Planner Design: Taking Attendance

Taking attendance is an important responsibility we have during every class. Many good teachers have an effective system for figuring out who’s in class and who’s not, however the act of recording and keeping these records is often cumbersome, since it generally requires transferring student names across several pages of paper in a planbook, and/or transferring daily records to the computer.  As part of our Planner, we wanted to make taking attendance fun, easy, and fast. We wanted to save your records without asking you where or how to do it. We wanted to be able to view these records just as easily, without worrying about accessing a file system or anything like that.

Our gradebook section is organized according to class. If you have a class with a gradebook, you can take attendance for that class. If not, then you can’t. When you go to view your gradebook, you can choose to see student grades or student attendance. You don’t have to “File –> Open”, or worrying about naming your attendance files. And when you do open your attendance book, you’re greeted with this:


UI For the attendance book, note that nothing shown is final until release.

This is only the beginning of what our gradebook has to offer, however. This is only the attendance portion.  The grades portion is similar, but we’re not ready to reveal that just yet.

How did we do? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook.

Social Media-fy Any Project

We do a fun professional development activity (fun PD, what?) at GHS called “Critical Friends”, in which teachers take turns critiquing others’ lessons and ideas. A colleague of mine who is a physics teacher does this end of year project where the students create a wall calendar where the pictures are student-taken interpretations of any 12 physics concepts throughout the year. I like the project because it’s creative but also extremely content relevant, so when this colleague asked for our input on how to make it a group project and solve the “one calendar but three members” problem, being the techie I am, I went a little wild. We came up with a few ways to take almost any illustration/photo based project to social media, and I thought they’d be a good subject of this week’s blog post.

Pinboarding A Series of Pictures

In this type of project, students create the series of photographs they were going to be required to create for the project and instead create a Pinboard on Pinterest. These boards can include explanations of the concepts and are really easy to share with friends, parents, and pretty much anyone else. Pinterest has the added bonus where the teacher can pin all of the student photos to a board and have everyone comment and evaluate the whole series of photos.

Calendar Template

Most word-processors come complete with calendar templates, as well as a whole host of other types of templates. Having students digitally complete projects via these templates allows them all to keep a copy when they’re finished, and produces slightly nicer artifact work than social media can provide.


Similar to Pinboarding them, students could instead upload the photos to Instagram, where they can like and comment on each other’s pictures. Creating hashtags is a bit of a student fad right now, so encouraging them to spread their images with a class created hashtag is an added engagement factor.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of


Imgur is an image sharing website growing in popularity that is simple: people upload pictures to the internet and others comment on them, competing for “top comment”.  Top comments are generally witty or hilarious, and having a class competition could be a good idea. Students could potentially upload entire albums of photos instead of one at a time.


Students could instead create a website dedicating to showing off their pictures and adding a friendly competition to the project: websites with the most traffic win a prize. This way, students could potentially use all of the social media outlets at their disposal to promote their work.

These are fairly unspecific because I think these types of modifications could be applied to any picture/illustration based project in any subject. Let me know what you guys think: I’d be happy to share some more specific examples from the science wing.

Improving Your Digital Workflow: Naming Your Files In Style

Thanks for all of the great feedback on our last post, 5 Tips On Improving Your Digital Workflow. I figured that people might want to read more, so I decided to write a more specific post on one of those tips. File naming isn’t exactly the most thrilling topic in the world, but the truth is that it’s a vital part of our digital organization since filenames are frequently the first thing we see when looking for something. I learned most of this from teaching myself how to code, but the lesson applies pretty much everywhere.

Use The Tools Available

This is the first thing that can help save you hours of time per month. Use a computer’s built in search and find functions. Macs have a great spotlight feature by pressing CMD + Spacebar, and PCs can perform a similar task, albeit more slowly. Use the different quick filter options on every machine, like Date Last Modified. Last, use the search bar in your Gmail and Drive.

Use Folders, Lots of Folders

The general thought is “too many folders means I have to click more times to find what I want” which is true. Consider the alternative, in which you are search a list of 200 files for one specific exam, when you could have clicked two more times into an “exams” and “topic” folder to get what you needed in half the time. Color code them to make your life easier; my exam folder is green, my lessons are yellow, and my my labs are orange.

Less is More

Filenames need to be small to be effective. Part of this has to do with your folder hierarchy, which is important, but having long filenames means you have to read more, which takes more time. If you have a pair of files called “Ideal and Combined Gas Law Quiz” and “Ideal and Combined Gas Laws Quiz 2”, all you know about these are that they’re two quizzes about the same topic. If you instead put them in a folder that is specifically for gas laws and their exams, now you could name them “Quiz 1” and “Quiz 2”. This saves time, but still isn’t optimal since you don’t really know what you’re getting. You might open one only to realize it’s not the longer test you’re longer for. Instead, these could be named “Q1x20” and “Q2x40”.  This way, you know they’re quizzes (they’re in the exams folder), you know they’re about gas laws (they’re in the gas laws folder), and you know their length, just by adopting a filenaming system.

I have an enormous number of quizzes, worksheets, and exams that are easy for me to search through due to a filenaming convention I’ve adopted. These are just tips for how to go about naming your own files, but the truth is, like with most organizational skills, you have to find the way that works best for you.

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