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googlecalsyncMy first blog in this series introduced Google Calendar for the Classroom, so if you missed it, check it out first.

Using online calendars is all about getting one’s various events, appointments and schedules in sync. Syncing paper calendars, such as your desk calendar at work (which may have athletics practices, sectional practices, IEP meetings, lab schedules, faculty meetings, duty, conferences, etc), family appointments, and volunteering committments, just to name a few possibilities, can be nightmarish to keep up with! If you don’t sync them, you may schedule a personal appointment on top of an after school event, which results in stress and chaos.
Google Calendar can put all of your calendars together in one central location for just you or multiple people. Just as your ITunes music or Kindle books can sync across devices, your classroom calendar can too.

Today I’ll show you how to embed a classroom calendar into your Teacher Site, how to subscribe to multiple calendars, and share some ideas for using Google Calendar to collaborate with colleagues.

Embedding Your Calendar

If you already have started putting lesson plans, due dates, and objectives in your classroom Google Calendar, you should embed it on your classroom website. Or, if you’re an activity sponsor, scheduler of school facilities (like the auditorium or gym), or department head, you may want to make a calendar for that group and post it on a webpage accessible by faculty members. This will allow everyone to see the schedule as soon as you add to or update it. You only have to embed it once.

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.

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.

Group Collaboration

My husband and I sync personal Google Calendars. This allows us to see when we’re free or busy. For example, if I want to schedule a parent-teacher conference for one of our own children, I can check his schedule to see if he’s available to attend too.

Even those who aren’t experienced with online calendars can benefit from a collaborative approach. A few months ago, a high school athletic coach asked me about using Google Calendar for his practice schedule. He was proficient in using online calendars with his smart phone, but had an assistant coach who wasn’t. After our discussion, he concluded that he could set up their athletic team’s practice schedule, along with notifications to remind him about them, on the assistant coach’s smart phone.

Subscribing Versus Sharing

Depending on how you plan to use the calendar in question, you may want to allow others to subscribe to it or you may want to share it with certain people.

Subscribing means that others can overlay your calendar on their own calendar, but they can’t add or change events. Subscribing works well for students who want to know what’s going on in the classroom (or at practice or rehearsal) when they’re absent. Like the assistant coach mentioned earlier, they don’t need the ability to change the calendar – just view it easily.

Sharing a calendar typically means that you’re giving or sharing control with others. For instance, If your 300-member high school choir has section leaders, you may want give those students the ability to add sectional rehearsals to the main choir rehearsal calendar.

Sharing also has unlimited collaborative uses. Here is but one example: if the teachers and the librarian both currently write in the library’s printed calendar to schedule class work in the library, that calendar could be converted to online use. The librarian would be the “owner” of the calendar, but would be able to share the calendar with teachers, who could add the times and dates their classes will visit the library without ever having to leave their classrooms.

Subscribing to a Calendar

The iCal subscription button on my district's calendar page.

The iCal subscription button on my district’s calendar page.

Before you try to set up your calendar so that others can subscribe to it, you’ll want to make sure you know how to subscribe to a calendar first. If your school district has a calendar you can subscribe to in an ical format, subscribe to it. If not, a universally useful one to try is Weather Underground’s ical. Here’s a link to instructions on how to do the latter.

Once you’ve succeeded in subscribing to one or more other calendars, now it’s time to make sure students, colleagues, or parents, depending on your calendar’s purpose, can subscribe to your calendar. Luckily, Google provides helpful instructions detailing various sharing/subscribing options, so I don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Check out their step-by-step instructions here.

The Wrap-Up

If the numerous benefits motivate you to share your Google Calendar with others, you can make it happen with some trial and error. My best advice is to make sure you try out everything you want others to do (such as subscribe to your calendar), because you may have to help them (or provide directions, or links to directions, with your calendar). Let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear how others are using their calendars!

Edmodo and Common Sense Media offer free Digital Citizenship curriculum.

As a high school teacher, I’ve witnessed many parents try to monitor their children’s internet usage, with varying levels of success. I’ve also noticed that many school districts choose to censor or block what sites students can access. However, my observations of students’ online behavior tell me that most of us fall short in teaching students what comprises smart, safe digital citizenship.

Particularly for secondary and post-secondary school students, removing all computer privileges is a consequence that interferes with learning. Anyone who’s taken more than a passing glance at the Common Core standards knows that students will be using technology extensively in the coming years, though many are required to do so already.

Educators and parents often first provide “scaffolding”, or extra support, for students to support their learning. Gradually, the assistance is removed as students gain confidence in using a new skill on their own, such as when training wheels are removed from a child’s bike. This same graduated support should be applied to learning digital citizenship skills, yet few parents and schools seem to have a plan for such support.

Educators and parents often act simply as gatekeepers to the internet. While reports that most parents monitor their children’s Facebook activity are encouraging, the overwhelming evidence in my classroom and home, at least, is that they aren’t effective in helping kids learn to be good digital citizens.

Instead of thinking they’ve fulfilled their responsibilities by limiting or removing access, school districts and families should consider a graduated approach. We shouldn’t allow young children unsupported internet access any more than we would give a two-year-old a large bike without training wheels for her first spin around the driveway.

Here are some ideas to discuss with your colleagues or family members when considering a graduated approach:

1. Find out how the kids in question already use the internet.

2. What is the goal or objective? Finish the statement: by age _____, children should be able to ______________.

3. What online habits do children in our school/family need to practice regularly to be safe and avoid compromising their future goals online?

4. What can we do to support students as they practice these skills until they become habits and how/when should we gradually remove those supports?

5. Do we as parents and educators model and discuss these habits?

6. How can different grade levels (or, for parents, family sites, such as grandma’s or uncle’s house) our efforts to make sure that support is gradually decreased so that by age eighteen, students will be independent digital citizens?

7. Check out sites like Digital Citizenship.net to help generate ideas.

The fact is, nearly every job either does or will soon require basic online competency. Schools and families can help kids learn the online skills they need in an online environment appropriate for their abilities, or leave them to flounder through and learn the hard way.

Freebie! Here is the Digital Citizenship Guidelines handout I developed for my students:DigitalCitizenshipGuidelinesgeneric

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