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Top 10 Email Tips

Email is something many people have been using for 10-15 years now. I remember first getting an email address in 1999 although the way I use email has changed dramatically since then.

I would never have thought of checking my emails over breakfast in 1999 yet now my breakfast email session is ingrained into my daily routine.

When I started teaching in 2004, I would never have thought about emailing parents. Now a day rarely goes by where I don’t have some sort of email correspondence with parents and I send out an e-newsletter fortnightly (I wrote more a post about emailing parents here).

It’s safe to say, email is a big part of my professional and everyday life.

While the first email was apparently sent in 1971, it didn’t start to become more widespread until the late 1990s. The popular webmail provider, Hotmail, was launched in 1996, while Yahoo Mail was released a year later in 1997. Interestingly, Gmail wasn’t launched until 2004 and didn’t come out of beta (trial) until 2007!

Even though email is far from new and is a form of technology most people are now “using”, I often wonder how well it is being used.

People not checking or replying to their emails is an absolute pet peeve of mine. I am quite amazed that email has been around for so long now yet in many businesses and organisations, it seems to be optional whether it is used or not. I wonder, for the first 10 to 15 years that phones were around, did people sometimes decide not to answer them?

Many people complain about getting “so many emails” and they just seem to throw their hands in the air and not know what to do about it.

I kept track of how many emails I was receiving for a few days and was extremely surprised to find I am receiving well over 100 emails each day! I knew it was a lot but because I have clear organisational strategies, email isn’t a frustration to me as it is to many.

It seems to me that there is very little information given in workplaces or schools about how to use email efficiently. I wonder if many students who are provided with an email address are given any management advice. The tips below may help fuel a discussion with your class or make your life easier.

Image: 'autoroute à emails...' http://www.flickr.com/photos/29647247@N00/60963915
Image: ‘autoroute à emails…’ http://www.flickr.com/photos/29647247@N00/60963915

Here are my top ten tips for making email a seamless and useful part of your life rather than a constant hassle

1. Three choices – delete, file, respond: If you deal with each email once, you will save a lot of time. When you read a email, delete it if it is not useful or the correspondances if over, file it in a folder if you need to keep the email for reference or respond straight away if the email needs a response that will take only a few minutes. The only time I leave emails in my inbox is if they need a response that will take more investigation or longer than five minutes to compose.

2. Create folders: In order to complete the first step well, you need to have folders. I use Outlook which also allows you to create sub folders. Eg. I have a folder called “school” and sub-folders such as “parents”, “excursions” and “PD”. I prefer this sub-folder method so I don’t have scores of folders to wade through.

3. Check daily: Many experts say it is best to choose set times during the day to check emails in batches (eg. at lunchtime and at 4pm). This is a good idea if you find you are being distracted by email, however I prefer to have Outlook open all the time and I just check it whenever I have a few minutes. Regardless, it is a good idea to come up with a routine to make sure your emails are being attended to regularly.

4. Use a subject line and paragraphs: Make your emails easy to read. A subject line lets the reader know what the email is about and paragraph breaks make emails so much easier to read.

5. Keep your mailbox size down: Some web-based email programs like Gmail have a very large storage limit, however many work emails. like Edumail, have a set storage limit (although Edumail was recently increased). This means you need to empty your sent folder and deleted folder regularly. If you don’t, your inbox will become full and you won’t be able to receive any more emails. Even if you’ve put emails in folders, they still count towards your storage limit. When emails come with attachments like photos or documents,  I usually save the attachment and delete the email immediately.

6. Think before sending: This probably doesn’t need too much explaining. When you send out an email, it is permanent. You need to make sure you’re not writing something that could be taken the wrong way or be considered controversial. If you’re not sure, leave the email to reread later or ask a friend to read over it for you. Err on the side of caution!

7. Get to know your email program and save time: While some email programs have more features than others, it is a good idea to take the time to play around and learn how to use the features available to you. A little time spent learning can save you a lot of time in the future. Some example of time-saving features include distribution lists which let you create a group of people you email regularly all at once (eg. a school team or parent group). Email filtering is a feature that lets you automatically process emails into certain folders or into a certain priority order. Some programs, like Outlook, also let you drag and drop emails into your calendar.

8. Don’t open suspicious attachments: Everyone should know not to open email attachments from people you don’t know as they could contain viruses or other unwanted programs.

9. Use a signature: Create an email signature with functional links to help people get to know you and your digital footprints. My signature links to my blogs, Diigo and Twitter accounts.

10. Unsubscribe from emails you don’t need: I used to be guilty of getting too many email from newsletters, “deals of the day”, blog feeds etc that were wasting a lot of my time and not proving to be overly useful. Last year, I did a cull of these sorts of emails and now enjoy a less cluttered inbox. You will find an “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of most automatically generated emails.

What are your email tips?

Class Mascots

In my class, we adopted a new class mascot at the start of the year called Leo the Lion.

Leo on world

The idea of a class mascot is nothing new. In fact, my good friend Linda Yollis has had her class mascot, Panda, for nearly 25 years! The fantastic thing is that now with blogs, class mascots can be a real public symbol for your blog and help to give your class a unique identity. Class mascots can be “friends” that helps the students on their learning journey.

It was the fun I saw my blogging buddies having with their class mascots that made me think we needed one!

Linda Yollis has mascots Panda and Hoppy in her class while Jonah Salsich shares his classroom with mascots Juan Pablo and Perezoso.

Leo plays various roles in our classroom. He sits and watches over our class to make sure they are doing the right thing. He has even made his own video about quality commenting tips. Sometimes, Leo writes about his weekend on the interactive whiteboard and the students have to “help” Leo edit his writing. When students don’t have a partner to read to, Leo is always there and loves to listen to stories. Leo is also a role model commenter on our blog (he has his own email and avatar).

Having a class mascot adds a little fun and humour to the classroom. We often laugh about what Leo has been up to on the weekend, and his ability to fall asleep at any moment is a ongoing joke.

Leo has developed such a personality that we even had a birthday party for him this week. Leo “made” invitations for all the students.

Leo invite

This is the PhotoPeach we created for our class blog after the party.

There is so much you can do with class mascots. Linda Yollis and Jonah Salsich have some great ideas such as having the mascot display tips for students in the classroom or featuring the mascots in educational videos on their blogs. Some classes like Jen Dowling’s class K/1D, take their mascot, Ruckus the Reading Dog, home for visits. Jonah Salsich and I have thrown around the idea of exchanging mascots by mail although due to their size it’s not overly practical.

Even though we have only had our class mascot for a couple of months, Leo is a big part of our classroom community and the imagination of my 7 and 8 year old students never fails to amaze me. The students have helped to develop Leo’s personality and interests. I can’t wait to see what fun we’ll have with Leo next!

Do you have a class mascot?

How else could you tie a mascot into your classroom/blog?

Top 10 Twitter Tips!

Without a doubt, Twitter is my number one form of professional development and I am always recommending it to other educators.

I first joined Twitter in early 2009 although I didn’t start using it daily until early 2010.

I find Twitter to be a one stop shop to meet like-minded educators. It is a place where I can find advice, give advice, find great links, share my work and engage in general musings about education.

For me, Twitter has never been a place where I tell people what I am eating for breakfast or catch up on celebrity goss. While I use Facebook to keep up with friends, Twitter is purely a professional medium for me.

If you’re new to Twitter, this is a terrific video that explains how Twitter can be used as a professional development tool for teachers

(I came across this via Michael Graffin @mgraffin – thanks!).

As a regular Twitter user I thought I would offer some advice to new Tweeters.

1. Give it a chance! So many people who join Twitter have trouble getting their head around it or forming connections with others. I was using Twitter for months before I felt like I was a real part of the Twitter community and knew what I was doing. Make yourself check in to Twitter daily for a month before you make any decisions about whether it is for you.

2. Get a desktop application. The Twitter website is not overly user-friendly and most Tweeters use a desktop application to access and organise their tweets. I recommend TweetDeck. It is free, straightforward and available for Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, Android etc. With TweetDeck, you can easily keep track of conversations, make lists and incorporate your other social networking sites (eg. Facebook).

3. Give and take. I have seen some people use Twitter simply to let others know about their new blog posts. While this is one great use of Twitter, why not strike up a conversation with someone or offer someone some advice? Like everything in life, you will find Twitter to be a more worthwhile and enjoyable experience if you give and take.

4. Tweet in less than 140 characters. Make your important tweets short enough so others can retweet them without having to shorten the tweet. If people have to go to too much effort to shorten your tweet (eg. after RT @username is added), they may decide not to retweet it.

5. Know where to put @username. I have seen so many people lately “retweet” a message by starting with @username. Don’t forget, with most Twitter applications, people will only see others’ replies if they are following both the sender and recipient of the update. Eg. you might think Mary has a great blog so you tweet “@mary has a great blog about teaching www.blog.com, check it out!” Only people following you and Mary will see the tweet. This really limits your audience.

6. To follow or not to follow. Some people only want to follow a certain number of people (eg. 100) so they can keep track of their tweets. If people follow me or retweet me and they are “quality Tweeters” (eg. teachers or involved in education), I will follow them back. I prefer not to follow businesses or commercial tweeters unless I’m particularly interested in them. Some people will disagree but I find this “following back” method polite. Over time, this can mean you could have 1000+ people you are following. Obviously that would be too many to keep track of but I create a list in Tweetdeck of people I’m particularly interested in. Currently there are about 150 people on this list. That may seem like a lot but some people don’t tweet all that often and I don’t feel compelled to see everyone’s tweets.

7. Let others know who you are! I do not follow back anyone who doesn’t have a bio. There are so many “spam” Tweeters out there, that I wouldn’t want to risk it! It takes minutes to make a bio that tells possible followers who you are. I much prefer people have a real photo of themself, rather than a cartoon avatar or other picture. People will feel much more of a connection with you if they can see who you are. Finally, when signing up for Twitter, it is best to use your real name (or close to) if possible. Being online and part of a PLN isn’t about hiding or pretending to be someone else. I don’t believe in having an online you and and offline you. Let us know who you are. Your digital footprint is valuable!

8. Use hashtags #. Hashtags mark key words or topics in tweets and help to categorise tweets. It is a way to get your tweet out to people who may not necessarily be following you. Hashtags can appear anywhere in the tweet. Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other tweets in that category. Some hashtags you might like include #edtech #edchat #elemchat #comments4kids #vicpln. If you go to a conference you will generally find they have a hashtag so you can tweet before, during and after the event and connect with fellow delegates. Tip: don’t over hashtag your tweet – 3 is enough!

Here is a post I wrote all about Twitter hashtags if you want more information.

9. Drop in and drop out. One of the great things about Twitter is you don’t have to keep up with everything. I love Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s analogy of Twitter being like a river. The river keeps flowing but sometimes you might just walk past and have a quick look, sometimes you might hang around a dip your toes in, other times you might spend hours swimming around. You can use Twitter as your time and inclination permits!

10. Ask for advice. If you’re not sure how things work on Twitter just ask. I am @kathleen_morris and I’m always happy to help! Don’t know who to follow? Tweet me and I will give you some suggestions!

twitterfollow

Need more convincing on the power of Twitter? Chris Betcher has written a fantastic post. Find it here.

What are your thoughts on Twitter?

Share your Twitter tips!

Two Victorian Conferences

My team teaching partner, Kelly Jordan, and I have been accepted to present at two conferences in Melbourne in May.

As many of you know, Kelly and I have been blogging with our primary classes since 2008 and it is something we are passionate about after seeing so many benefits.

In our presentations, we plan to cover topics such as:

• How to get starting with blogging
• How students react to blogging
• The many benefits of blogging
• How to incorporate blogging into the curriculum
• How to address internet safety issues
• How to use blogging to flatten classroom walls and build global connections and projects
• Some of the web 2.0 tools that can be incorporated into blogging
Tips for better blogging

DEECD INNOVATIONS SHOWCASE

“This annual event features Victoria’s most forward thinking practitioners who will share the innovations making a difference in their settings.”

WHEN: Friday 13th May 2011

WHERE: Melbourne Convention Centre, South Wharf

COST: Free *hurry, limited places available!

WEBSITE: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/researchinnovation/showcase/default.htm

ICTEV2011 STATE CONFERENCE: IN TOUCH

“ICTEV’s 2011 conference aims to put you in touch with educational colleagues who will enthuse and inspire you to integrate technologies in your learning and teaching.”

WHEN: Saturday 21st May 2011

WHERE: Melbourne Grammar School, Wadhurst Campus, Domain Road, Melbourne

COST: $70 pre-service teachers, $180/$230 ICTEV member, $279 non ICTEV members

WEBSITE: http://ictev.vic.edu.au/conferences

Kathleen, Leo and Kelly

Here is Kelly (right) and me with the third member of our teaching team – our class mascot, Leo!

Will you be attending either of these conferences?

What do you think makes a good conference?

Are you a Learner or Learned?

Today I attended the first session of PLP ConnectU project. This project, sponsored by the Victoria Education Department (DEECD) is run by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. The project offers year long, job-embedded professional development that helps teachers to re-envision their classrooms, schools, and their roles in education.

Five reasons why I enjoyed the day…

  • Will and Sheryl were incredibly inspiring and engaging presenters.
  • Being in a room full of like minded educators is refreshing and exciting.
  • Being encouraged to multitask by back-channelling and tweeting during the presentations definitely suited my learning style!
  • Instead of just talking about the big picture ideas, we will be working on a collaborative project with other participants throughout the year. A great mix of theory and action.
  • The PD didn’t end at 3:30pm. We have five Elluminate sessions and one more face-to-face session for the year. There will also be a lot of online collaboration via our wiki, Ning and Twitter.

Will and Sheryl offered so much “food for thought”, however one quote that really stuck with me came from Will’s presentation. This was a quote by American writer on social issues, Eric Hoffer, from his book “Reflections on the Human Condition” (1973). Eric Hoffer was born over a century ago, however his words still ring true today.

Eric Hoffer Quote

To me, this quote says so much about the importance of students learning from and with others, inside and outside of the classroom, during and after their time at school.

It also illustrates the importance of teachers being lifelong learners. A day doesn’t go by where I am not actively pursuing my own learning via Twitter, blogs, research, networking, email, collaboration, podcasts, webcasts, Skype etc. I am constantly amazed that the philosophy of professional development being “done to you” or “given to you” is still so prevalent.

How many teachers are there out there who are equipped to teach in a classroom that no longer exists?

The world is our classroom and we have billions of people to learn from and with. How exciting!

What do you think of Hoffer’s quote?

Using Downloaded Fonts

For almost as long as I have been using Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, I have enjoyed downloading a range of fonts to enhance the appearance of my presentations or documents.

A couple of people have asked me lately how to use downloaded fonts. This post is an overview.

I’m sure many people agree Times New Roman, Arial, Comic Sans and Jokerman can be a little overused in Office documents.

There are thousands of other fonts available that people around the world have created and shared.

font1

font2

font3

Find a website:

There are a plethora of websites on the internet offering free fonts. Here are just four

1001 Free Fonts
dafont
Urban Fonts
Action Fonts

If you google “free fonts” you will find many many more.

Choose your font:

Some websites offer thousands of different fonts and it can be a bit overwhelming to find one you like.

Most websites organise their fonts into categories such as calligraphy, cartoon, handwriting, stencil etc. This helps you browse to find the types of fonts you are after.

Tip about choosing fonts:

Some fonts don’t include punctuation or numbers. Other fonts have some strange features such as a raised full stop or some uppercase letters looking like lowercase letters.

It pays to play around to find fonts that you find functional. Downloading fonts is so quick and easy that it doesn’t matter if you download some that you decide aren’t useful to you. You can delete them later.

User agreements:

While there are thousands of free fonts available on the internet, most of them are only free for private use. On some sites, the font downloads with a readme.txt file with information about the font, author and usage licence. Other sites like www.dafont.com tell you about the licence information next to the “download” button.

Download:

If you have Windows 7, you simply need to find a font online and click on the download button. When the download box pops up click on save file. You then need to unzip and install your font. Double click on your font to open it and click on extract all files on the tool bar up the top. When your file extracts, double click on the file name and you will be able to see a preview. Finally, click on install on the top toolbar in the preview. Your font should now appear in programs like Microsoft Office (your might need to restart first).

If you have earlier versions of Windows you usually need to copy and paste the extracted file into your fonts folder (you can find this in Control Panel).

More detailed instructions and instructions for Macs can be found on most of the font websites. This site also has some detailed instructions for various operating systems.

Important note about downloaded fonts:

Sometimes, people don’t realise that while their downloaded fonts look great on their computer and documents, they will not appear on others’ computers unless they have installed the same fonts. That means if you’re sharing a Word Document or PowerPoint with someone, the fonts will revert to a (not very pretty) default font. Your formatting might also be all off making your hard work look like a bit of a mess!

If you’re emailing someone a Word document and you want them to see your downloaded fonts, you can send it as a PDF. In Office 2010, go to file, save and send, send as PDF. While there are ways to embed some fonts into Word documents, I have found sending as a PDF to be the quickest and easiest method.

If you’re preparing a PowerPoint to use on another computer, it’s best to choose standard fonts to avoid the formatting issues.

Deleting fonts:

If you download fonts and you decide don’t want them, you can delete them. Your fonts will be easier to navigate if you don’t have to sort through ones you don’t like to find what you’re after.

In Windows, go to Control PanelFonts and right click on the fonts you don’t want. Press delete.

Final note:

Just because you’ve downloaded many fonts doesn’t mean you should use them all, or even three or four, in one document. I believe overusing fonts can look a bit like a jumbled mess. I like to stick to using two fonts per document, one for the heading and one for the body – unless you’re creating some sort of poster or newsletter where you want to create an eclectic look.

You also want to make sure your fonts are easy enough to read. Some fonts are attractive but difficult to decipher.

Have fun with fonts!

Do you download fonts?

What tips do you have about downloading fonts?

Do any Mac users have some insights into downloading fonts to share?

Happy Birthday to my Blog!

logo maker - http://www.sparklee.com

I began this blog, Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom on 14th March 2009.

I started the blog with the initial goal of sharing ideas and resources. The purpose of this blog has changed from resource sharing to reflection, advice and discussion of issues surrounding blogging, global collaboration and technology integration.

Two years on, I still love blogging as much as ever. I think it is a great way to organise  and explore your thoughts, and get feedback from others.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of my blog readers for your support!

Hopefully my blog will have many more milestones!

Last year I polled my readers on what sort of posts they’d like to see more of. I thought it would be an opportune time to run a poll again. Please tick all that apply.

Tech Tools for Teachers is Back!

ABOUT TECH TOOLS FOR TEACHERS

Simon Collier and I began a free e-newsletter for educators called Tech Tools for Teachers in January 2010.

Each edition of the e-newsletter highlights an online tool or site that can be used in the classroom and provides step-by-step instructions on how to use it.

Tech Tools for Teachers is suitable for both primary and secondary teachers and we provide practical examples of how the tool or website could be integrated into the curriculum.

The purpose of Tech Tools for Teachers is to publicise and promote the use of ICT tools and web links to staff who are not regularly sourcing the available information on the net.  This in turn, increasing the use of the wonderful educational tools available online.

THE WEBSITE – TEACHING GENERATION NOW

This year we are making Tech Tools for Teachers bigger and better.

Matt Limb has joined Simon and me, and together we are Teaching Generation Now.

Today we launched our website

www.teachgennow.com.au

Tech Tools for Teachers - Teaching Generation Now

TECH TOOLS FOR TEACHERS e-NEWSLETTER IN 2011

We are continuing the Tech Tools for Teachers emails this year, but this time, due to popular demand, they will come out fortnightly rather than weekly.

Our format has changed slightly. You will still receive emails from Tech Tools for Teachers, with easy to understand, tried and tested technology ideas for your classroom. The bit that has changed is that these emails will be linked to our website where you will find the most recent Tech Tool in full detail, to help you out step by step. You can also browse an Archive of 2010 Newsletters at your leisure.

Of course, Tech Tools for Teachers is completely free and we encourage all educators to sign up. New subscribers can enter their email address on the right hand side of our website.

sign up

FOLLOW US ONLINE

Twitter

@techgennow

Facebook

Teaching GenerationNow

Email

techtoolsforteachers email

Stay tuned and spread the word! It is going to be an exciting year as we strive the meet the needs of this generation.

What ideas do you have for future Tech Tools for Teachers newsletters?

Standards for Graduate Teachers in ICT

Today I was lucky enough to be part of a small group of innovative educators from around Australia at a focus group in Melbourne. We were reviewing the Graduate Teacher Standards of the National Professional Standards for Teachers and elaborating on these in regards to ICT integration.

These standards were developed as part of a project by Teaching Teachers for the Future (TTF) targeting systematic change in the ICT proficiency of graduate teachers across Australia.

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) and The Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE), are developing and trialling explicit ICT specific dimensions (elaboration/exemplars/performance indicators) for approximately 60 % of the descriptors in the Graduate Teacher Standards.

This is an exciting project which will shape pre-service education and hopefully bring about an exceptional standard of graduate teachers across Australia.

Despite feeling a little overwhelmed by acronyms, it was great to meet some Twitter friends face-to-face and engage in some stimulating conversation with like minded professionals.

If you are interested in reading the standards, you can view the PDF here AITSL National Professional Standards for Teachers

This is a summary of the standards which broken down into further sub-sections. It was an interesting exercise to reflect on how ICT can be embedded into all of these standards.

Standards Grad teachers

What do you think the specific standards for graduate teachers should be in regards to ICT integration?

What do they need to know and do?

2011 School Year Begins

Today was the first day back at school for teachers in Victorian Government Schools.

All schools are spending the first three days on professional development and planning.

This year my school is focussing on in-house professional development. Each Monday night teachers will be presenting on Literacy, Numeracy and ICT. I am in charge of ICT professional development.

Last year, I set up a weekly lunch time ICT Drop in Session for teachers to assist them with blogging, IWBs and general ICT questions. I hope to continue with this this year to follow up on my Monday night sessions.

Today I presented to my staff about ICT. My guidelines were broad so I decided to offer my Top Ten Tips to Integrate Technology in the Classroom.

The ideas in the presentation are some of the areas that I will cover in PDs throughout the year. I knew not everything in the presentation would appeal to all teachers however I hoped there was something to inspire everyone.

The highlight of the presentation was skyping with the wonderful Linda Yollis in California, USA. Linda not only spoke about some of the ways she had used Skype in the classroom but demonstrated how Skype is actually used for those teachers who were unfamiliar with this tool.

How does your school structure professional development?

What are you focussing on at the start of the school year?

What would you include in your Top Ten Tips for Technology Integration?