Tag Archives: tools

Timetable Challenge: Part 3

In earlier posts, I wrote about the challenges our school was facing as we continue to grow in size and deal with the issue of timetables and our response to this by moving towards a 7 day timetable.

One of the issues I encounted was around the use of calendars (specifically Microsoft Outlook and the Ultranet) to schedule events and create my work program:

 I am struggling at the moment to find an efficient and effective way of managing this 7 day cycle. I use Microsoft Outlook to manage my calendar\work program and set each of my classes to repeat weekly. Under this new 7 day cycle, I am unable to create a re-occuring appointment that occurs 7 days apart, as weekends are included in the cycle. Given it takes 3 weeks for the cycle to return back to Day 1 being on a Monday, I had thought I could create a reoccuring appointment to reoccur every 3 weeks, however with days taken our for public holidays and other events, this confuses the cycle and makes it difficult. Other than entering each class I teach individually for the term, I’m struggling to find a way to do this.

I am pleased to report that I have found a solution to this problem (thanks to a Google Search and these instructions) by using Microsoft Excel to create a list of my events and then import these into Outlook. Who knew you could import events from Excel into Outlook!

I’ll attempt to explain the process:

I started by creating a spreadsheet in Excel that used the Outlook fields as the headings for each of my columns.

I created a sepearte worksheet for each of the times I teach (9am, 10am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 2:15pm)

I entered all of the classes that I taught at that time over the 7 day cycle (eg: Day 1 at 9am, Day 2 at 9am, Day 3 at 9am etc..) with the class being in the subject column and the room being in location.

Not wanting to enter each date individually, a google search found a formula that produced what I needed.

=IF(WEEKDAY(C2)=6,C2+3,C2+1)

In an attempt to explain what the above means, the formula looks at the day in C2 (in this case Monday). Using the WEEKDAY function, Excel can count each of the days of the week (1=Sunday, 2=Monday, 3=Tuesday etc…). When it arrives at a Friday (the 6th Day using the WEEKDAY formula) it is set to add 3 days to the next date that appears. For all other days,  it simply adds 1 day; thus removing weekends from my list of days.

Once I had entered the first 7 classes of the timetable cycle, I used the fill down function to obtain the rest of my classes for the term. To set the event in my calendar to appear as busy, I entered “2” in the Showtimeas column.

I repeated this process for the classes I had at the other times throughout the day.

I then collated all these classes onto 1 worksheet of a seperate spreadsheet.

The next step was to select which area of the spreadsheet I wanted imported into Outlook. This involved highlighting all of the cells that contained data (including the column headings) and naming this range. The easiest way to do this was to enter it into the box next to the left of the formula bar.

From here, I saved the file (I had to save it using the 97-2003 version of Excel to import it), closed Microsoft Excel and opened Microsoft Outlook

From the File menu, I selected Open and Import.

I selected Import from another program or file and selected Microsoft Excel

Using Browse I selected my file and made sure I set the options to Allow duplicates to be created.

I selected my calendar as the destination

It then informed me that my DATA range would be imported.

This has now meant that all of my classes now appear on the correct days of my calendar !

It has also saved me the pain and trouble of entering each class individually. As I have my outlook calendar linked to my iPad and my iPhone, this has also been very handy as I move from room to room this year for my lessons.

Now… If I could just work out a way to import events into the calendars in Ultranet Spaces…… 🙂

Minutes made easy

Thanks to the wonderful world of twitter, I was made aware of a great free online resource the other day called minutes.io  that I thought would be a great resource for student councils to be aware of.

This site allows you to generate minutes from a meeting using an online template.

After entering the headings  you then need to enter the details of those present. Minute.io allows for sub-headings\topics down the side and breaks these into categories of TODO, OKAY, INFO, and IDEA. After the meeting, the program allows you to print off your minutes, e-mail your minutes to those who attended or publish the link for the minutes to a website for members or others to access.

Screen shot of my minutes using minut.io

Screen shot of my minutes using minut.io

The major drawback was that the website didn’t load with Internet Explorer; the main web browser used in schools. Those wanting to use it would need to access the site through an alternative browser such as Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari, however, for those looking for a template or easy way for students to take minutes, this site would be a great starting point.

My day with technology

keyboard
In reading Doug Belsaw’s blog on how he uses technology each day which led me to read Cory Doctorow’s post What I Do, I felt inspired to do the same.  I’ve loved reading what other people use and enjoy looking into if they might work for me. Hopefully this post might inspire you to consider investigating some of these options or your feedback and comments might encourage me to look at alternatives. 🙂

During the school term, I am woken up each morning by my Sony alarm clock. I bought this based on a review I read on Unclutter blog and love the fact that I can use it to charge my iPhone. The only downside to using this is after adjusting the settings to the lowest one possible, I still find it just a tad too bright while I’m trying to sleep.

I usually head to the gym before work. I’d find it far too easy after work to invent excuses for not going, so the early morning thing works for me. I alternate between weights and cardio (spin and swimming). I use iFitness to record my workouts. Tend to be good at tracking the cardio ones as I can type it in as I do it, but tend to forget when I’m swimming or bike riding. I’ve created a few playlists using iTunes that I listen to on my iPhone whilst I work.

Following this, I usually head to McDonalds for my morning coffee fix (1 x tall vanilla latte). Thanks to free wi-fi at McDonald’s stores, I use this time to check my e-mails (school and personal) via my iPhone.  I use Twitteriffic on my iPhone to check Twitter updates from my professional learning network. I’ll also check out what’s happening with my friends via Facebook through my iPhone app.

When I arrive at school I turn on my Lenono Thinkpad R61. I lease this through DEECD by a fortnightly deduction from my pay. (Think it works out for $4 before tax. Whilst this is a lot better than the $12 we used to pay, I still wonder why we pay for this – would a doctor or a lawyer or any other professional have to pay to have access to their computer ?)  

I connect my laptop to my SMARTboard. I also make use of the wireless keyboard and mouse but can’t quite get the wireless slate to work properly.

Once I’ve logged on I open up Microsoft Outlook where I keep my daily calendar\work program and store my e-mails.  I also sync my phone to store\update my contacts. I occasionally use the journal tool to record phone calls or keep notes.

I subscribe to a range of blogs that keep me informed on various topics I am interested in (technology, student participation, education, organisation and time management). These blogs include:

Teaching positions within Victorian Government Schools are advertised online through Recruitment Online and I have setup an automatic job search that e-mails me each day any new positions that have been advertised.

I will also open up the following websites using Internet Explorer:

  • Remember the Milk to keep track of my to-do items. I have set various tags based around Habit 3: Putting first things first from the book 7 Habbits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  • Evernote to keep track of notes.
  • Wikispaces to access our Senior School and Student Leadership wikis.  (I can eventually see this being replaced by the Ultranet)
  • Tweetree to keep track of twitter posts during the day at school. Facebook is blocked by our servers.
  • eCASES21to submit my daily student attendance records to CASES21(administration and student management software package used in all Victorian Government Schools)

DEECD also use Microsoft Communicator for instant messaging. Whilst I use it to communicate with other teachers and professionals working at regional and central office, most of the other staff at my school don’t use it.

I use Delicious to track all my websites. I have installed the Delicious toolbar to my laptop so it makes the task of adding a new site pretty easy. I also make use of the tags to track sites based on their subject. I also created a school account on Delicious where other staff can submit sites they also find useful, but again this isn’t utilise much by staff who still prefer to save their “favourites” to their own machine.

Our school uses Sponsor-Ed to manage our school website.

I also have an Excel Spreadsheet  that I use to audit students behaviour as part of my schools Behaviour Management Plan. We also use a Microsoft Access database that I created called Trouble Tracker to document any classroom or yard incidents. This generates letters than can be sent home to parents. It also can generate reports and graphs that summarise the data we have entered.

Assessment wise, my school makes use of the On-Demand Testing software put out by the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority. We both the linear and progress tests. Our team reviews the results from these tests to create lessons\groupings based on the needs of our students. We also use the accompany CD to enter our CARS & STARS Comprehension Assessment Results. Entering these results is tedious, but again is much quicker than pen and paper correcting. Our school uses Marbook to generate our mid-year and end of year reports.  Unlike QuickVic, Markbook allows you to create additional classes to track assessment items. Teachers enter there assessment results (students spelling levels, reading levels, comprehenision tests, on-demand testing results) using the Assessment Writer application which are then uploaded to Central on our reporting server. From here, we can the use the Results Ananlyser application to collate and summarise student assessment results and get a snapshot of a particular student, year level or the whole school. We also have developed our own assessment continuums using Microsoft Excel that we can keep track of students progress against various progression points for English and Mathematics within the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (soon to be the National Curriculum). We also use checklists\continnums for our social skills lessons (Personal & Interpersonal Learning) and for ICT.

My classroom has access to 5 desktop PC’s. We also share with the other senior classes a bank of 26 notebook computers and a laser printer.  Students also have accounts with SuperClubs Plus. We also use Mathletics. Other applications I have used in the past include SuperDooper Music Looper (to create ‘loops’ of music) and Pixton (to create comic strips) as well as the standard suite of Microsoft Office products. We watch Behind the News online most weeks on our Interactive Whiteboard.

Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons we either have staff or team meetings. For our team meetings I’m experimenting with Tom’s Planner as a tool to develop GANTT charts for tracking tasks and meetings for my teaching team. I really love the new feature they added that allows you now to share and collaborate with others to develop your GANTT charts. I’d really like though if they added a “fill down” option. My team would have found this useful when we were developing out term planner and wanted to ‘block out’ certain days so we didn’t double book ourselves.

For planning documents and minutes, we mainly type these up on Microsoft Word, e-mail them to each other and then save them to our shared network drive. (Again, I can see the rollout of the Ultranet changing how we do this.)

For presentations I create for staff meetings, I use Microsoft Powerpoint. After extensive reading about creating presentations using Powerpoint, I am becoming more aware of the need for limited amounts of text and high quality graphics.

Thursday afternoons I am working with the Innovations and Next Practice Divison to deliver online professional learning for teachers through the Virtual Conference Centre using Elluminate. My series is titled “Look Who’s Talking” and is exploring the topic of student participation, student leadership and student voice within schools.  Recordings from these sessions are posted online at the Guide to Innovation Ning and the Victorian Institute of SRC Teacher Advisors Ning.  I’m looking into using Elluminate to setup a state based student council for Victorian primary school students and am keen to use it within my classroom as a tool to connect and collaborate with other schools and professionals in our learning.

I use VISTAPrint to create printed promotional materials for the work I do with the Victorian Institute of SRC Teacher Advisors  and Squarehead Solutions. (They’re Kinda cheap too!)

I record TV programs using my Phillips DVDR5570 DVD Recorderto record programs that I’d miss while working.  Whilst I love the fact it records the program to HDD, occasionally the recording will skip and jump during playback and will sometimes freeze up, requiring you to switch off the device at the powerpoint to reset and restart it. I used to own a Panasonic DVD Recorder, however it didn’t have a HDD and required the programs to be recorded to blank DVD’s. When the blank DVD was full you had to finalise it to make it viewable on any DVD player. As my Panasonic DVD player died before I finalised the recordings on the blank DVD’s, I can’t watch these (Anyone who know a way around this help would be apprecaited !)  

I have a Seagate external hard disk drive that I use to backup most of my work and to store my digital music. I am considering using DropBox as an aditional backup method and for the convenience of having it all available online.