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May 30, 2012

Clearing the Electronic Clutter: Find Your Lesson Materials in Under 30 Seconds!

It’s May.

You KNOW you had an incredible lesson about Memorial Day you taught your 7th grade history students last year.

Quick Quiz: Where is your lesson? How do you find the supporting materials?

Do you:

  1. Desperately scan all the files on your computer desktop until you finally just give in and re-write the lesson plan?
  2. Enable your computer’s search function and pray with fingers crossed that “Memorial Day” pops up?
  3. Ask a colleague from your department if she saved the email you sent last year with the lesson plan attached? And when her answer is no, search your sent messages, and hope against all odds a version remains there for you?
  4. Calmly open your US History File, find the May 2011 subfolder, open the Week of May 27th sub-sub-folder and click on the lesson plan, accompanying PowerPoint, and exit ticket waiting there for you?

The end of the school year is a great time to get your electronic house in order.

Many of us feel a slight level of self-consciousness when our desks are buried in paper and doodads.  On our desks, all our stuff is out there and it is just…so…public.

But on our computers, we let ourselves hastily create documents. We quickly save them to our desktops or in mystery temporary files. This results in decades of never again-consulted but ever-recreated lesson plans, unit tests, exit tickets, and class work packets.

Amy Frank teacher photo

Amy, who has 12 years experience teaching both literature and PE, got religious about organizing her electronic files. Here’s why:

Amy states this practice helps her…

  1. Avoid recreating the wheel.
  2. Share with colleagues.
  3. And improve her practice.

Amy carefully creates high-level, big picture  folders each academic year.

ELA Activities folder

Next, she breaks them down by month.

Folders sorted by month image

And THEN. . . she breaks them down by week.

Folders sorted by week image

Finally, she’s got her actual lesson materials—check it out! 

Teacher doc files sorted by lesson materials

Amy can find, click and print her September 16th exit ticket in under 30 seconds!

Now, I don’t really care HOW you electronically organize your files, but I do care that you have a system. You just spend too much darn time creating these awesome materials to not reap the benefits of using and improving them year after year. Not to mention helping that new colleague next door!

You might be rolling your eyes at me, thinking, “Maia, please, this will take me SO much time. It’s better to just search and find them later.” Maybe, but as the teaching years progress, you will thank me for saving you hours of time!

Together Teachers Will:

  1. Review current state of electronic materials
  2. Create one folder for “backlog.” This may be everything lurking on your desktop right now. Commit to sorting out your old files this summer in front of a good movie. For now, get them out of the way!
  3. Create high-level, big picture folders in My Documents for subject or department areas, plus grade level meetings or other big parts of your role.
  4. Create secondary folders by months or weeks
  5. Name documents clearly, including date, subject, version number
  6. Commit to doing this for every thing you want to re-use!

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