16 Gmail Hacks to Boost Your Productivity

In a blog titled “6 Shifts to Maximize Productivity and Happiness,” I encouraged teachers to designate specific windows of time during their day to check and respond to email. I found it draining to check my email continuously throughout the day, and the incoming messages distracted me from my other work. Even though I follow this practice in my own life, I still have a ton of emails waiting for me each time I log into Gmail. It turns out that there is a lot of functionality built right into our Gmail accounts that can help us manage our emails more efficiently.

I stumbled onto the infographic below published by GetVoip titled “Gmail Hacks & Tricks to Boost Productivity” and wanted to share it. It describes many of the Gmail features designed to save you time!

If you have additional tips that can help educators manage the unending tide of emails you receive, please share them here!

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InsertLearning: Transform Any Web Page into an Interactive Lesson

I frequently use online articles and resources with my students to supplement our curriculum. I want them reading, thinking about, and discussing hot topics that impact their lives; however, engaging students around online articles hasn’t always been easy. InsertLearning has developed a Chrome Extension that makes it possible to transform any web page into an interactive lesson.

I decided to build a lesson around an article published by the BBC about social media use and mental health, which is a high-interest topic for my students. I decided to use InsertLearning to add highlights, notes, questions, and discussion prompts to the article.

 

InsertLearning Functionality

The InsertLearning toolbar lives on the left-hand side of the webpage. You can do the following:

  • Click the pen icon to highlight sections of the text.
  • Click the page icon to make an annotative note.
  •  Click the question mark icon to insert a question.
  • Click on the discussion bubbles icon to insert a discussion prompt for the class.

 

Ideas for using InsertLearning

Here are some ideas for using these features to engage students.

When students receive their interactive lessons, they can use the highlight and note features to actively read, type responses to the individual questions, and engage with peers in discussions.

One of my favorite features is my ability to see students annotating (highlighting and making notes) in real time. As students annotate the web page, an icon pops up, and I can select a student’s name and see their annotations as they work. This makes it possible to work with students in real time on their online active reading skills.

Sharing an Interactive Lesson with Students

Once you have designed an online lesson using a web page you want students to read and interact with, you can share it directly from your teacher dashboard. For teachers using Google Classroom, you can share your interactive assignments via Google Classroom.

This is a great tool for…

  • Encouraging students to read and engage with more informational texts online.
  • Teaching students active online reading strategies.
  • Getting students to think more deeply about online texts.
  • Developing online reading stamina and critical thinking skills.
  • Designing an interactive reading station for a station rotation lesson.
  • Flipping and engaging with an online text.

If you want to try it out, go to the Chrome Store and search for InsertLearning. Click “Add to Chrome” and the purple icon will appear next to your browser window. Then when you find a web page you want to create a lesson around, just click the icon and get started!

The free version allows teachers to design five interactive lessons and share those lessons with an unlimited number of students. If you end up loving it, there are plans for individual teachers or school districts that give teachers the ability to create unlimited lessons.

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Station Rotation Model: Alternative Group Formations

When I lead blended learning workshops or work as a 1:1 blended learning coach, I field a lot of questions about the design of station rotation lessons. Teachers see my examples which show four separate groups and assume that all station rotations must have four groups. That is not the case. The Station Rotation Model is flexible. Below are some of the most common comments I hear and my responses to teachers struggling to conceptualize how to use this model with their students.

#1 “I can’t use the Station Rotation Model because my classes are only 45 minutes long.” 

Teachers with shorter class periods mistakenly think they cannot make a station rotation work. However, there are several strategies they can use to create an effective rotation in a traditional school schedule. First, teachers can design a station rotation lesson that extends over multiple days. For example, I worked with a school in Southern California that dedicated Mondays to whole group instruction then Tuesday through Friday were rotations. It was a four day four station rotation, so students hit one station on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

For teachers who do not want to have a station rotation extend over multiple days, I encourage them to try the “flip-flop.” The “flip-flop” is essentially two stations, so the class is divided in half. The teacher works with one side of the room, and the other side of the room is engaged in a collaborative small group activity or individual practice online. Then the groups switch half way through the period.

Flip-Flop

 #2 “My classes are too large to use the Station Rotation Model. I would have to design at least six stations to make it work.”

I encourage teachers with large class sizes to consider a formation with “mirror stations.” Instead of designing six different stations, they can design three stations, divide the room in half, and have each side of the room rotate through mirror stations. This design decreases the front-loading required to plan the lesson, and reduces the number of students at each station. If the teacher wants to lead a station, then that station will be larger because two groups of students will converge on that station for each rotation. However, teachers who want to provide some direct instruction or model a process can do so in this formation.

Mirror Stations

Note: In the image above, I have purposefully laid out the stations so the teacher is facing the back of the independent practice stations. This way the screens are visible to the teacher, which makes it easier to monitor online work.

#3 “If I’m leading a station, I cannot conference with individual students.” 

The teacher-led station provides valuable opportunities for small group instruction and coaching, but there are days when I want to do side-by-side assessments or work with individual students who are struggling. In those cases, I design a station rotation lesson where I do not lead a station. Often, I will ask students who are particularly strong in a specific area or who are ahead of the group in terms of skill level to design and lead stations. (Check out my blog on student-designed stations.) Then I sit at a small two person table and pull individual students for one-on-one work.

One-on-one Conferencing

These are just a few of the concerns I hear when I work with secondary teachers on the Station Rotation Model. I hope these suggestions will help coaches and teachers get creative with group formations. There is no one correct method for planning and executing a station rotation lesson. It’s important for teachers to make this blended learning model work for them and their students!

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