Keeping organized and getting things done. (part 1: file management)
A key component of successful teaching practice involves keeping things organized (mentally and physically) and maintaining a workflow that facilitates getting things done. When we do this and do it well, we become free from unneeded stress and anxiety and are able to give ourselves more fully to our teaching and to our students. We can be more creative, more dynamic, and can thoroughly enjoy the experience of teaching with newfound freedom. Our students are greatful when we are able to help them to share in newfound freedom too.
The form of the classroom has changed over the years, including the stuff within it that we work to keep organized. We are managing more digital assets than we ever have before. E-mail, to-do’s, bookmarks, and files are among the many forms of our digital stuff. It is important that we learn about different ways in which to effectively manage these assets so that bottle necks do not form within our work flow and slow us down in general or kill our flow during a critical moment. Within this first post on the topic, I would like to touch on a few ways which I personally find effective in organizing folders and files contained on a local hard disk.
These kinds of files collect on our hard drive as a result of creating them or acquiring them from elsewhere. Within our collection of files, we may have PDF, Office, Smart Notebook files, downloaded e-mails, and others. Some of these files we are actively using within current projects, others have become stagnant but we want to hold onto them for the future, and others are clutter. We also tend to work with our files from many different computers, so being able to access them from different computers and locations is important. Lastly, to avoid losing our files to computer failure, loss, or theft, a good backup strategy is needed.
To keep things organized, I recommend maintaining a meaningful folder structure. For the purpose of this post, let’s refer to your “documents” folder as your “docs” folder, regardless of what it is named and where it resides. To keep it organized, try to see your docs folder as an active working folder rather than simply a place to put things. Use fewer subfolders and give them meaningful names, such as: this week, lessons, homework, ieps, parents, research, other, archive, trash. These are suggestions – you should pick names that fit your flow. To keep folders at the top of a structure, try using an underscore before the name (_this week). A “trash” folder is helpful as it allows you to throw things away without really throwing them away, in case you find yourself digging in the trash for something you wish you hadn’t thrown away.
To keep things accessible from multiple computers, try file synchronization software. Services such as Dropbox and Sugarsync allow you to synchronize up to 2 GB (Dropbox) or 5 GB (Sugarsync) of files for free. Once you setup the software, no further work is involved. Files within the folder(s) you sync automatically go up the web and come down to your other computers. One benefit of web-based sync is that you no longer need to carry your USB key drive around with you which might get left in your computer, lost, stolen, or could break! Another benefit is that these services allow you to easily share your files with others if you so choose. You can also keep the private.
To ensure that you don’t lose your files to hardware failure (a crashed hard drive, etc.), fire, or theft, a good backup strategy is needed. Whether you run Mac OSX, Windows, or Linux, free backup software is available which can be used to backup your data periodically to local storage (ex. usb hard drive, usb thumb drive, network drive). If you don’t have a large amount of data, you could simply manually backup your data by copying your docs folder to another drive. It is important that the drive be external or on a network so that your data is physically located in more than one location, protecting you against fire and theft. Web-based backup solutions are available as well, which allow you to backup your data to the cloud (the web) and restore it if necessary. A co$t is usually involved.
That does it for part one of “keeping organized and getting things done.” If you are still reading and would like more information such as specific software recommendations, feel free to comment and I will reply. Happy organizing!
File Synchronization Services:
File Backup Software: