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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Revamp Traditional Agenda Books using Google Keep and Docs

I was inspired by the Google Teacher Tribe Podcast episode on Google Keep to share a way that I have used Google Keep in my classroom this past year as a way to do away with and revamp the traditional student agenda books.

Long story short, prior to this school year I was hand writing my daily agenda on the oversized poster copy of the student issued agenda book every day. Requiring students to copy it down in their agenda books to help communicate with home what the assignments and activities for that day was.

Why? Because that is how it has always been done? Students despised having to write down the agenda. After the first few weeks of school students struggled completing this task. Agendas started getting lost or left at home. Many agendas weren't getting signed by parents or guardians at home to acknowledge they have reviewed it as I required, OR the complete opposite would happen. I noticed some parents signed for the whole week the first day!

ARGHHH! Again, why was I still doing this? It was a battle that was not worth fighting! I needed a better way to help keep students organized & communicate class work with home.

My school is 1:1 with Chromebooks, so why not leverage the technology students had? I immediately thought of Google Keep, Google’s note keeping app that is like digital sticky notes. (As of February 2017, it is now one of the G Suite for Education Core Services! If you are not familiar with Google Keep check it out at www.google.com/keep.) Along with using a shared Google Doc to replace the oversized poster copy of the agenda so students know the assignments and activities for class, I felt like I had a good plan in place.

So now that the year is coming to an end and reflecting back, here are nine benefits I encountered while using Google Keep and Docs to revamp traditional agendas.

  1. It saves time. No more wasting class having students write down notes for their own agenda. It’s already done and everyone can view it.
  2. It saves money. I know my school spends the money every year to purchase an agenda book every year. Use Google Keep and Google Docs to eliminate that cost!
  3. Everything in one place and accessible anytime, anywhere. By having students add the Agenda Doc to their Drive it will automatically sync for offline viewing. Also, Google Keep does the same thing! So this way whether or not students have internet access outside of school, they will be able to view the agenda and check off or add items to the To-Do list.
  4. Student Accountability. You can have students share their To-Do list with you. You can help keep student accountable in real time and this also means you can add to the list or mark things off. This could be really helpful for when students are absent!
  5. Share with parents. Change the share setting of your Agenda Doc to “anyone w/ link can view” and give it to your parents in a shortened URL or a QR code. Also, not only can the note on Google Keep be shared between you and your students, but it can also be shared with a parent that has a Google account so they can see what student need to complete for class.
  6. Add links and highlight. To help students and parents, I bold and highlight important assignments like an upcoming test or science project that is due.  When adding items I will also hyperlink the text to any digital resources we used and assignments I posted in Google Classroom. After the week is over I also download the Doc as a PDF, save it to my drive, and add the link to the doc just for reference after the weekend or a long break.
  7. Helps students know what they missed. Having this setup has allowed students who were absent know immediately where to go and get any assignments they missed. This also allows students who have access at home to view assignments online and go ahead and work on things while being out.  
  8. It teaches 21st century skills. How many of you still use some sort of physical planner book? If you are like me, my school uses a shared online calendar and my personal schedule is on my smart phone. This way of scheduling and organization is not going away. So what better way to prepare students for their future than to have them start using these type of tools now?
  9. Get organized. Some of the features of Google Keep that can be more beneficial to both teachers and students are: being able to color code your notes, add a label (which I liken to a hashtag) to help with sorting, set reminders, or with the checkbox option selected in the note, reorder the To-Do list to reflect order of importance by just a quick click and drag.

Just a warning, it wasn’t very easy at first. I had to teach students the technology. Sometimes I would forget to add the items to the agenda doc. Students would have a large amount of items on their To-Do list they weren’t marking out or deleting. Some students didn’t want to use Google Keep and preferred to continue using the agenda, while others were responsible enough to just use the Google Doc. So I adjusted my expectations, allowed for student choice and it turned out okay. All in all, I think all involved are very happy with the outcomes and I look forward to using this again next year.

If you would like to try this revamped method of student agendas, below are the steps I took setting it up.

  • Create a Google Doc that will serve as your daily agenda to be shared with students. Click Here to view mine & make a copy if you like!
  • Post the Google Doc agenda in the “About” section of Google Classroom to be viewed by students.
  • When students open the Doc, have them click the Drive icon and Save it to their own Drive. I did this so the file can be viewed offline too.
  • Have students download the Google Keep App for their device. I recommend doing this cause Keep automatically syncs and is available offline.
  • Create a new note and give it an appropriate title. For me, I just had my students do something simple like “Johnny’s To-Do List”.
  • Click the three vertical dots and select show checkboxes. Doing this allows for you to reorder and check off items added to the note.
  • Click the DONE button to save the note.  

Once you and your students complete the steps above you are ready to go. I was doing this before the most recent Keep update and the Keep notepad integration in Google Docs. So now as students are viewing your agenda Google Doc if there is something they need to do for class all they have to do is click tools and select Keep notepad which will open a small sidebar.

From the sidebar, students can locate their To-Do list, add an item, check off or delete completed tasks, take a new note, and even click to open up the full Google Keep to reorder items and manage their notes.

UPDATE: 5/1/17


Erin Fisher (@MrsErinFisher), a Technology Integration Facilitator in Massachusetts saw this post and created a great video tutorial to show her teachers on how easy it was to use Google Docs and Keep to create a revamped student agenda. Check it out below. I even learned something new! Thanks again Erin!



There you have it. What are you thoughts on this? If you use it, please let me know how it works! Leave me a comment or connect with me on twitter @SEANJFAHEY.