I have struggled with my Gmail management for years. “Inbox Zero” is a goal, like chasing a sunset each day. I want it and it is gone. I have found a strategy that is a game changer for me.
It has always been simple to read, move or delete incoming emails. However, there are important emails I need to hold onto for a variety of reasons. Many of those emails have an expiration shelf life. I need to keep it until Friday, but then delete. I used to label them, but then forget and they just sit there for years.
Customizing my Gmail Labels has been a game changer. By creating a label with a special character it will be at the top of my label list. Then giving color to draw my attention as the email sits in my inbox. Finally, delete and/or move when the hold time expires. This simple process helps me so much.
Here are the step to follow as they align with the gallery photos:
It is truly an understatement to say the past 2 years have changed us all. This site and channel was originally created to share tips and tricks for efficiency tech teaching tools. I thought these tools I shared with passion would make my classroom a well oil machine. Well that wasn’t the case, for there are people behind the screens and they need human interactions in some fashion.
My classroom was using all of the same technology and more during distance learning, but my tricks bag was empty at times. Like many teachers everywhere, I felt like a 1st year teacher with 29 years of experience. The community of learners, students and teachers, had changed during the pandemic. I could be grumpy or I could change for the better.
That brings me to the Reboot & Be There mindset. I still love to “Share the Learning” to anyone wanting to learn or needing a tech tool to solve a problem. Helping middle schoolers, teachers and even the retirement community brings me joy. The tool tip can be as small as connecting a wireless printer to an iPad, but success gives the end user some needed relief for a basic print job for important documents.
The Reboot & Be There theme has to be purposeful and with empathy. The levels of tech knowledge and confidence is broad to say the least. I like to push myself with Internet of Things tech around my home. In saying that, I have shared what I think are old tools that I was first exposed to years ago. That old toll is received with smiles and relief of solving a problem.
It is time for me to share this journey, of whatever knowledge level solution is gained. My plan and hope is Be There and Make Someone's Day in a larger community on this channel. So my weekly entries will target at least one solution I have gained and maybe help another somewhere else. This is exciting to say the least.
As I attempt to Reboot & Be There, I ask for your feedback and respect of where we are all at in that moment. Our community is important to me and I want to be there for you. Be honest and try to share through the eyes of the user. Let the journey begin.
Life’s journey is always filled with detours, re-routing, and even roadblocks. As I reread that sentence, it hits the mark of the past 18 months. All of our routines, life plans, and employment changed. This would be my creative movement to find myself and there were crickets. I mean NOTHING.
I truly enjoy and appreciate my teaching position. Entering my 29th year in education and I can see the next chapter on the horizon. I’ve always loved technology and enjoy helping others with efficient tricks and/or tools. Working remotely has always intrigued me, yet that path hasn’t shown itself to me, yet. I guess largely because I’m still focused on my current full-time position and that is fine.
This brings me to a “Positive Pivot” moment. We all need it and I believe most people want it too. The current mask arguments are a mystery to me. People are so mad at each other, yet most would help someone in need in a heartbeat. It is time to choose my attitude with empathy, not anger, but with selflessness.
I find myself teaching middle schoolers the same digital citizenship lessons as the adults in my life. Both messages are helping them find safe passage on the internet while being part of a social media group. Both are important and need guidance.
“Share the Learning” has always been the cornerstone of my teaching and learning career. I have harvested many great ideas and methods from others. This community or professional learning network, has always been positive and so willing to help each other. What an amazing gift to give or receive.
I want to heighten this “Share the Learning” approach, with respect and empathy. We are people of a caring and giving nature. Currently, it feels like our government leaders care more about their parties than all people. We have the power to care for each other and listen first. It is time to move forward together, one smile and an act of kindness at a time.
Here is my “Positive Pivot” plan. I hope to use this platform to post a regular message that shares a cool tech tool. That tool will include the benefits it brings, with the human element of giving, sharing, and empathy. That sounds like quite a bundle and it is. Most of technology is really cool, with good to great intentions. Tech is a tool that needs human management, for the good of the community. Here We Go!
Two of my impactful mentors suggested always greeting students at the door. That is pretty easy and makes sense. The greeting wasn’t just being at the door, but looking and listening to the students as they enter the class. Always monitoring body language, smiles, and what are students saying today. Then take those bits of the greetings into the lesson, where applicable. Connections in an organic way, so impactful.
Yes, distance learning changes that greeting, but it is still possible and super important. I’m so fortunate to share a student leadership group with a super energetic and creative teacher. She has over 20 years of experience and always sharing her amazing attitude. She is always first to our Gmeet, greeting every student as they enter. More than just saying HI, but exchanging what is going well today.
The exchange needs some fertilizer and builds off of previous interactions. Sometimes the connections start with me mentioning something in their learning space, like cool string lights. There is almost always a story that goes with those lights. Mom/Dad didn’t want me to get them, I got them for a present, I think they are really neat, I like my lights, etc. So simple and fun, in the same method of greeting at the door.
Then there are the totally unexpected gifts. We were studying the research step of the design process. Natalie asks if she can use Alexa for her research. I answered that use whatever reliable resources you have, but no offense to Alexa, but she is a bit dumb for deep questions. I asked if she has an Alexa in her learning space, to which she said “yes”.
What happen next was totally off script and spontaneous. I said, “Alexa, play Mr. Roboto from STYX.” She responded and started playing the song. There were smiles all over the screen and some students shaking their heads. Then Natalie points her camera in the kitchen, where her mom is dancing to the song. Mom says, “I don’t care who sees me, I haven’t heard this song in years.” Simply the best in exchange for sure.
Well it gets better, for each time we meet for that particular class there is Mr. Roboto playing when I arrive to the Gmeet. Students are laughing and anxiously waiting for me to arrive. The class attendance has been at or near 100% since the Alexa moment. I’ll be honest, I get excited for this class too.
Greeting and Exchange is super important. Learning is fun and we have to always keep that in mind. We as educators can’t forget what it was like to be a student at whatever age we are teaching. Be that teacher that is there at the door, smiling and excited to share the learning. There are always people behind the tech tools.
The year 2020 has been nothing short of different and bizarre in education. I think most educators and learners have taken a well-deserved digital cleanse on winter break. I’m taking the last week of this year to reflect, learn, and prepare for my 2021 classroom. Here is my day one share the learning.
When everything changed back in March, I felt like I would do better than most educators due to my tech-forward approach to teaching. Goodness, I’m a Google Educator and Google Certified Innovator. I thought my students would be amazing, learning so much from all of my technology efficiency tricks and tools. Well, Covid 19 and distance learning really aren’t impressed with my Google labels, tricks, or tools.
After 27 years in education, I had my bag of “Sure Things” methods to reach students and help them learn my delivered content. I found myself doing a great deal of soul searching, for my bag of “Sure Things” was NOT as I named it. I was truly in my first year of teaching again. The movie “Ground Hog Day” was my life last spring, with lessons often pivoting and changing on the fly. This was not my style at all and I wasn’t sure how my students were doing each day, week, and month.
Our principal often started virtual meetings with sincere appreciation for us. Then he followed by giving each other grace in our new journey. “Grace” is defined as courteous goodwill. Meaning, it's not asked for nor deserved, but is freely given. I felt I was pretty good at this with my students, but horrible with myself. I struggled to forgive my blunders and teaching mistakes as I compared lessons to past years. I was placing bigger expectations on my shoulders, while not looking at lessons through the students’ eyes.
I never really gave myself grace last spring, nor into summer preparation for the upcoming school year. My confidence was at an all-time low, hard for a person that feels like he has things figured out in my classroom. I was driven to do much better in September. Well, we were in hybrid mode, with seeing each in-person student once each week and 18% of the student body choosing total distance learning. The parallel learning of hybrid and distance learning was bumpy, to say the least until I started building lessons for the home learner and modifying for in-person. This plan seems so simple, but I wasn’t able to see it before. We started making gains with this shift of delivery.
As with most of 2020, Covid 19 changed our district from hybrid to all distance learning. The transition was much better for me and my classes this time, as my preparation stayed focused on actually looking at lessons through the learners’ eyes and getting regular feedback. I was finally able to use my tricks and tools by harvesting regular feedback on lessons.
I was able to give myself grace in early December. There seemed to be a certain time of the day when our school connectivity sputtered a bit. Always impacting my 6th-period class. It was not unusual for students to leave our Google Meet, then return to get a better connection. This became common practice and for the most part, was effective.
This time I hit that connectivity issue, with my screen stuck on my initial video image or as I heard from my learners, “You Are Froze”. I announce I was going to leave my Gmeet and reconnect, just like the students would do. I was hoping to get a better connection. Well, now I had two video squares in my Gmeet, one still froze and the other kind of working, but they could hear me. I had to think quickly for a fix, as the clock was ticking on our time together.
What happened next was the worst and best thing for this old educator. I decided to use the remove participant teacher feature and remove my frozen square, leaving just the active one that was sort of working. Well, when you remove a participant it removes the username for that entire Gmeet session. Yes, I removed myself from my class Gmeet, blocked from returning. Emails started coming from students in the Gmeet, “Where are you?”, “Why did you leave?”. I scrambled to get my iPad, entering the Gmeet via my personal account.
It worked, I was back in the Gmeet. When I shared what happened laughter rang loud and clear, as all thought it was hilarious that the teacher removed himself. I too was crying from laughing at what I had done. In the midst of the laughter, a girl said, “that’s ok Mr. Dahl, we forgive you”. Then continued to laugh. My student gave me grace and I could finally do the same for myself. It was the worst and best moment of my teaching career. Word traveled quickly to other classes, “Are you going to remove yourself today Mr. Dahl?”.
We need to give grace to our learners, colleagues and most importantly ourselves. Everybody has a story of why they do things as they do them. Their story may or may not make sense from my perspective, but giving grace levels the playing field for all of us. We are all in this together and will be better down the road. Grace gets us down the road.