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6 ways busy teachers can be more efficient with Google tools

By Nicole Zumpano 4/12/2018 Tools

As we juggle multiple roles — educator, parent, volunteer — many of us find ourselves wishing we had more time in each day. Although it’s impossible to add more hours, there are ways to use the time we have more efficiently.

Below are six of my favorite Google Drive and Gmail workflow tricks that help me efficiently manage my time as a technology coach and adjunct instructor.

Starred documents and folders

This simple feature allows you to add star to a file or folder so you can easily access it again. This is helpful when you have a personal document or shared folder that you’ll likely be using a lot. When I’m developing syllabi or working on shared docs, I add a star to each of these so I can easily navigate between projects. When I am done or the project concludes, I remove the star and file the document appropriately.

How to do it: Select the document, right click and select “add star” from the drop-down menu. If you want to star a folder, right click on the folder on the left panel. To view your starred documents click on the “Starred” menu option in the left panel under the blue “New” button.

View a step-by-step tutorial here.

Force copy/preview

Educators tend to be generous about sharing documents so others can use them. If you’d like to share documents but want to keep your originals intact, the “force copy” option requires recipients to make a copy so the original can’t be altered.

How to do it: Replace the word "edit" with the word "copy" in the URL before you share the document. If you find yourself on the receiving end of forced copy, but you want to see the doc before you decide to save it, you can change the word "copy" in the URL to the word "preview." This will allow you to see what the document looks like before you decide to copy it. View a step-by-step tutorial here.

Creating email filters

We’ve all been in a situation where an important email was automatically diverted to a spam folder. This can lead not only to embarrassment but inefficiency as well. To avoid this, you can create a filter so a particular email address is never sent to the spam folder. Filters also allow you to set up automatic canned responses, send particular emails right to archives and much more.

How to do it: Log into Gmail. Click on the gear under your username and click on “settings.” From there, select the tab that says “Filters and Blocked Addresses.” You’ll see “Create a new filter.” View a step by step tutorial here.

Multiple profiles on chrome

One of the universities I adjunct for uses G Suite for Education and my university Chrome account has bookmarks, shortcuts, extensions and starred files that I want to keep separate from my personal account. If I am in my personal account and want to view or edit some of the course files for my class, I can do this quickly by having multiple profiles on the Chrome browser, which allows me to easily toggle between accounts.

This is also a good option if you have children at home who use your computer or laptop. Have them create their own profiles so you can keep your work/bookmarks/extensions separate.

How to do it: Sign in to Chrome (click on the button near the top right that has your name or picture). Click "Add account," which will take you to the Google sign-in page. See a step by step tutorial here.

“Reply from” emails

Because I adjunct for three universities during different times of the year, I like to have my university email forwarded to my private account so I don’t miss any important messages in between courses. But if I need to reply immediately, I don’t want to have to log out of my personal account and log into my university account to respond. I solve this by adding my university email accounts to my personal Gmail account.  

When I click “reply,” a drop-down menu appears next to my “from” address where I can select the account to respond from. The receiver sees my reply from my university account and does not know that it was sent via my personal Gmail.

How to do it: Log in to Gmail. Click on the gear under your username and click on “settings.” From there click on the tab that says “Accounts” to add other emails. See a step by step tutorial here.

Folder upload/download

Twice a year I download all of my Google Drive work files and folders onto my computer and upload them to my personal Google Drive account. This allows me to keep backups of any documents I create in the event I leave my current employer or don’t have access to outside of our network. I duplicate only personal documents that I have created.

How to do it: Log into your work Google Drive account, view your files in list view and click the first file. Hold the shift key down and select the last file so you selected all. Next, right click and select “download.” Multiple files will download as a zip file. Next, log out of this account and log into your personal Google Drive. Click the blue “New” button and select “folder upload”. You’ll be prompted to select a file/folder from your computer. Select the zip folder and click “open” and it will upload to your personal Drive account. See a step by step tutorial here:

These small tips and tricks not only improve workflow but eventually save you time. To see my complete list of Google workflow tips and tricks, which include tutorial pages for each tip/trick, please visit my blog.  

Nicole M. Zumpano is a National Board Certified teacher and technology coach in a Chicago Public School as well as an adjunct instructor at three universities. She has master's degrees in instructional technology and administration & supervision and is the immediate past president of Illinois Computing Educators, an ISTE affiliate. Nicole is a co-chair for posters for #ISTE18. Read her blog and follow her on Twitter @nmzumpano. 

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