I’m probably not the only academic that loves back to school. I look forward to seeing the school supplies in stores. And I love late summer when the nights start to get slightly cooler. I start to dream of cardigan weather.
When I was a kid, I chose my school supplies with a tremendous amount of thought and care, and then I organized them thoroughly in my new book bag, ready for the first day. I developed my own system of organizing early on– color coding notebooks, folders, and binders for each subject. I labeled everything. I was probably the only kid to arrive at college with a three hole punch (that I still have), hole protectors, a full sized stapler, and colored hanging file folders.
Now, I don’t buy anything for back to school. There isn’t a need to do so. I don’t use notebooks, or binders, or paper. Everything is electronic– on my macbook or ipad. I use the same shoulder bag. I get pens from the department. Instead I organize digitally for the new school year. And it sort of feels the same, I guess. Minus the smell of new notebooks and freshly sharpened pencils.
Here’s what I’ve been busy doing to get ready for the new school year (in addition to creating the syllabi):
- I created a Dropbox folder for the semester (Fall 2012), and a subfolder for each course.
- I create shortcuts for those folders and stash them in my mac’s sidebar, and on the desktop of both computers.
- Within each folder, I create subfolders: (1) Lectures (each lecture document and keynote presentation is dated– like 1104.doc and 1104.key), (2) Images (even though this is less needed now that I organize all my images into Pinterest), (3) Readings, (4) Assignments, (5) Resources, and (6) Handouts.
- I go through my Evernote library for related material for each course, and either assign them as readings, or add them to my Resources or Handouts folders (documentaries, class activities etc.).
- I search for videos related to my courses on Youtube, and save them to the Youtube playlists I have set up for each course.
- I search for images related to my courses, and save them to the appropriate Pinboards on Pinterest.
- I set up Lore.com for each course– complete with assignments, calendar, and resources.
- Once I have a set roster (which doesn’t happen until the second week), I set up each class in Gradebook Pro on my ipad. If I have student photos, I’ll add those. It’s the easiest way for me to learn names and take attendance each day.
- I do create a physical folder for each class. Just a plain old manilla folder. In it goes the roster, and a copy of the syllabi. And reading material for each class. That’s all I carry with me each day.
Once I’ve done all that, I feel ready to dive into the daily grind of the semester! While there may not be a place for color coding any more, at least I have everything organized digitally before I even begin the semester.
You might notice that a lot of my prep is public. I readily share images for my classes on Pinterest, and I create public lists of videos I use in Youtube. Why? Because my teaching benefits from collective know online, and I feel good about contributing to that collective knowledge myself.