Last month Google announced a significant update to Google Calendar. The update brought many of the design elements and enhancements from the mobile app to the desktop version. The updated functions allow individual users to keep track of events and goals while making Google Calendar a hub for communication since it now includes more rich event and contact information.
This refresh of Calendar is just the latest in the G Suite line. Earlier in the year Slides, Forms and Sites got some attention too. Now much of the G Suite has a familiar UI and color scheme as well as better across-app integration.
The updates to Calendar make an already essential education resource even more dynamic. What can educators do with Calendar to move beyond scheduling towards setting up and/or sequencing learning? Here are five edu uses for Google Calendar.
- Create one-stop shopping meetings with agendas, video calls and all details included. I have a confession to make: calendar dates shared via email and static documents in space make my blood boil. Why share resources in one format, agendas in another and dates in a third? This is inconsistent and inefficient at best and disappointing and disorienting at worst. Where do I go to get accurate, up-to-date information? What can I expect to see when I get there? Yes the Calendar events will trigger emails, but this will hopefully drive people to the Calendar app and take them out of Gmail. My impression is that the ‘Video call’ function is an underappreciated function within Calendar. It’s not new, of course; it’s a reliable way to loop people in or to conduct the whole meeting remotely.
- Use ‘Appointment slots’ to allow sign ups for one-on-one meetings. The ‘Appointment slots’ function has improved recently. My biggest gripe previously was that if someone chose a time slot and then had to dump it for whatever reason, it disappeared. Now the appointment slot opens up for others to select. By making office hours a repeating event with appointment slots, a teacher can set up an interface that ensures accuracy and accountability. Taking this setup a step further, a colleague of mine is having his students use the description/comments field to fill in what they need help on so he is prepared and they are accountable. This system works equally well for student, parents, and colleagues.
- Use Calendar to target certain signposts for the year. These benchmark dates could be pegged to semester calendar (e.g. vacations, marking periods); better still, these dates could be independent dates based more on skill building than simply sand through the hourglass. In language classes, these dates could be tied to ACTFL Can-do statements or other frameworks. Think of it: beyond just publishing ‘reporting dates’ in the form of marking periods or trimesters, the Calendar could become a place where students go to access these markers.
- Use Calendar as Newsstand for parents, counselors, advisors. Related to #3 above, this would be an effective way to get people out of Gmail and potentially increase views in the process. These could be formal checkpoints or just share outs/shoutouts. Though I recognize this may not be the most efficient process, it’s easy to experiment with and could engage readers in a new way. Teachers could share links to class websites, reminders, resources, weekly/monthly recaps, and more. For example, it is currently show time for Romeo & Juliet on campus. On the shared Upper School Faculty Calendar I administer, I included with promotional poster and the Eventbrite ticketing link right in the event. This certainly isn’t like creating a backflipping robot in terms of degree of difficulty, but it’s a good resource used well.
- Use Calendar to highlight meaningful but not necessarily mission-critical events. Used in conjunction with an LMS like Classroom, Schoology or Moodle, Google Calendar could allow teachers to share events like “study Quizlet vocabulary by X date” or “Look for release of a single/album/film/exhibit on Y date.” I currently use the Updates function of Schoology to share this class of information, but I could just as easily do so in Calendar.
This last point brings up some questions about the expectations we set for peers and students around calendaring. What are the defaults for calendar information? Within a G Suite for Edu school, can we require that students use the Calendar? Where there are possible redundancies between an LMS calendar and Google Calendar, who wins out? What are the expectations around including calendar information in Gmail?
We are at work trying to maximize the potential of Calendar while giving students and teachers flexibility to make it work for them. As tools are updates, we need to reassess both our expectations and execution.