Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Stop Herding Students By Bells - Teach Them These 4 Calendar Tips + Mistakes to Avoid

If there is anything innovative educators and their students need more of, it’s time. Always on the go, teaching and learning new things with new people in a variety of places. Those places may be physical spaces, phone calls, Skype, Hangouts, and more. Start the New Year off right by resolving to make calendar invites that save everyone time by being as complete and accurate as possible.

While creating a calendar invite might seem like common sense, this post was brought about, because the majority of calendar invites I receive contain at least one of the nine mistakes listed below. Don’t let that happen again. Give this post to new hires, secretaries, new partners, have it lying around the school or office. If you are a teacher, TEACH this to your students.

Important note for teachers and administrators: We must stop training students to move around according to the bells required for industrial age jobs and start teaching them calendar creation and management. 21st century schools need to ditch the bells and begin using the systems and technology of the modern world.

So, let's begin. Here is how to create a proper calendar invite.  

Hopefully you know how to get started, but if not, here is how in two common calendar formats.
Select "New Appointment"
Select "Create"

In addition to the required information such as date, time, and participants, here are the elements every invitation should include. Following these steps will save educators, students, and administrators oodles of time in the New Year so read carefully. Missing any of these elements will result in a colossal waste of everyone’s time.

1) Subject
  • People are busy and often have a lot on their schedule. Your meeting subject should be very clear for that particular meeting. Your subject shouldn’t just say John and Jane Doe meet. It should be more specific such as, “Launching the XXX Program Partnership.”
    Mistake #1 - Don’t just name your meeting describing how you meet i.e. Amco Phone Conference, Team meeting.

2) Agenda
  • Whether it is a phone call to touch base, or a formal occasion, events should have an agenda. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page and prepared.  It can be short and sweet, but it should be.
    Mistake #2 - Don’t assume all participants will arrive exactly when the agenda starts. In most cases there will be someone who has technical or transportation difficulties. Add some time for greetings and small talk to the start of your agenda.

3) Materials
  • Include an attachment or link to all materials that will be referenced or used during the event.  
    Mistake #3 - Do not believe that if you send materials under separate cover everyone will be able to easily access them at the meeting. The calendar invitation is your one stop for everything you need for the meeting. Ensure participants have digital copies of what they need accessible directly in the invite. Place a note in the agenda for those who are still paper-trained that should they want print materials, they should do so in advance of the meeting.
    Mistake #4 - Do not under any circumstances say you’ll send the materials later or tell participants to email you or the presenter for them. Have them right there, accessible in the calendar invitation so participant can access during the meeting.

3) Location
  • Physical
    • Address
    • Cross streets
    • Directions in finding the entrance
Mistake #5 - Don’t assume if you place a link to the location, that will suffice. People want to quickly see where they are going, not click on a link.  If you want to include a link, great, but also include the cross streets and entrance information.   Mistake #6 - Don't forget the cross streets. Even if you think everyone knows. Even if you think it is obvious. Put in the cross streets.

  • Phone
    • Place the number in the location line
    • If there is an extension include that
    • Write a number and extension like this: 555-555-5555x5555#
Mistake #7 - Don’t forget to write the extension exactly as above. When you write the number and extension as per the above example, the caller can just click the number and it will dial the number and extension.  Wah-la.  No need for the caller to type in the number, memorize the number when they get off the screen or any other hassle.

  • Google Hangout
    • If you are doing a Hangout, it is ideal to create a Google event. If your school or business standardizes on another platform such as Outlook, put the link to the Google event in the location line.  
Mistake #8 - Don’t do a straight Google Hangout. Do a Google Hangout on air. Here are the directions. This lets you record the conversation and you can also keep it private for certain guests if you’d like. This enables those who couldn’t join or who join late or leave early to be able to catch up on what took place.

  • Skype
    • If you use Outlook, there is a specific way to set up a Skype meeting so it is easy for everyone. Here are the directions.
Mistake #9 - If you are not using Outlook, save yourself the hassle and don’t use Skype for a meeting unless it’s just two people who Skype often. Skype doesn’t play well with other calendar types like Google. Here’s more on that as well as a workaround.

Finished Product

Special Note For Recurring Events/Classes
There is a recurring event feature which would work well for teachers who are helping students with calendars. In this case, rather than an attachment, it would likely make more sense for there to be a link to a site where the lessons and materials for each day reside. If there was a day when class is cancelled, or there was a substitute, you can easily modify one class.

Final thoughts and questions
Have you encountered any of these mistakes? Which ones bug you the most? Are any of these suggestions eye-opening? Have you taught your students this important skill? Do you have any other useful tips? If so, please share in the comments.  

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