A blog about teaching and learning in a maths classroom.

Keeping organised

Wednesday, 13 February 2008 | 0 Comments

I’ve found that teaching is one of those jobs where you end up making “to-do” lists.  Years ago, I was determined to do away with paper-based to-do lists chasing me around.  I started using Backpack described as an “information organiser” — Gather your ideas, to-dos, notes, photos & files online.

The free version of Backpack gives you 6 pages.  On each page you can have lists (many), notes, Writeboards (for collaborative writing), you can also organise your pages with dividers.  You can share pages and email new items to a page (each page has a unique email address).  The paid versions give you more pages, file storage and a Calendar.

I use two pages for teaching, one I call my school page the other is called “Teaching Ideas / Organisation”.  The later is a dumping ground of ideas and procedures and thoughts.  On the school page I have several lists:

  • Today – I try to keep this to a list of things I need to do at school today.  Sometimes this list becomes a dumping ground, but I try to avoid that.  This list should include the things I’m going to get done before school and during a free session.
  • Week # – this list has “bigger” things that may take a little longer that I’d like to get done this week.  At the end of the week, the list is renamed to the following week and things not completed move with the list.
  • This Week (PM) – this list if for things that I’ll be doing at home this week.
  • Lesson Ideas – if I have an idea for a lesson/topic that’s coming up soon, I write it here.
  • Upcoming – I have a list of things ahead like writing exams

There are lots of other lists on my school page, but the ones above are the key ones.

Backpack’s power is the ability to have multiple lists, to move items between lists, to set up dividers and to quickly edit and delete items.  My to-do list seems much more manageable when things requiring my attention are categorised and separated.

I update my Backpack page nearly every day, and print out a new version to take to school (I highlight the Today and Week # lists and print that selection only).  At school, I can tick of things completed, and add (to the paper version) things that need to be added.

It’s not ideal to be taking a paper-version back and forth, but until I have my own computer logged in all day – it’s just not practical to log-on to a shared machine to add something to my to-do list.

Backpack is a great way to keep organised and it has a cool name.  It’s so flexible that I suspect everyone will use it slightly differently.

The links in this post to Backpack are affiliate links.  Whilst there is a free Backpack version, if you sign-up via this link and later upgrade your account to a paid version, I will get some $credit.

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Simon Job — eleventh year of teaching maths in a public high school in Western Sydney, Australia.
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