Tech Tips to Teach Smarter

Erin HealeyBlog, Tech Better


  • Teach smarter by using tech tips such as forcing copies of electronic documents, planning office hours, and pre-recording direct instruction.
  • Use Google Calendar to create a student sign-up for office hours and Google Meet for screen recording!
  • This is the first post in a monthly series specifically aimed at supporting new teachers.

Congratulations! You’ve made it through two months of teaching in 2020! I know these last few weeks have not been how you imagined kicking off your career, but think about all you have accomplished. 

You’ve gone from college classes to your own (maybe virtual) classroom. You started setting your own schedule, rather than following someone else’s. You completed tons of paperwork (who knew setting up a retirement account was so complicated?), and worked hard to earn your first few paychecks. Maybe you’ve moved, or learned how to meal prep. No matter how crazy your first few months have been, if you reflect on just how far you’ve come, you’ll find something to celebrate!

Now, this series won’t be all about celebrating you. Hopefully, it also won’t be too repetitive; the Teach Better Blog has tons of incredible content, but I want this series to be relevant to YOU as a new teacher in 2020. In this post, we’ll be focusing on some immediate tips and tricks you can incorporate into your class tomorrow to help you teach just a little bit better. And in future posts, we’ll look at lesson planning, communicating with your students and families, connecting with other educators, finding some sort of work-life balance, and more. Let’s dive in!

Teach Smarter—Not Harder—with Google Suite

Today, our careers rely on technology. Whether you are teaching in a hybrid model, or totally online, the most equitable method of instruction right now must be done virtually. Because we are unable to meet all students in person due to the coronavirus, videos, playlists, and online resources make our content accessible to everyone no matter where they are learning. 

This reliance on tech also opens up a world of support for teachers! Let’s look specifically at the free cloud service, Google Suite. You are probably using a Google account with your school for Drive, Classroom, Gmail, or Meet. But are you using it to its fullest potential? I want to share three tricks you can use in your classroom tomorrow to make your life (and paperwork) a little easier, freeing you up to focus on actually teaching.

Tech Tips to Teach Smarter: Force Copy

Are your students constantly requesting access to Google Docs because they forgot how to make a copy, or editing your original document? Cut down on those access request emails by hacking the URL you share with students. 

When you are ready to share a document with a student, perhaps a template you want them to complete or an assignment they need to edit, click the ‘Share’ button, and make sure it is set to ‘Anyone with this link can view’.

Copy the shareable link, and paste it into your agenda (or wherever you are sharing the document). But before you hit save, delete ‘…/edit’ (and anything that comes after it) and replace it with ‘…/copy’.

Anyone who clicks on the link now will not even see the document until they make their own copy and save it to their drive!

Tech Tips to Teach Smarter: Plan Productive Office Hours

We know how important office hour time is for students to catch up and succeed in any asynchronous learning plans, but we also don’t want to be staring at an empty Google Meet for hours! That time could be used for an online yoga class, quick snack, or some awesome lesson planning. Make it the norm for your students to sign up for a time slot using Google Calendar’s ‘Appointments’ feature, to encourage student ownership in their learning and give you a heads up on what your day will look like. 

When you are in your Google Calendar, double-click to add an event, but select the ‘Appointment Slots’ option. You can choose how long you want to meet with students over an extended time block, and even add an ‘Office Hours’ specific Google Meet link right in the event.

When you are ready to share this calendar with your students, click ‘Go to the appointment page for this calendar’. That will be the URL you share on your agenda, or in an email to students, and they can click a time slot that works for them.

You and your student will receive an email confirmation about the meeting with the video-conference link (and any additional documents, such as a missing work form or the assignment that you will be discussing) embedded in the event email.

Tech Tips to Teach Smarter: Pre-Record Direct Instruction

This will be a huge asset to students who are learning asynchronously, have a conflict keeping them from class, or just need that extra reminder on what you talked about today! There are tons of great tools out there to do screen recordings, like Screencastify, but to make awesome recordings for free with the tools you already have, use Google Meet!

I like to create fun Google Slides with screenshots of assignments, gifs, and lots of Bitmojis to walk through my direct instruction and make the video more interesting to watch for students. I would recommend prepping your slides or tabs in advance, and then screenshare on a Google Meet that only you are part of. Hit ‘Record’ and make a screencast video of your lecture or lesson overview, and then it automatically saves the recording to your Google Drive, allowing you to share a link with your students without downloading anything to your hard drive. 

I hope these tips help you teach better tomorrow than you did today! Please share any questions you have about these ideas or connect with me @mrshealeyclassroom.

Next, we are going to dive into Planning Better. Time is of the essence in our profession, and you should be making the absolute most of every single day! Until then, congratulations, and best of luck!

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About Erin Healey

Erin is an English teacher at Chariho High School, in Rhode Island. She is the founder of the Young Educators Society of Rhode Island (@yesriorg), a Highlander Institute Fuse Fellow, current Master’s student studying Education Technology at the University of Connecticut, and can always be found drinking coffee (preferably a PSL)!