The anticipation of the new school year can cause anxiety for some teachers since we want everything to be up and running from the start. We all have a back-to-school checklist for teachers that we’ve perfected over the years. However, since the pandemic, our teaching habits have changed and technology has become an intrinsic part of our profession. We need to update lists accordingly and include our edtech tasks.
In the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that our job has somewhat doubled when it comes to ensuring our classes run perfectly (at least we hope they do) both online and offline. Even though we may have fully returned to in-person teaching, we’re still using technology in our classes. For this reason, the following checklist will help you get ready for school and cover all the steps to take, online and offline, for a stress-free school year.
15 Edtech items to include in your back-to-school checklist for teachers
Having a complex back-to-school checklist that includes the usual items and all the “digital” steps we need to tick off allows us to be more confident that the upcoming school year will be a success.
Here are fifteen items related to edtech that will help you organize your classes in no time:
1. Organize classes
If you teach using a learning management system (LMS) you most likely add all your classes to the platform. Having multiple classes with similar names can get confusing for both teachers and students. While platform administrators can choose to show students only the classes they are enrolled in, teachers can name their classes differently to avoid having multiple classes with the same name, like “English” for instance.
In addition, you can create simple codes for each class that contain essential information, choose a unique color scheme and set a different image. English Year 10/2022-2023 with an orange color scheme and a specific image is a good example of how to organize your classes easier even when you have two or three classes on the same subject and level.
2. Add lessons to your classes
Your LMS allows you to organize your lessons way ahead of time. You can add text, images, videos, and other information you consider necessary for your students. That’s why you should make sure to proofread your text and that media files such as images and video are working correctly.
Plus, make it a habit to reuse class templates for future lessons. This makes lesson creation easier and faster. Once you structure your lessons and your students get used to your requirements, continuing with the same pattern makes the teaching and learning process more straightforward.
3. Welcome students to class
No back-to-school checklist is complete without a warm welcome. Having a welcome section that introduces your class will motivate them to access the content you have prepared. In this section, you can include a link to the calendar to access all the activities you have planned for the semester.
Here you can also add the class rules that you can set together with your students. This way, everybody knows what to expect and how to behave online and offline. Include your contact details for further support regarding the use of the LMS or information about the lessons. Students will feel at ease knowing you are there in case they need it.
4. Create a class syllabus
Add a syllabus that will allow you to give an overview of the class, its main topics, and main requirements. Students and parents learn from the syllabus what to expect from your class and you can give them more details about what you’ll include in your lessons. Use the syllabus to explain the competencies students have to attain, whether or not they’ll receive a completion certificate, and add any books or other materials they’ll need to study for the class.
5. Add competencies for each class
Evaluating students involves a lot of steps. You evaluate to understand where they are at the beginning of the class. Then, you evaluate student progress based on the competencies they should attain by the end of a semester or the year. Defining and adding competencies for each class in your LMS will allow you to have an objective overview of your students’ progress.
Using an LMS, it’s easy to implement a competency-based teaching model where you align your content with the required competencies. Moreover, when the competencies are set, students can self-monitor their learning, see their quiz results, and check their progress. The data an LMS collects also allows you to spot knowledge gaps and provide further support to your students.
6. Add assignments in advance
Prepare assignments in advance and make them visible to your students only when you need to. For example, you can give homework assignments on a weekly basis or make exams available for one hour only.
Students will only see what they need to and won’t get overwhelmed by looking at all the assignments that they’ll have to complete in one semester and you can always change assignment instructions later or delete some of them altogether if it’s too much.
However, you’ll be more organized and more productive. Use the remaining time for personalized feedback and support.
7. Prepare class rubrics
You can add rubrics to the LMS for each class or reuse old ones. You can even use rubrics created by your fellow teachers in your resource library. Grading becomes easier, and you’ll be more objective and consistent when grading same-level classes. Students understand their results better when the rubric is inserted into the assignment submission page.
8. Make the most out of the gradebook
First, make sure you know exactly how to use the gradebook and configure it. Then, you can decide on certain features to choose from: mark them as missing, incomplete, absent or excused. For example, marking an assignment as “incomplete” allows you or ask students to submit a different assignment or get extra credit to improve their final grade. Add comments to the gradebook if you need to remember something later.
Plus, students automatically receive a message that the assignment has been graded.
9. Organize class resources
All the class resources you need are stored in one place. Make sure you label your resources, external links, videos, audio files, pdf files, etc., for easy access or sharing. You can also associate resources with a subject or a class, and add a short description of each file to facilitate the search for the resources you need to add to a lesson or share with students and other teachers.
10. Share resources with other teachers
If you work together with other teachers in your school on the same LMS, you can share rubrics, competencies, certificates, gamification badges and other types of files. Don’t miss the opportunity to make your life easier and also help out other educators, especially if they’re LMS beginners.
Another great tip is to create shared question banks. You can then pull questions from there and use them to create quizzes for your students instead of building new questions.
11. Create seating charts
If your LMS has this feature, you can create a seating chart to let students know where to sit in face-to-face classes. Depending on your attendance list, you can usually drag and drop the name of your students and arrange them where you want. Then, you can display the chart so students will know where to sit from the first day of school. This is also handy if you plan to have a different seating arrangement (e.g. have students sit in a circle) for each class.
12. Handle student enrollments
In many cases, administrators take care of student enrollments in the platform. For example, they set up the accounts and automatically enroll students in the right classes by setting a rule. However, teachers can also enroll students. You can also send students an access code or an email invitation to join.
13. Add teaching assistants (TAs)
Teaching assistants usually help with online classes and take some of the tasks, such as making sure that all lessons are ready. If you work with TAs, add them to your platform from the beginning. Make sure that they are also added to the class so they can have an overview of what is happening and can help you whenever needed.
14. Check classroom technology
Ensure that every device, printer, projector, whiteboard, etc. is working and ready for class. If they are not, it’s a good opportunity to alert the school and get them fixed or replaced.
This is also true for other platforms that you may be using. For example, is your Google Drive organized? Are your Dropbox files in order? Get these things done in advance so you won’t have to worry about them later when you’ll be too busy to prioritize them.
15. Take online safety measures
As a teacher, you have to understand and abide by your school’s online safety policy. Also, take any necessary precautions to be safe online ahead of time. This includes installing a strong antivirus program, choosing strong passwords, being aware of possible scams such as phishing and promoting an online behavior rule list for students.
Don’t leave edtech out of your back-to-school checklist for teachers
We have all become digital teachers—there’s no doubt about that. Technology will remain a part of our teaching routine from now on, so we need to ensure that the online learning environment runs smoothly both for students and ourselves.
Your learning platform is your ally, so use its features to ease the teaching process and automate parts of it. You’ll have more time to create wonderful lessons and be there to support your students at every step of their learning experience.
Diana has been a teacher for over 10 years. She writes about finding that perfect balance between the same old teaching strategies and the ever changing tools.