Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself repeating some of the same advice time after time, and I thought I’d put together a sort of collection of these common pieces of wisdom to refer to in the future. Technology can be daunting, especially because sometimes overcoming the learning curve is an obstacle that can prevent it from being as useful as it’s supposed to be. Cut my grading time in half, you say? Sounds great. Oh, you mean after 3 hours of bumbling my way through your software? A lot of teachers would just stick to their own methods. I’ve tried to be braver about this in order to cut through some of that stigma and amass a plethora of knowledge regarding tech that can actually save time and actually make life easier. Essentially, this will be a list of tech tips that are worth the learning curve.
Using Dual Monitors
Holy toledo, I made this one first because it saves so much frustration. Half the reason people still print things out – like emails, memos, and even lesson plans – is because it’s so darn cumbersome to switch from window to window for reference. Sure, you could arrange your windows side by side, but then you’re cutting your monitor real estate in half, and for many teachers, that makes us endlessly frustrated as we alt-tab, ctrl-tab our way through different windows and tabs. So we print things out and hold the paper or list or whatever as we go through our grading and planning.
Using an extra monitor can seem daunting because it just looks like too much trouble. You have to plug it in, then connect it to your computer, and then fiddle with the display settings… ugh!
Do it when you know you’re going to spend some real time on your work, not for a quick email check. I cannot convey enough how some of the most mundane, time-wasting things that you don’t even think about are solved by having two monitors. In most cases, you only need to use one monitor because most teachers have laptops. Once you set the monitor as an extension, you’ll feel so good with Google Classroom on one screen, Schoolloop on the other… or your powerpoint on one screen, your reference materials on the other… or even a parent’s email on one screen with their student’s work on the other.
Now you can drag the picture from the browser over to your powerpoint instead of alt-clicking and switching tabs. It has changed the way I grade, the way I teach, and the way I plan. I will never go back. If you take your laptop from place to place, and the plugging/unplugging game starts to get to you, consider getting another device as a dedicated workstation.
I have a home computer that I use as a workstation and it has two monitors. I use it for planning and grading. I can do most of my planning and grading in about two work sessions per week – including essays!
My school laptop is now only for school and is plugged into the projector there, which extends my desktop and also outputs that extension to a second monitor. The result? On the left screen, my laptop, I can put up attendance, etc. Anything I want the kids to see, I can drag to the right screen, and look at it without turning my back on my kids to look at the projector.
For on-the-go purposes, I usually just grab a Chromebook from the cart rather than my plugged-in laptop.
If you have an idea for a Teacher Tech Tip, or you have a problem that you hope I can solve with technology, go ahead and leave a comment or hit up my Twitter handle @TheEnglishPhan.