See that handsome kid? That is my son Jack. The light of my life! The joy of my day! The biggest pain in my ass…
You see, Jack appears to be physically incapable of keeping track of his homework, projects, and general schoolwork. His current method involves crumpling up any worksheets into a ball and either stuffing them in his backpack or his pockets. Our evenings usually include frantic backpack dumps, texts to friends and trash dives as we search for whatever worksheet or project materials he “misplaced” between the time it was assigned and the time he arrived home from school.
Now, I have been a teacher for over twenty years and I have a pretty deep bag of tricks that I can pull from. Can I tell you, friends, that not a single teacher trick works to get my son organized? He scoffs at my suggestions of assignment notebooks, color coded folders, paper clips or just an old-fashioned request to “write the freaking assignment down!” The struggle is real, ya’ll.
But, it was when our discussion turned to digital means to get himself organized that I became most perplexed. My first suggestion was for Jack to get out his cell phone, take a picture of whatever worksheet or assignment was given and then immediately add an event to his Google calendar. That was shot down with a quick, “But, we aren’t allowed to have our cell phones in class, not even if we are using it for school stuff.”
My next suggestion was for Jack to access his materials, especially his math practice, from the online textbook. Jack calmly explained to me that he has no idea how to get to the online version of his math book. When I reached out to his teacher to ask her for a URL, her response was to explain that she knew there was an online version of their textbook out there, but she had no idea how to get to it. She recommended that Jack just Google the name of his textbook and hopefully he could find it and get to it at home.
As a parent, both of these discussions had me banging my head against a wall. As an educator, these discussions made me decide to extend a call to action. WE MUST MAKE OUR MATERIALS EASILY ACCESSIBLE TO STUDENTS! When we are doing everything in our power to ensure that our students can be successful inside the four walls of our classrooms, we should also make sure that when they are outside of our classrooms they still have accessibility to the materials they need for this success!
We live in a world of 24/7 accessibility. As adults, we can find almost anything that we need at any given hour of the day or night. Why aren’t we also providing this type of accessibility for our students? Stop keeping your materials only in the physical world and start sharing them in the digital world so that your students can access what they need when they need it! By sharing your materials and assignments digitally, you are empowering your students to take control of their own learning. Not only do they now have access to critical assignments, they can also revisit previous material or see content they missed due to absence. If you are requiring students to turn something in, they should be able to access the assignment or the directions digitally. Believe me, your students and parents will thank you!
There are many different avenues that teachers can take to share their materials with students. Check out this list of tools that will make material sharing a breeze. The list is organized from the least amount of teacher effort to the most amount of teacher effort. I will explore some of these options in greater detail in future posts.
- Allow your students to use their cell phones to take pictures of assignments or add assignments to calendar or homework apps.
- Student/Parent email groups – Go “old-school” and create email groups for your students and their parents. Send out daily emails and attach any documents that are important for the assignments. This option works better for parents than students since most of our 21st-century darlings don’t use email.
- Classroom website – Google Sites, WordPress, Weebly, Blogger – the list goes on and on! Any teacher can easily create a classroom website where class materials are posted. My personal preference would be for Google Sites due to ease of creation, direct link to your Google Drive, and drag and drop building tools.
- Google Classroom – Google classroom (classroom.google.com) is a tool that is free for all educators. Enroll your students, give access to your parents and either create assignments right in the Classroom feed or pull materials from your Google Drive. Any assignment with a due date that is created through Classroom is automatically added to your students’ Google calendars. There are many amazing features in Google Classroom that will blow your mind! Stay tuned for more on this amazing tool!
- Learning Management Systems like Schoology, and Edmodo (Blackboard also falls into this category, but I don’t believe they have a free option). At the most basic, these LMS tools can be used for information and assignment sharing. If you dig deeper, these LMS tools can change your life! My personal favorite is Schoology, and I will be sharing more on that soon.
You don’t have to be a tech guru to make your classroom more accessible to students; you just need to take a few extra steps to ensure that your students can find what they need when they need it. My challenge to you this summer is to begin thinking of ways that you can help kids like Jack (and frazzled parents like me) successfully navigate to assignments once they leave the well-organized design of the four walls of your classroom.
If you are interested in getting a jump start on figuring all this out and would like my ideas or guidance, please use the “Contact” button at the top of my blog or leave a comment at the end of this post below. I promise I won’t let Jack convince you that the “paper wad” method is the way to go!