5 EdTech tips for the New Year!

Author: Mark Anderson

The start of a New Year is always a great time to reflect upon things we’ve learned and consider changes we might like to make for the future. Therefore, we often have New Year’s resolutions to do things such as lose weight, take up a sport or do something like ‘Couch to 5K’.

For me, it has always been the case that I would use the New Year as an opportunity to think carefully about how I could improve myself professionally. So, in this article, I will explore five areas that you might like to consider that will help you improve, develop and refine your use of technology to support your role as an educator.

I have long been a fan of the marginal gains approach to development, recognizing that there are rarely big wins that stand in isolation. When you couple this with the recognition that technology can really help in reducing workload and make you more efficient, it makes sense to explore those ways.

Dictation

One tool built into most devices is the ability to use voice typing/dictation to speed up your typing within the tool you’re using. Whether you’re on a Mac, a Chromebook or a PC, tools built into the operating systems and the software (e.g. Google Docs has ‘Voice Typing’ as an option on the ‘Tools’ menu) facilitate this activity. As a result, you will find that you will be far more productive when you need to type emails and other documents.

To serve as an example, rather than type this article, I am using the dictation tool on my device. This enables me to write far more quickly than I can type and produce articles more quickly than I otherwise would.

Keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are fantastic. I am significantly more productive because I have taken the time to learn keyboard shortcuts on my devices that help me cut corners to perform tasks that I regularly do on my devices. In isolation, the shortcuts will only save you microseconds, but in a marginal gains world, when you aggregate these time savings together over time, you will be significantly more productive and efficient as a result.

Take for example the regularly used Copy and Paste feature built into devices; the standard shortcuts of CTRL+C for Copy and CTRL+V (CMD on a Mac for both) are widely used shortcuts. In any given day, I must use these two shortcuts at least 100 times. Over the course of one day, if I save myself 0.5 seconds each time I copy and paste (as opposed to using menu-driven options such as right click, choose copy, then right-click, choose paste), that is a time saving of 100 seconds per day. That’s 500 seconds per week or 19,500 seconds per academic year or 5.42 hours; and that’s just Copy and Paste!

Use your voice

The first activity I shared that you could consider developing this calendar year was using your voice for dictation purposes. It’s important to note that lots of the tools we use in education also facilitate the use of audio messages. So, rather than dictating into something like OneNote to leave typed feedback, why not just record an audio message that a child can listen back to? If your school uses Microsoft Teams, rather than type a message into the chat feature to your colleague, why not just leave them a voice note? If you work in a school that uses Google rather than Microsoft tools, check out the Mote add-on which will give you audio note features in lots of Google tools!

Save early, save often

With online tools being so prolific in modern times, the need to save files all the time to avoid loss isn’t as needed as it once was. The reason for this is that files created on most online platforms such as Google Docs or Word Online are always automatically saved and updated regularly. That said, how many files have you got called ‘Doc1.docx’, ‘Doc2.docx’, ‘Doc3.docx etc in your Documents folder? I’m sure you’ll have more than one or two!

Make it a target this New Year (use Shift+F3 to toggle case on words you want capitalized, such as New Year!) to make sure that when you save a new document, you ALWAYS start by:

  1. giving it a memorable name
  2. saving it in a folder that is relevant to the content.

Those simple two actions will make things so much easier for you in the future when you want to find a file – you’ll know where it’s stored and be able to share it easily. And if the thought of saving something into a folder that’s relevant to the content makes you think ‘but I don’t have any folders’, go back one step, go to your Documents folder where you save your work, and create some meaningful folders for the classes you teach and the teams you work within.

Be a desktop feng shui champion

The fact is, as shared in the infographic below, there are two types of people:

I would share that I’m approaching a #2 myself but I do recognize that keeping an organized desktop helps me to be more efficient. It’s also less stressful, as the clear organization means I always know where all my work is. This is truly helpful, particularly as I use multiple devices and so have shared setups and structures across all of them. By having shortcuts on my desktop to my favorite folders for saving files also means that I can access whatever I want easily, share folders and files effortlessly with whomever I want and have harmony across my digital devices.

If, like me, you are a Mac user, a desktop feature called ‘Stacks’ is super useful as it groups similar files such as documents or images together into expandable stacks. That said, it is not the best way to organize things.

Having an uncluttered desktop is the ‘feng shui’ of edtech and equally, having an uncluttered and organized storage area will make things much easier for you in the long run too.

Some may argue that all you really need is the search tool on your device; however, just like with feng shui, the intent is to bring harmony to the environment you engage with, and so with an organized desktop and file structure, you will find less stress in your usage and more harmony in the work you undertake whilst using your devices.

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