At breakfast last Friday morning, my fork paused mid-air when my 13-year-old Autistic son mentioned that he had to fill out a bullying report at school. When I asked why, he gave me the summary version (as we all had places to be that morning): a boy grabbed his shoulders, painfully rolling and pinching the flesh, continuing after my son asked him to stop. Plus a girl threw my son’s own salad in his applesauce and on him at lunch the previous day at school.

I composed a quick email to the principal at Ponca City’s West Middle School, asking that the students who attacked my son be held accountable. One of the principal’s replies stated that I needed to get the “whole story” from my middle schooler.

This weekend, I got the complete story according to my son. Before I share it, let me first explain one of the challenges people with Autism face.

Individuals with Autism have social skills deficits that make them frequent targets of bullies. They have trouble understanding the “intentions of others and understanding what others are feeling and thinking.” Worse, they often, “take comments literally instead of understanding the underlying and, perhaps, unkind message” (access the source in the online version of this column).

Back to the story. On Wednesday, “Joe”, we’ll call him, my son’s attacker at lunch on Thursday, evidently told my 13-year-old boy that “75% of rape starts by a hand on the shoulder” was a “joke”. Being Autistic, my son took the statement that this was a joke literally.

When my son repeated what he thought a “joke” the next day at the lunch table, “Beth”, upon hearing it, apparently threw my son’s food on him. And not only did “Joe” squeeze my son painfully on his shoulders, but the same was also done to both of his sides and he was apparently choked (my son demonstrated with both hands on his own neck) Thursday at lunch. I asked my son several times about how he responded and reacted to what these students did. He said that he did not lay hands on Joe or Beth, but instead asked Joe to stop, and when he didn’t, stood up and tried to get away, but Joe followed him. He was not provided more food to replace the applesauce and salad the girl rendered inedible.

Meanwhile, my son’s band instructor emailed to complement his behavior and effort in band. Later, he asked why I thought my young trombone player “wasn’t focused at all in band. He was playing when he shouldn’t have been, not paying attention, not sitting up, and not playing with good fundamentals that he usually shows” on Thursday afternoon. When I informed him that my son had been bullied at lunch Thursday, right before he came to band, the instructor replied, “Now I understand.”

My 13-year-old also told me about several other bullying incidents that have happened to him this school year. This is a major step in the right direction for him, because when he was bullied in elementary school, he never told me. I’ve had to make very clear to him that I will support him and do whatever I can to stop it. Kids don’t report bullying to adults who do nothing, or even worse, blame the victim.

Unfortunately, blaming the victim seems to be exactly how the school responded. My son was called to the office on Friday (in response to my email, I presume) and told by the principal that he would have consequences for his comment to the girl.

Still trying to assume that the principal had the best of intentions, I reported the “whole story” to the principal this Monday morning, figuring he either didn’t have all the details or was not educated about the social skills deficits related to Autism. I shared the same quote as I did earlier in this column with the principal.

2015-11-09 16.23.03

This is a photo (edited to remove names) of the detention slip my son sent me.

The administrator responded by giving my son three days of In School Suspension, thus ensuring neither my son nor I will want to report any further attacks.

Yes, the bullying victim is losing out on three days of instructional time because another student saw a gullible target and took advantage. Because this targeting was made possible due to my son’s Autism, this incident appears to be a violation of his civil right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), which is protected under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

My boy told me he has been physically bullied (a pencil thrown in class that hit him in the eye, hit repeatedly with a hard lunch box by a boy who took it from a girl, had his trombone for band yanked from his hands and thrown, to give a few examples) several other times this year.

According to Oklahoma’s School Safety and Bullying Prevention Act, school bullying policies must include how the parents of bullying victims and perpetrators will be notified in a timely fashion. Yet, I was never notified that my son was hit repeatedly with a lunch box in October, even though my son said he went to the principal’s office to report the incident.

I am (uncharacteristically) rendered speechless by the school’s response, so I could use your help, dear readers. What would you say to the principal?

I remember many of my teachers fondly, so it is difficult to pick a favorite in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week. Therefore, I’ve decided to write about my FIRST favorite teacher, Mrs. Joy Sherman. As an educator myself, I now recognize many of the teaching strategies that today are known as those belonging to very effective teachers.

the author in 3rd grade

Here’s a photo of 3rd grade me circa 1983-84 

Mrs. Sherman differentiated instruction long before there was a half-dollar word for teaching students at their individual levels. As one of the third generation of a journalism family, I was (like my parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents) a voracious reader. Though other teachers made me stick to the prescribed curriculum for our 3rd grade level (snooze), Mrs. Sherman let me plow through the entire stock of required readers and then let me start picking hardback books (that were — gasp! — supposedly “above my level”) from her classroom library.

I sped through all my work and books, which resulting in my getting bored in class a lot. I would stare out the window once I had read all my textbooks, everything on the walls, my classmates T-shirts, and anything else I could see or reach. I’m sure my other teachers noticed this but likely had their hands full with my classmates and other duties. Since I wasn’t disruptive, I was usually left to my own devices.

Mrs. Sherman, on the other hand, was concerned enough that she looked for enrichment activities. She decided to teach me about genealogy when I finished my work early. I found the subject fascinating and was soon delighted to discover my aunt and grandfather had been enjoying the study of our family history for years.

Due to today’s emphasis on high stakes standardized tests, students aren’t ALLOWED to have weak areas (though the rest of us are). It is common practice today to have students spend extra time in the school day working on their weak areas. Because they already know they aren’t good in that subject, they’re generally not excited about or motivated to do the work.

Mrs. Sherman didn’t force me to spend extra time working on my weak area, math. Instead, she helped me grow and build on my strengths. I believe that Mrs. Sherman and our gym teacher (another highly effective teacher, Mrs. Campbell) collaborated to put on a program about our state. Mrs. Sherman wisely made this bookworm child the narrator of the Oklahoma program, and thus sneakily gave my shy 9-year-old self some practice in presentation skills by building on what I was already good at. Like other effective teachers, she knew to start with my comfort zone (reading), and then pushed me just a little past it.

Another trait Mrs. Sherman shared with other great teachers was her willingness to learn.  At that time, third grade was the year students began learning to write in cursive. I dutifully copied the paper and hand position Mrs. Sherman demonstrated at the board. One day, the observant teacher noticed that this left-handed bookworm was bending her wrist at 90-degree angle so as to see what she’d just written. Mrs. Sherman realized that I had tilted my paper, as instructed, the direction for right-handed writers.

Mrs. Sherman next did something COMPLETELY unexpected: she bent down to eye level with me and admitted she’d taught me incorrectly since I was left-handed, and she APOLOGIZED, saying she would find a better way to teach me, which she soon did. This was an epiphany for me. Even teachers made mistakes and had to work at learning?! Teachers aren’t supposed to know everything already? That means I don’t have to know it all already either! What a relief!


My teacher had one of these bad boys (or something similar) in our classroom back in 1983! How’s that for an ed tech early adopter?!

Parent involvement has been proven to be one of the most important factors in student success. Mrs. Sherman bravely let my dad put a computer in her classroom so that students could play a math game (Dad, I see what you did there!) if they finished their work early. Mind you, this was in 1983, people. It was a big clunky Radio Shack PC running an educational math game on MSDOS, not those fancy, schmanchy PORTABLE devices with the INTERNET many of you young whipper snappers have in your elementary classrooms today! But did that stop Mrs. Sherman from learning how to use it with us? Of course not!

That students know their teacher truly cares about them is critical for their learning from her or him. I was sure Mrs. Sherman cared about me and my classmates. I can still visualize her genuine smile that lit up her whole face.

The foundation Mrs. Sherman laid was built upon by subsequent influential teachers. I slayed my math demons in College Algebra by earning an A (thanks, Dr. Maharry), honed those presentation skills under the tutelage of Mrs. Bradt in speech and debate competition, read through great Literature under Mrs. Holder, Mrs. Ehrlich, Dr. Steed, and Dr. Yates, and, as for my handwriting . . . well, three out of four isn’t too bad, right?

LMS cartoon

A Learning Management System (LMS) is a useful tool in K-12, particularly for schools using one-to-one and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) technology. For one thing, an LMS gives secondary students a preview of how their college coursework will be organized (every university in my region uses one). If you want to know more about the benefits of using an LMS, check out Why Use a Learning Management System over at

Once you decide that your school needs an LMS, you’ll need to select one. How to Choose the Right Learning Management System offers a good overview of the complex and time-consuming process of choosing an implementing an LMS. This is not that blog post. Instead, I give you how not to choose an LMS:

1. Have someone far-removed from the classroom, like the PR guy, superintendent, or the IT director in your district choose the LMS (or at least make a short list to pretend to get input from teachers about). He or she will definitely be familiar with the instructional goals of the teachers, the preferred learning modes of the students, and the data needs of the administrators.

2. Don’t involve too many (avoid including any, if you can help it) actual potential users of the system when choosing an LMS. Students, parents, and teachers couldn’t possibly provide any valuable input, right? Listening to them would be too time-consuming.

3. Pick an LMS based on one simple and easy-to-measure factor, such as cost. Ease of use/navigability, possible accommodations for SPED and ELL learners, and integration with currently used 3rd party software aren’t important and shouldn’t really factor into the decision.

4. If you make the mistake of getting buy-in into the chosen LMS from several district teachers, and they implement it with enthusiasm the first year of the roll-out, quash that movement quickly so it doesn’t spread. Provide no ongoing professional development, lock down the teacher/user permissions so they can’t use the LMS easily, refuse to help integrate your district’s third-party software, and most importantly, don’t tell anyone in the district, whether parent, student, or community member, about the LMS. Aim for confusion, frustration, and despair on the part of those pesky early adopters.

5. Plan to dump your chosen LMS after paying for it, shelling out money for PD costs, and providing support after just a year or two. Either provide no LMS at all so teachers are left to their own devices and secondary students have to learn a different (free) LMS to use every class period or just pick another one. Base your decision on which LMS vendor gives you the most freebies at a conference or else just draw names out of a hat. Don’t forget to block the previous LMS on your network to make sure no one uses all the valuable content they spent hours creating in the former LMS. Teachers and students have loads of spare time, so they can just make it all again.

6. Do not, I repeat, do NOT, use an educator trained in project management, instructional design, or educational technology to manage the process of selecting and rolling out an LMS. All the various school sites in the district can just figure out how to implement it in their own way, if they bother to use it at all. When the LMS fails to be used by all but a small percentage of teachers, blame them and then reallocate the budget money you used to use on an LMS to buy a stable of ponies for the next school year.


Hopefully, this post has given you some examples of outcomes you’d like to avoid when selecting an LMS for your school district. Be sure to do your research, involve stakeholders, use project management principles, and prepare to use your chosen LMS for years to come in order to capitalize on your investment.

This is perfect.

Granted, and...

The following account comes from a veteran HS teacher who just became a Coach in her building. Because her experience is so vivid and sobering I have kept her identity anonymous. But nothing she describes is any different than my own experience in sitting in HS classes for long periods of time. And this report of course accords fully with the results of our student surveys. 

I have made a terrible mistake.

I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!

This is the first year I am working in a school but not teaching…

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hall passes

floppy disk hall passes for my high school Business Information Technology classes

Last year, I decided to steal the idea of a foreign language teacher colleague who used a Dora the Explorer potty seat as her hall pass. When used a (new) Sesame Street potty pass last year, low and behold, it was never once lost. Some of my high school students were so embarrassed to carry it, they cut down on their visits to the restroom. A substitute told me about a school in another state she’d subbed at where each teacher had a unique hall pass. Mr. Puckett had a bucket, for example. She extolled the virtues of a system where it was easy to tell which teacher the student belonged to at a glance, even from far away.

I liked the idea so much that I had to continue it in my new department, Business Information Technology. After some research, I came across a pin by another Business teacher. I decided to put my own spin on it with the help of some floppy disks I discovered while decluttering at my husband’s business this summer. I covered the old faded labels of the disks and wrote the required hall pass info on them. I found this idea a few months ago. Therefore, I saved lanyards from the various tech conferences I went to this summer. This project cost me a grand total of $0.


This post is so true. While my state, Oklahoma, does offer computer science classes in middle/high school, they are electives. As a high school computer teacher, I’ve heard of few-to-no coding classes, even at the high school level. There are none at my school, but I hope to change that and give girls an in-the-flesh example of a coder who also happens to be a woman.


Twenty high school girls sit hunched in front of laptops around a polished wooden table at AT&T’s midtown office in New York City. Riya Satara, 17, types a series of ones and zeros to adjust a paddleball game she’s designing so that the ball follows the right trajectory. It’s only her first week learning to code — writing the instructions that tell a computer what to do — but by the end of a seven-week summer stint with Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit that seeks to close the gender gap in the tech industry, Satara and her camp mates will be designing algorithms that do everything from locate public restrooms to detect false positives in breast-cancer testing.

This camp is just one of a half-dozen similar programs around the country — many of which are supported by tech giants like Google, Facebook and AT&T — that offer coding classes…

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Reblogging this as many of my own children’s teachers have gone above and beyond for them.

I don’t think teachers know what they’re doing..

As a parent, I have often admired brightly colored and well-organized learning stations when visiting my own kids’ elementary school classrooms. For years, I’ve wished that I could integrate more movement and hands-on learning in my classroom, but there were three main barriers: 1. space 2. attitude and 3. time.

crowded secondary classroom aisles

These are a few of the backpacks I trip over in the crowded aisles in my classroom.


Though I’ve taught in several high school classrooms over the years, most have narrow spaces for walking. With dozens of students and their large, heavy backpacks, coats, and lunch bags to navigate around, I can barely monitor my students’ work, let alone plan for large motor movement!

Teen Attitude

I remember listening to some classroom management tips given by an elementary school teacher to a K-12 group of teachers years ago. While her ideas were clever, the secondary teachers in the room smirked at them. One technique in particular, which involved students holding up an index finger to signal that they were listening, prompted one experienced secondary teacher nearby to mutter, “Yeah, the high school kids would hold up a finger all right, but it wouldn’t be the index!”


As a teacher who sees about 130 students every day in my room, I’ve tended toward looking upon planning for stations as an idealistic and quaint notion. Gazing at a stack of 100+ essays to grade does not inspire creativity.

Learning Styles

While I pondered these barriers, another important reality emerged: when I gave my students a learning style quiz at the beginning of the year, I learned that the vast majority are kinesthetic and musical learners. Those styles are more than just “fun”; they’re how my students learn, and I need to teach their way.

Obviously, the idea of centers has to be modified for the secondary classroom, but it’s not impossible. I’ve been integrating more movement and music over the years. Here is one activity I came up with to address all of the above issues. Here’s how to give it a try:

These are the main supplies you'll need (clicker optional).

These are the main supplies you’ll need (clicker optional).

Supplies Needed

12 sheets of colored of paper (2 per color)

Subject area workbooks/worksheets (I used test prep work since that’s what we’re about to do around here)

Access to a printer & copier (black ink only is fine)

Class set of student response devices or clickers— optional

Computer with speakers and playlist – optional


This part is the most time-consuming, but it’s no worse than for any other lesson I’ve made myself. First, simply choose six different areas  in which you’d like your students to practice. Mine were vocabulary, literary elements, reading comprehension, and revision. I divided the latter two into two centers each. Assign them each a color and print signs with the category label on them (see photo below).

My Literary Elements center sign & Extra Practice folder label

My Literary Elements center sign & Extra Practice folder label (color coded)

Choose a couple of multiple choice test prep worksheets per category. One will be the actual center and one will be extra practice. Re-size the one you chose for the center on the copier so it’s easily read when posted on the wall. Make copies of the extra practice (I’ve no advice on this one – I made 30 of some, which wasn’t enough – 75 was too many).

Post the six colored signs around your room (with enough space for students to congregate). These are the beginnings of your centers. Then affix the second sign for each color/label on a folder. Put your extra practice copies for that category in there.

Be sure to have keys for both the center and extra practice worksheets for each station. If using clickers, input your center keys and randomize the order the clicker gives the questions to the students. This keeps the students from clumping up at one station.

Make some student instructions on your interactive whiteboard, chalkboard, or whatever means you typically use. Whether using clickers or not, students should write the station names/abbreviations on notebook paper. They can track their progress around the room this way. Make sure they record whether they got the item right or wrong because they’ll use that information to self-remediate in the next step.

Students pondering the best change to make at Revision Station 1.

Students pondering the best change to make at Revision Station 1.

Tell students that when you start the music (I made a peppy YouTube playlist with songs about circles but didn’t show the videos – we just listened as we worked), they will have 10 minutes (or whatever amount of time is appropriate for your activities) to go through the stations. They should mark whether they got the question right or wrong on their papers. Mine used the clickers to grade their work, but if you don’t have clickers, you could simply grade them together after everyone sits down.

When students finish all the stations, they’ll grab extra practice from the folder at the station where they missed questions and complete it. Those who didn’t miss any should have other work to do (mine had novel analysis to fill out). Place the answer keys at the stations so they can self-grade their work (I put them out AFTER they’re all seated, then take them up at the end of class).

After giving students time to complete the extra practice and grade it, you can do another rotation. We did the first question at each station the first time, and the second one the second time. Have them turn in the notebook paper they used or use the clicker data to get feedback from the activity.

Student Reactions

The best comment I heard was, “We should do this every day!” When asked why, the student answered, “Because it’s a lot of fun, we get to move around, and we burn calories!” I took the smiles and groovy dance moves of other students as they moved between stations as positive feedback too. Best of all, there wasn’t a bad attitude in sight. Since it’s standardized testing time around here, that’s saying something!

If you have questions or want to share how this idea might work in your classroom, please comment!

Teacher portfolios have been around for years. Pre-service teachers use them to gain admission to graduate school and apply for a position. Experienced teachers may use them as candidates for Teacher of the Year, or, increasingly, to demonstrate teaching effectiveness for evaluations by administrators.

Why digital?

Digital portfolios have several advantages over the traditional binder version:

  1. They can provide an impressive example of an educator’s proficiency with technology
  2. Privacy controls allow teachers to specify and monitor who sees their portfolios
  3. No cost for printing/copying/binding
  4. instant access for anyone with a computer and an internet connection
  5. They can grab attention through interactive elements
  6. Many universities now require educations majors to have digital portfolios


It is unrealistic to expect to create a polished teacher portfolio in an hour or two. Instead, consider it a work in progress, like a scrapbook of your career. Most experienced teachers already have a resume prepared, so we’ll start with that first. Second, we’ll add a page on which you can place artifacts to showcase your teaching abilities. Finally, we’ll set your privacy settings and I’ll share some resources if you want to expand  your portfolio.


There are innumerable web sites that offer free or low-cost possibilities for teacher portfolios. Google Sites is a popular choice because it is free, user-friendly, and, once you’ve mastered the basics of setting up one Google Site, you can make sites for many other purposes, whether for classroom or personal use. Below, I’ll walk you through how to get started.

Site Set-up

First, log into with your Gmail account. Then go to or (you’re logged in if your Gmail is at upper right corner), type “Google sites” in the search box.

Choose red “create” button (top left), then choose a template:

Name your site (this will be your domain name and you can’t change it later, so make sure you’ll be happy with the name for years) and select your theme (color, font, design scheme). You can change your theme later if you wish.

After you type in the verification code at the bottom of the screen, select “Create Site” and the information you just put in will pop up as a basic website template.

How to edit a page

To edit a page, click  “edit page.”

The edit button looks like a pencil.

The edit button looks like a pencil.

When you do, it allows you to type in the Title bar and in the Body bar.  The format tab allows you to change the appearance of font and alignment of font.  The layout tab allows you to add columns to the body of your site. I recommend starting with a resume page because it’s easy to do if you have a resume already typed and saved.

Making a resume page

To make the resume page, choose one of your new site’s pre-made pages or follow the directions below to create a new one. Click the edit button, then, in the title bar, type whatever you wish to name your resume page, such as Resume, My Resume, or Cleatus T. Justice’s Resume.

Then open your resume document. Select all of the resume text and copy it (control-C on the keyboard or right-click to select “copy” with your mouse). Paste it (control-V on the keyboard or right-click with your mouse and choose “paste”) into the body section of your resume page. You will probably need to adjust the font and formatting so that it is easily readable. Don’t forget to click “Save” at the top when you’re finished or you’ll lose your changes!

How to create a new page

To create a new page, click “create page.”   There are several page options, but the easiest to work with is “web page.” You will need to create a page name (which becomes part of its URL) and then choose whether or not you want the page to be directly under the main site (top level) or if you want it to be a sub-page of a page of your site.  If the part of the site that you want your page to be under is not the default option, select it by clicking “choose another location.”  Once you have chosen the directory option, click “create page”. Then edit it.

Creating an artifacts file cabinet

The second page I recommend experienced teachers create is for artifacts that demonstrate effective teaching. After you click “create page”, choose “file cabinet”.

Once you’ve made your file cabinet, you’ll want to set up some organization. I made a folder for each of the items evaluated in our district’s teacher evaluation rubric. An administrator can’t possibly observe each item in one short class period, so it is helpful to provide him or her with uploaded examples of each skill he or she is looking for.

Privacy settings

If you don’t want your new partial portfolio out there on the web for public viewing, the blue Share button on your Google Site  (top right corner) comes in handy. Click the “share” button. A window showing the “Public on the Web”  setting and you as the owner will appear. Next to the words “anyone on the web can find and view”, click “Change”.  You can then change your privacy settings as you see fit and save. When you’re ready to share your portfolio with others, go back to these settings and change them as needed.

Just getting started?

If you’re new to making a website or portfolio, pace yourself! Don’t expect to have an extensive portfolio overnight. Prioritize which aspects of your online portfolio are the most important to complete first, and set SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals for yourself. A sample goal for an experienced teacher new to technology might be to select and upload one good example to the artifact page on your site at the end of each school day.

As you continue to work on your portfolio over time, consider adding other page titles/content, such as:

  • Philosophy of Teaching
  • Curriculum Development
  • Teaching Skills
  • Learner Assessment
  • Continuing Education
  • Honors and Awards
  • Long Term Goals

Teacher portfolios should be considered works in progress. Expect to modify your portfolio as your needs change. If you’d like to add  more visually interesting or multimedia elements to your portfolio, browse the sample portfolios linked below for ideas and check out the list of other Google Sites tools you can use on your portfolio site.

Other tools in Google Sites for further exploration

The table tab allows you to create and manage a table in the body of your site.

Use the Insert tab to add pictures, presentations, word documents, spread sheets, slide shows and links to other sites. You can add images manually, if you wish, by uploading them to the site.  However, make sure you only upload what photos you intend to use for the page you are currently editing.

You can manually add files and documents by attaching them to the website under “attachments” at the bottom of the page.  Again, just like the pictures, you must only upload what you want on that particular page and repeat the process for any new pages.

To fully take advantage of these you may wish to use  Google Drive.  When using Google Drive, you can upload spreadsheets, presentations, and documents for other people to view and to incorporate into your website.

You can also include “gadgets” such as news tickers, mp3 players, feeds, weather, etc.  You can see the list by selecting  “more gadgets” at the end of the Insert tab.

Links to sample digital portfolios



Other sources

Google Calendar is a fabulous (and free) tool for educators.

Google Calendar is a fabulous (and free) tool for educators.

Not long ago, the only reminder I got about my dentist or doctor appointment was the appointment card they handed to me at my last visit. I had to look in the back of my library book to find out when it was due.

Technology, however, has changed such reminders. Doctors, hair stylists, and libraries now often use digital reminder systems. My dentist, for example, sends me an email a couple of days before my scheduled appointment, asking me to click the link to confirm that I’ll be there.

Since our students and their parents are conditioned to being given digital reminders, educators should learn how to utilize technology to provide a similar service. If educators pick a method that works for them, they’ll likely enjoy the saved time and improved results.

I’ve found Google Calendar to be very user-friendly. Some universities and K-12 schools already use Google Calendar. The University of Minnesota is but one example of many post-secondary institutions using Google Calendar. An example of a high school using Google Calendar is Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School. My own K-12 district does as well.

The University of Minnesota's page for students on using their Google Calendars.

The University of Minnesota’s page for students on using their Google Calendars.

Many people use Google Calendar for personal use. A parent of one of my high school students created a Google calendar to track his family member’s activities and even added reminders about home responsibilities. He added the calendar to his and his children’s smart phones so they would get reminders about their events.

Besides the fact that parents and students are often already familiar with online calendars and reminders, educators should create a Google Calendar for classroom use for several reasons:

  1. Lesson plans and objectives can be added quickly from any computer (and most mobile devices) with internet access.
  2. As teachers get more experienced using Google Calendar, they can embed their calendars on their classroom websites.
  3.  Advanced users can add their Google Calendar to the smart phones and help students and parents subscribe to the classroom calendar so that they can set up reminders on their devices.
  4. Educators can use Google Calendars to share schedules with colleagues, from computer lab schedules to athletics practice.

I’ll address items 1 and 2 today and discuss 3 and 4 in another blog post.

1. Adding Your Lessons & Objectives

In my district, for example, teachers are required to put lesson plans and objectives on their teacher websites. Typing these plans in a document and uploading them to one’s website is laborious and time-consuming. Unlike such a document, a Google Calendar can be continually updated as changes occur from any computer with internet access. One can even edit the calendar from most smart phones!

The first step is creating a Gmail account if you don’t already have one. Once you’ve got an account, log-in, then select “calendar” on the menu at the top of the page. Each Gmail account comes with a calendar, so one could simply start adding events. Before adding an event, orient yourself by exploring the buttons, such as “Day”, “Week”, and the settings button at the top right of the calendar screen. Also check out the menu on the left. See images below:

A. Decide if you need more than one calendar or not.

First, you’ll want to decide how to organize your events. If you’re a secondary teacher and teach more than one course, you can create a new calendar for each one (easier for students who only want to see information for the course they’re in) and name the calendar after that course.

You could use your original calendar for professional or personal events. For example, I might have an English III calendar, a Journalism calendar, and a professional development calendar.

Now don’t get overwhelmed – our initial goal is to simply set up one calendar for one subject. Once you figure out how it works, you can set up more as you have the need. To create a calendar, simply click on the drop down menu button next to “My Calendars” on the left side of your screen and choose “Create New Calendar”.

Name the calendar after whatever class you’re creating lessons for. I’ll add to my English III class calendar for this example.

Notice that you can view all your calendars (once you have more than one) or just one of them. To view only the calendar you’re working on, make sure the box next to it (on the menu to the left of your screen) is color, which means you’ve selected it. You can click on each of your calendars to select/deselect it. Any other calendars should not be selected.

B. Add an Event/Lesson

Next, add an event by clicking on the date and time that event will occur. I’m going to add an English assignment for January in this example.

A quick and easy way to add events will pop up once you click on your calendar, but that won’t provide reminders or other features, so choose “Edit event”. While you can set it up as your needs dictate, I put each item we’re working on as a separate event.

The “Event Title” is what will show up on the calendar itself while one must click on the event to see the “Description”. Therefore, I put the lesson or assignment as the title and then add the objective or Standard in the description. Here’s an example:

An example of a 11th grade English class entry.

An example of a 11th grade English class entry.

If an event repeats, set that event to repeat within the calendar so you don’t have to re-enter it for each occurrence. For example, my students are responsible for reading certain chapters of a novel each week, so I repeat that event for each day of that week. In the image above, you’ll see that the box next to “repeat” is checked and the end date is shown. Click “Edit” if you wish to change the dates of the repeating event.

C. Adding Colors and Reminders for the Calendar Owner (Educator)

I like to color code my lessons. For example, lessons are green, formative assessments are purple, and summative assessments are are orange. That way I can see due dates at a glance. However, they are all the same color on the calendar the students see, so this is optional.

You can choose the color of the event clicking on it. If you don’t, you’ll just have the default color.

If you wish, you can color-code your events (or just leave it on the default). Be sure to change your privacy settings to "public" if you want others to be able to view your calendar.

If you wish, you can color-code your events (or just leave it on the default). Be sure to change your privacy settings to “public” if you want others to be able to view your calendar.

If you wish to get email, text, or pop-up reminders from this calendar, you’ll want to add a reminder. Choose “add a reminder” below the color choices on the event editing screen. If you choose email reminder, a reminder will be sent to your Gmail account when you specify. If you choose pop-up reminder, you’ll get a pop-up reminder if you have your calendar set up on your smartphone or if you install Google Desktop on your computer.

The privacy settings allow you to decide who can view your calendar. If you want to learn more about the settings, select “Learn more about private vs public events”. Since you likely want students and parents to be able to view your calendar, select “Public”.

Once you’ve edited your event to your liking, click the red “save” button at the top. You should now see your main calendar screen with the event added. Success!

D. Test It

If you’d like to confirm that you can access this calendar from any computer with internet access, log out of your Gmail account and close your browser.

Then, switch to another computer with internet access (whether at work,at home, or your public library). Open the browser and log back into your Gmail account. Once again, select “Calendar” from the menu at the top. Navigate to the date of the event you added to confirm that it’s there. If it isn’t, make sure you have selected the correct calendar and the box next to it is colored.

E. Add More Events

Now you can add more lesson plans, events, and calendars as needed. Just make updating your lessons on your calendar part of your weekly routine!

2. Sharing Your Calendar

If you want students, parents, colleagues, and/or and administrators to be able to view the calendar you just created (along with any changes you make to it in the future), you’ll need to embed it in your classroom website, as shown below:

This is the calendar embedded on my classroom website.

This is the calendar embedded on my classroom website.

A. About HTML

HTML is the code used to make websites. Most schools use software to “code” the websites so we don’t all have to learn coding (leave that to the IT department). Google Calendar will provide you an html code to automatically embed your calendar on your website.

B. Get the Code

First, you’ll need to get the code from your Google Calendar. While logged in on your Google Calendar, select the calendar you want to embed on the menu at the left by clicking on the down arrow button next to it. Choose “Share This Calendar”.

Sharing options for your calendar.

Sharing options for your calendar.

On the screen that pops up, select “Calendar Details” at the top. About half way down, you’ll see “Embed this Calendar” with a code provided in a box. Select the code, making sure you get all of it. Right click to copy it onto your computer’s clipboard.

Google Calendar produces an html code so you can embed your calendar.

Google Calendar produces an html code so you can embed your calendar.

C. Embed the Calendar on Your Website

Then, go to your website. Decide where you want to place the calendar. I put mine on the homepage so it can be easily found. Use your website’s software to begin to “edit” the page you selected. Finally, click in the exact location on your website in which you want to embed your calendar.

My website software allows me to click an “html” button at the bottom left of the “Edit” screen. If you can switch to html, do so first. Then simply right click and “paste” the code for your calendar onto the page. Save your changes. Be sure to check your web page either by using the preview (mine is called “View page”) function or by logging out of the software and viewing your page as a visitor. You should see your calendar and its events displayed there.

The Wrap-Up

Now, each time you update your calendar, whether from a computer or a smartphone, the changes will appear on this embedded calendar. That means you only have to embed it once (unless to decide to move it to another page or delete it). Just remember that once you embed it, if you forget to update it, visitors will see a blank calendar on your website.

My next blog will detail uses of Google Calendar for advanced users, such as group collaboration, helping students/parents subscribe to your calendar and getting notifications from other calendars you’ve subscribed to. I hope you’ll join me!

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