The Best Tech Secrets to Share with Students

When the school year started, I was so worried about my use of tech (and how to view 5,941 windows at once), I didn’t do enough to help my students grow in how they are using tech. There’s no doubt that navigating different websites and keeping track of six classes through a screen is a HUGE challenge for teachers and students alike.  Let’s remember, it’s never too late to help guide students through their use of tech!

I turned to some of my favorite techies and all around inspiring educators to share their best tech tips that are so helpful they shouldn’t be secrets! No matter what learning platform your school uses, if you’re virtual, hybrid, or in-person, you’re sure to find something new you’ll want to teach your student! Plus, they’ll all take just a couple of minutes to teach students! You might also consider keeping a running list of tips and tricks you’re using to your class webpage, and invite your students to share their best tech secrets too.

Chromebook Skills

Are your students struggling to use their Chromebook? Stephanie Yi from Math With Ms. Yi suggests using this playlist of tech tips to easily teach Chromebook skills to students. These videos are quick and short to hold student’s attention. Stephanie says these tips have been super helpful with students in her classroom.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Want to cut down on your time and clicks of the mouse when you are preparing materials or teaching class? What takes several clicks of the mouse can take a much shorter amount of time when using keyboard shortcuts. John Rodney from @teachertoteacher says to take a look at this long list of shortcuts that you can start learning and incorporating to your computer usage. Some will work well and you’ll have memorized in no time. Once you have those basic keyboard shortcuts down, you can learn more advanced shortcuts. Don’t keep these shortcuts secret! Share these with your students. They will feel so cool when they learn more efficient ways of completing computer tasks! 

Zoom Settings

Are your students hard to see on Zoom? Are they staring at themselves the whole time during teaching? Are they missing their friends? All of these issues can be solved with Zoom settings! Maggie from Teach Tips finds it important to teach her students a few tricks on Zoom.

First, make sure students’ have the most up to date version of Zoom. To adjust lighting, click on the arrow next to “start video” and click on video settings. Under “My Video”, click the checkbox to adjust for low light. Auto should work, but you can also manually adjust.

To stop staring at yourself, go to your video on Zoom, and click on the three dots on the top right. Then click “hide self view.” Your video will still be visible to everyone else!

To rearrange people, enter gallery view. Then, simply click and drag boxes around to rearrange. As the host, after rearranging videos, you can click “follow host’s video order” so your students will appear in the same order on everyone’s screen (if your student’s account is not yet updated, it will not work for them). Maggie hopes this helps both you and your students!

Google Classroom's 'To-Do' Feature

Do your students struggle with keeping up with deadlines, due dates, and the overall management of tasks and assignments on Google Classroom? Vennieta from LoveTeachRepeat finds it necessary to teach her students how to utilize Google Classroom’s To-Do feature to help students stay organized and abreast of their assignments’ status in each of their classes.

Teachers often forget that students are managing a multitude of assignments from each of their classes, often spread amongst various applications, websites, and digital platforms. The To-do feature, located on Google Classroom’s Assignment page, allows students to access the status of their assignments quickly and gives them an awareness of missed assignments, tasks that they may have completed but forgot to submit, and upcoming due dates. 

 To access Google Classroom’s To-Do page, simply go to the menu (three lines, top left) and select “Assignments.” Next, select the To-Do option to see a comprehensive list of all missed or pending assignments. Students can choose to view all classes or view each class separately. When students click on an assignment, they will be linked to the post containing the assignments detail page. 

If students have access to a mobile device, they can also choose to receive push notifications when their teachers post new assignments or class announcements. Share this Youtube Video with your students to help get them started! Vennieta says that introducing her students to this feature has helped students gain an awareness of their academic workload and take the first step in establishing effective time management skills.

*If you aren’t using Google Classroom with your students, check out the tips for keeping track of “all the things” in the next section!

Keeping track of 'All the Things'

Are your students having a hard time staying organized with all the work they have to do? Anisa (@creativeundertakings) asked her students what method(s) work for them to organize, and they had some interesting tips to share.

  • Put it in an agenda or planner
  • Notebook with a to-do list every day
  • Writing assignments and due dates and check off as they go
  • Use Schoology’s ‘calendar’ feature
  • Google Keep (here is a great article from Shake Up Learning)

Anisa has another tip though, that she shared with her students. Create a slides template with one slide for each subject or period, whatever students feel comfortable with. They can decorate or keep it simple. On each slide, there’s a table. The table has 2 columns, with a list of things to do and then due dates, organized by subject. 

As students go through their various classes, they can add, cross out, delete, edit each slide as they need to. It gives them a running record of what all they need to do.

Teachers can make this for students or students can get creative with it.Lisa Van Gemert, or The Gifted Guru, shared something similar for Google Sheets called a Kanban Board, a system that originated by a Japanese industrial engineer.

Adding frequently used websites to your Bookmarks Bar may be intuitive to you, but how about to your students? Do they even know it exists? If they do–are there bookmarks organized? Students are visiting different pages on a regular basis and it can be quite frustrating going from place to place with a bunch of steps and clicks to get there. Give students examples of things they should be bookmarking for your class–such as your class webpage or an ongoing assignment. From there, teach students how to set up folders so they can do the same for their other classes. This one is a serious time saver for all those students who are always a few steps behind because they’re still trying to find a certain page.

Try out this Quick Guide to Using the Bookmarks Bar to help walk your students through the process of getting organized online!

Using a PDF Converter to Submit Assignments

Darin Nakakihara, from Edtech by Darin posits, “One of the greatest gifts we can give our students is the power to problem solve. The need for this important skill is magnified when it comes to edtech.” We often operate under the false assumption that these digital natives possess an innate ability to solve any tech issue thrown their way. 

Would your students be able to figure out how to turn in a handwritten math assignment to Canvas or Google Classroom? 

Sounds simple enough but consider the skills involved in this assignment. 

The student needs to take a photo or scan their work. Fortunately, many of our students have smartphones in their pockets. iPhones even have scanners built into the notes app (see how here). Darin recommends a free app made by Microsoft called Office Lens which is available on both Android or iOS platforms. Of course, taking a photo or scanning a doc only gets you halfway there.

The student would then need to know what file formats are accepted for this assignment. Apple’s HEIC and Google’s WebP aren’t widely accepted yet. Fortunately, changing a live photo to a .jpg is just a click of a button and there are several online converters that will do the same with a WebP file. The final piece of the puzzle would be to upload and submit the assignment, but the photo or pdf is sitting on their phone. Now what? Most major learning management systems have mobile apps for this purpose, but a student with an understanding of cloud computing should be able to troubleshoot this by uploading their file to an online storage app like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive and sharing the link for the assignment. To do this, the student would also need to have an understanding of share settings.  All of these skills are required just to turn in a piece of paper!

Phew! If reading about all these different skills and strategies to participate, organize, and submit assignments in a virtual class felt overwhelming, keep in mind students are juggling all of this too! What’s a tech tip you love that shouldn’t be kept a secret!?

DONUT forget to share these secrets with your teacher friends too!

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