug the large book back and forth each night if I wanted to prep at home.  Now, I use a different Google calendar for each course I teach.  I can enter a lesson "title" which is visible from the "month at a glance" link.  Notes, website links, etc. can be pasted into the "event details" section.  I love having the ability to see my personal and work commitments in one place.  It helps to reduce double-booking at school and at home.

2) The ability to "share" the calendar
This is ideal for teachers.  Last year, as I was able to share the calendar for one course with a colleague who had never taught the class before.  He was able to see what my class was doing each day, at a glance.  A calendar can also be made public and published on a school or class website.  For non-teachers, the ability to share is still beneficial.  At home, a Google calendar can be shared between spouses and with older children, allowing the entire family to know what is going on.  A large calendar in a kitchen at home or staff room at work is only useful if people are at home when making plans.  The beauty of this technology is it allows everybody to view events and changes instantly.

3) Easy changes with drag and drop events
My daybook was always a mess!  (I feel like this is turning into a script for an infomercial!  I should insert an image of a sad teacher with a daybook full of scribbles for added effect!)  A messy daybook really bugged me, though.  I would mark down an appointment, meeting, or lesson plan, only to change it later.  If a lesson took longer than expected, I found myself erasing and re-writing plans for a week or more.  I am really flexible with my planning and adjust lessons and activities often, based on the students' understanding, level of interest, and the time required.  It's really helpful for me to plan things out, then drag and drop as I adjust my plans.  I love seeing a visual layout of a month, term, or year as I adjust and drag plans to different dates!


  1. I too love all things Google, but sometimes find that my Google calendar can get way too full. I am wondering if you have all your calendars separate or do you have them show up on a single one (different colours?). I have been using googledocs for planning, but like the idea of combining the two.

  2. Hi Sarah! I use one calendar for my personal life, one for school bell schedules and meetings, then one for each course. It's nice to have them colour-coded and then I can click to view/remove each calendar, as needed. If I'm editing one course, I usually hide the others to reduce the clutter. I share my work calendars with my personal e-mail account, but they are usually invisible and I only turn them "on" if I need to have a quick peek at something. Having separate calendars, and hiding the ones I'm not working with, helps to eliminate some of the crowding on the calendar.

    I like using Google Docs to plan, too. It's nice to make a list, then insert plans into the calendar, sometimes. I'm still developing and changing my systems, but electronic is definitely the way to go!