A number of the schools I now support are or recently have become schools that use Google Apps for Education. As these teachers and administrators have adopted Google tools, we have been assembling some best practices for each app within the Google toolset. This month, we’ll be looking at tips and tricks for two power-house Google productivity apps — Gmail and Google Calendar — and walking through the top tips that help schools shave minutes off thousands of emails and calendar appointments.
- Increase your “Undo” window: Google has an amazing “Undo” feature built in to Gmail, allowing adults (and kids!) the ability to pull back a hastily written reply with a simple click. You can increase this window of time up to 30 seconds.
- Keep the most important emails front and center: Tweaking your email to a “Priority Inbox” view keeps the most important emails front and center, pushing notifications, subscriptions, and more to the bottom. To do this even better, add labels to your emails by creating a custom filter. With filters, you can bypass the inbox altogether, forcing incoming email to move directly into a folder. For example, teachers actively sharing documents with students can create a filter that moves all emails created through Google Drive to a folder that the teacher can check as needed.
- Delay emails and check in on non-replies: Few people want to receive an email at 11:30 pm, but sometimes that’s when schoolwork gets done. Delaying that email to a more “sensible” time of the day is important, and the Boomerang for Gmail extension can make that happen. Where Boomerang for Gmail shines, however, is in one tick-box on every open email: “Boomerang this in …” followed by a range of days and an action. When engaged, Boomerang will send this email back to the sender’s inbox if the sender does not receive a reply within the set timeframe. Perfect for parent followups or coordinating school operations among a group of busy educators.
- Customize with Labs: The Gmail Labs area enables custom features that allow individuals to fit Gmail to their own tastes. Popular labs among educators served by Gadellnet include “Canned Responses”, which stores email templates the sender can use over and over again, and “Preview Pane,” for those who prefer a more “Outlook”-type layout within Gmail.
- Send with ease: Like to shave off seconds with every email? When you’re ready to send, hold your ‘Ctrl’ key and tap ‘Enter’. The ‘Ctrl + Enter’ keyboard shortcut for “Send” keeps you smoothly moving from email to email.
- Quick Calendar Snapshot in an Email: As good as Boomerang for Gmail is, it’s complementary extension, Boomerang for Google Calendar, takes Boomerang services to the next level. With Boomerang for Google Calendar, educators can send a snapshot of their week to anyone who needs to coordinate a meeting with them. No details are shared, but the recipient can easily see what times are available.
- Coordinate with a Group: Where multiple people must coordinate, a Doodle poll makes coordination a snap. Log in with your Google account, set up a list of times you can attend, and send a link to your contacts for them to do the same. Tip: To increase the times available to your team, enable the “Yes-No-Ifneedbe” option.
- Reserve a Lab / Book a Conference Room: Looking to book that conference room? Reserve that mobile lab? If your Google Administrator has set up these resources, they are available in the “Event Details” view of every event created within Google Calendar.
- Add Attachments: Looking to collaborate on spreadsheets, documents, or more, especially without hunting for them or emailing them out? Add them to the calendar appointment when you set up the event.
- Take it Online: Each calendar event includes the option to host that event via Google Hangout. Just click “Add a video Call” or “Join Meeting” right within the calendar event details.
To learn more about these and other Google Apps for Education offerings, check out the new Google Apps Learning Center or stay tuned here.