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“So am I teaching them to be organized, or am I just doing it for them?” That was what my friend Tracy asked me as we were discussing options around moving away from traditional paper based agendas and looking at digital options. I had suggested considering using Google Calendar. It met many of the conditions that were necessary:
- accessible to parents
- accessible on a variety of platforms including the web
- it didn’t require new accounts (her students already use Google Apps for Education)
What prompted her question was my suggestion that she actually do most of the work to populate the calendar and add her students as viewers. For years, I’ve heard the argument that using an agenda teaches students better self-regulation skills, and I think there may be some value to that, for some students. However, in my experience, “agenda time” meant that all students copied the exact same thing off the board and I walked around the class to verify they had done so. The reaction of many of my students (at various grade levels), was something like, “[Groan], I don’t even use this. Why do I have to do it?” and I tended to agree with them. I’m pretty sure that students get enough practice in copying things down in school. That’s why I switched to a classroom blog several years ago and stopped requiring all students to use a paper agenda. They were free to use one if they chose to, but I wasn’t going waste their time, or mine, on copying from the board.
My rationale for creating the calendar and populating it (and this applies to blogs and many other online tools teachers may use as well), is that we want to teach students to appreciate the value in an organizer, and how to use it as a valuable reference tool. With a paper agenda, I might have students copy “Math Test on Friday” off of the board, but if I use an electronic calendar, I can actually link to activities and resources that will help them study. A paper agenda can be misplaced at home or at school. A online calendar can’t be lost, and because I can add parents as viewers of the calendar, I no longer need to check agendas each day.
I think that if students come to see their electronic calendars (classroom blogs/sites/organizers/etc.) as resources that provide valuable information to them (through the use of links and attachments), and are accessible in a variety of formats (e.g. on mobile devices, the web, or even in a variety of printed formats), they will begin to consider the use of these tools independently and in a format that works best for them. If a teacher models the use of the Calendar and points out the resources that are included, students have a reason to use these tools outside of the classroom. Then students will have actually learned something beyond how to copy.
For more on how you might use Google Calendar in your classroom click here to see Google for Education's official resources.