So each student is different and needs different stuff. Some are ready to jump right in at 9:00 am, some take a bit longer to get into the swing of things. Some need regular breaks, some can go for longer stretches. Some learn instruments, some play sports, some code apps, some like to do a bit of everything.
Our students are unique individuals who deserve to be treated as such. They deserve the opportunity to have some say over their school life – to have choice, voice, and the ability to self-direct. To me, this is the essence of that overused buzzword, “21st Century Learning”.
So, enter personalised timetables. It’s one authentic way you can weave these 21st century elements into the fabric of everyday school life. We’ve been using personalised timetables for a few years now and students love them! They are developing all kinds of competencies (taking responsibility, prioritising etc) and taking more ownership over their learning. They are discovering things about themselves – their strengths and areas for improvement. Their perception of education is that they can drive this journey, not just sit in the back seat.
We’ve been using individual paper timetables, but with a recent influx of Chromebooks it’s time to up the ante and move on over to Google Calendar.
Here is my plan for their set-up and implementation as we head into the new school year in a few weeks.
Our team is the senior “hub” – one hundred students and four teachers. A team-teaching set-up working in flexible, open learning spaces. Students move between teachers for different groups. Students involved in timetabling via Google Calendar will have access to their own school-issued Chromebook.
A handy feature of Google Calendar is that you can set-up multiple calendars within your one account which can have different visibility and sharing settings. You can create new calendars by clicking on the drop-down arrow to the right of your “My calendars” area. I’ve created two additional calendars: a general hub / class timetable, as well as what I’ve called a learning calendar.
The general hub calendar is for stuff the whole hub does. For example, morning tea, lunch, roll, assemblies etc. I can set a lot of these events at the start of the term, put them on a weekly repeat, invite the students, then forget about them / change as per needed. It only takes one person in your team to set this up.
The learning calendars are what each individual teacher will create. This will enable them to schedule their groups. The name of the calendar should be similar for all teachers (“____’s Learning Calendar”), so students don’t get confused by teachers using all manner of naming conventions.
If it was just me teaching one class, I wouldn’t need two different calendars, just the one.
Teachers will invite students to mandatory workshops or sessions using their learning calendar. For students, this will appear in their calendars. Students will then schedule the rest of their learning priorities into the week based on Must Do / Can Do tasks.
Must Do / Can Do tasks are generated by teachers at the weekly planning meeting. Must Do’s are follow-up activities from workshops or sessions which typically have due dates (for example: do ____ by ____). There are lots of Can Do’s to select from which can range from reading in the library, practising an instrument, sustained fitness etc. Students need to do the Must Do’s, so they learn to prioritise them over the Can Do options (just like real life!), which are often seen as more “fun”. Students soon learn that procrastinating, not meeting deadlines and handing in low quality work means they will be spending their own time (morning tea, lunch) redoing or catching up.
Students can select how long they choose to do a certain task, although this can be more teacher directed depending on the student.
Here’s what a typical workflow might look like:
→ Teachers get together after school for a weekly planning meeting where we plan the following week. We use a big whiteboard, and pencil in everything for the week. We make sure nothing clashes, which is often quite tricky to manage.
→ Teachers now know when they will be taking certain workshops or sessions, so they create events for them via their learning calendar and send invites out to the students.
→ On a Friday, students are given time to accept invitations and schedule in their learning for the following week. They consult a Must Do / Can Do doc of activities and tasks and then schedule in what time they will do certain things during the week. There are usually time limits on the Can Do tasks.
→ During the week, a teacher on “roam” ensures students are on task and engaged in meaningful work when following their timetables. There are structures around support for students which find this challenging (more on this in another blog post!)
Advantages and Positives
- The learning day is not broken up into teacher-defined chunks, but rather a weekly set of priorities which the students need to take responsibility for
- Individual students who need extra support can be scheduled to complete additional tasks or sessions (we call these “bonus groups”)
- Teachers can make available opt-in workshops which students can attend if they feel they need or want to
- Students gain practise in using a real-life calendar / scheduling tool
- We were using individual paper timetables – this will reduce our paper usage.
- Google Calendar can be set up to email you a daily summary at a set time. I’m going to have the students set up an 8:00am email so that they can check out their day and make any changes before school starts.
Some tips and tricks
- Enable Google Calendar Labs to unlock some handy functions. One such function is “Event Attachments” where you can attach a file to the event. You could link to your planning document or a resource you’ll be using in the session.
- Using Chrome Management in the Google admin settings, specify that Google Calendar will be pinned to the task bar of every student using a Chromebook for quick access to their calendars.
- Bulk invites can be sent to all members in a Google Group. To save time, set-up your instructional groups in Google Groups – you may even find some other uses for your Google Group, such as having discussions on certain topics in a forum format.
Google Calendar is a powerful, real-life tool. I’m looking forward to leveraging this tool in pursuit of a more personalised program for my students.
I’m sure lots of people out there use Google Calendar with classes – what are some of your tips and tricks? Leave a comment!