Monday, July 25, 2005

Your Filing Cabinet-Friend or Foe?

Is your filing cabinet a trusted friend or a dreaded foe? Can you quickly put your hands on documents, or do you stack them on top for fear that they will disappear into a black hole if you open one of those drawers? If you want to save time, spend a little time organizing the filing cabinet. Be sure that you block out enough time to do the job well. It might mean a Saturday morning at school where you can work free from distractions, but it is time well spent.

To begin, gather several large garbage bags and reclaim some of the drawer space that has been occupied by papers that have no value. The process of purging your filing cabinet will not only get rid of the unwanted and unneeded, in the process you will undoubtedly run across some real gems you had forgotten you had.

You will also need a generous supply of blank folders on hand. The last thing you want to do is compromise your system simply because you didn’t have enough folders available. I prefer to use manila file folders as opposed to hanging files for general reference filing. Manila folders are much cheaper and take up less room than hanging files. If you want great-looking labels, a Brother labeler is a good investment. Of course, if your penmanship is good, there is certainly nothing wrong with hand labeling the folders.

Scrutinize the system you have for labeling your folders. If you begin labels with nouns, you will find it easier to develop a logical filing system where you can find your documents. Certainly, you can be open to the possibility of using subcategories (Field Trip—Museum, Field Trip—Zoo, etc.). Identify the folders that are too thick and see how they can be subdivided. You will probably find other folders with only a few pieces of paper each that could be combined under one category. If you are in for a major renovation, find a couple of teachers in your building that seem organized and see what sort of system they have developed.

Be sure to leave some room in each drawer. Three-quarters full is plenty. When drawers get tight, you will resist filing like the plague. Classrooms all over America sport stacks of files piled on top of filing cabinets, counters, and every flat surface imaginable—all living proof that overly-stuffed file drawers are no picnic.

Next week, we will look at the companion to organizing your paper filing system—organizing a digital filing system on your computer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Palm Training--Day 2

Getting organized is such a major part of the teaching profession. The major thrust of today's training was getting all of our "stuff" in order to have the handheld project up and going the first day of school--unpackaging every handheld, every keyboard, labeling every handheld, issuing caddies we will use to store and charge the handhelds, etc. There is still some work ahead between now and the start of school: charging the handhelds (I will be securing power strips for everyone that will allow half-a-dozen chargers to be plugged in at one time), syncing each handheld with the computer (so that the handheld will have a name and all of the software), and planning lessons using the handheld).

If we can get past the "learning curve," I see us as being on our way to engaging activities for students with no papers to print out, duplicate, or shuffle.

Palm Training for 6th Grade Teachers

Our school system purchased Palm handhelds for the 6th grade classes. During day one of training, our teachers learned the basics of getting around on the handheld, how to install software and synchronize the computer and handheld.

In particular, we downloaded and installed a free program called QuizWiz. Our teachers will be able to create quizzes and beam them to students. Students get immediate feedback, and it’s paperless. For those who like the concept of mind mapping, check out Idea Pad, another free program we installed. We also examined mdesk. Teachers attach the Palm to the computer using their sync cables. When mdesk is running, the teacher’s Palm is emulated on the computer screen. With a projector, scan converter hooked to a television, or SmartBoard, a teacher can then conduct whole-group instruction using his/her own Palm as a demonstration tool.

Thanks to Janet Taylor, Technology in Motion specialist from the University of Montevallo for conducting our training.

Monday, July 04, 2005

How Many “Ins” Do you Have?

Life used to be simple (or so we like to think). Those who worked in an office had an “in” box. When the in-box was empty, you were up to date! The organized teacher could adopt the same idea. Incoming paper went in the box. Phone messages were jotted on slips of paper and dropped in the box. Ideas could be jotted on a scrap of paper and dropped in the box to be handled later.

In the “old days,” work did not show up in many places. Check the mailbox at home (and dump the contents into your in-box at home). Check your mailbox in the teacher’s lounge and dump the contents into your in-box at school. When you saw the bottom of the in-box, you could relax. Getting “in” to “empty” was the name of the game.

Getting “in” to “empty” is still the state you want to achieve. What has changed is how many “ins” you have. Before you can get a handle on everything that calls for your attention, you have to first get a good idea of just how many “ins” you have. Ask yourself if you have:

…a mailbox at home for U.S. mail?

…a box at school where your receive mail and paper messages?

…voice mail at home?

…voice mail at school?

…voice mail on a cell phone?

…e-mail at home?

…e-mail at school?

…more than one e-mail account at either home or school?

…a notepad that lives by the phone that must be checked?

…a fax machine that must be checked?

…a bulletin board at school where information is posted?

…a school website where information is posted?

…a legal pad where you take notes during meetings?

…a memo pad in your pocket?

…a brief case or purse that collects papers?

You may have more in addition to what is listed above. I ask you to sit down with pencil and paper and list the “ins” that you have. Use this list as a starter. Before you can organize all of your “ins” and have any hope of getting them to “empty,” first you have to know where they are.