This is a guest post by one of our blog writers, Katherine Miller.
During these unprecedented times, the lines between home and work can be a little blurrier. Music teachers might be more used to this then others as we often hold rehearsals before and after school, performances on night and weekends, and have to find professional development opportunities devoted to our craft outside of our own school and districts.
However, for most of us, rarely do our teaching responsibilities have to actually be in our homes on a day to day basis.
As we learn to navigate this new normal, it is important to establish a healthy home and work balance. I know, I know! That is much easier said than done!
I, too, have my new music classroom in my bedroom and my work room at the dining room table. However, as we turn to technology to help us effectively teach our students, we can also use it to help delineate the lines between our home and work responsibilities.
My favorite way to accomplish balancing my home and school tasks is by using a tool called Google Keep. Google Keep is a note taking app available on both Android and Apple devices as part of the Google family of products.
As with their other applications, Keep is linked to your Gmail address and can be used on any device (computers, tablets, phones). Although there are many options for apps that can do the same functions, there are a few reasons that Keep has become my go-to tool:
- Notes can be created that include text, lists, images and even audio
- Notes are synced to your Google Drive and can be accessed from any device connected to your account
- It allows for colorful design which supports visual organization and the ability to easily find specific notes. Think digital Post Its!
Along with those reasons, Google Keep allows me to keep my duties at home and school together, but separate much like the physical spaces in my home.
If you are craving a balance in your music teacher life too, here are my 8 tips for making Google Keep your go-to tool too!
8 Tips for Using Google Keep for Music Teachers
1. Turn your notes into checklists
Music teachers, whether teaching from home or school, wear a lot of different hats! You can keep track of all of these different responsibilities by turning any note you create into a checklist by adding a checkbox next to each item.
Who doesn’t love the satisfaction of watching all of their tasks get smaller and smaller? You can do this by clicking the three dots at the bottom of your note to open additional options. Show checkboxes is one of the options that appears.
2. Dictate your notes instead of typing
From your mobile device, you can dictate a new note just like you can dictate text messages. This allows you to quickly add notes in the middle of an online lesson or rehearsal once we are back in our normal classroom spaces. You can also use your Google home products to dictate notes too!
3. Set reminders and pin your critical notes
Creating work hours while home makes the delineation between work time and family time a bit clearer. In Google Keep, you can prioritize the notes you need during each time by pinning them at the top of the screen.
You can also add reminders to items that do not need to be done right now, but during your school office hours by adding an alarm to go off at a specific time or location.
4. Share your notes with others
Collaborating with colleagues is a little tricker when you have to leave the appropriate social distance! To continue to be productive when apart, you can add collaborators to your notes.
This allows others to not only view but to edit the content of the note so productivity does not need to slow down on shared projects. This is also an awesome feature to use at home as you brave the grocery store.
Collaborators to a grocery list on Google Keep can all add items instead of heading to the store with you. One trip with your shared list allows you to buy everyone’s must have items….if they are available at the store, of course!
5. Use the Chrome Extension to add online resources to your notes
If you are anything like me, you have been reading all the things about virtual learning from music teachers around the world. Google Keep can be a great way to keep all of those amazing ideas in one place.
You can do this by adding the Google Keep extension for your Google Chrome browser. This allows you to save a webpage, image or social media post with just one click to a new note .
You can add this extension by following this link: Google Keep Chrome Extension
6. Add tags to organize your notes
Add labels to your notes! I love following other educators on social media because I am always impressed by the creative ideas people are willing to share. When I find a great idea online, I use the Keep extension to add a new note.
Then, I organize it with other notes like it by tagging it with a label. This helps to keep track of all of the ideas I have found and be able to easily locate them at a later date. You could make labels for each ensemble, grade level, standard or any other way that helps you the most!
7. View your notes and email side by side
You can see your notes as often as you see your email! The Google Keep icon appears in the toolbar on the right-hand side of your Gmail screen on your computer.
If the icon is selected, your pinned notes, or the notes at the top, will appear side by side with your email. This is super helpful if you are keeping track of to-do lists! You can also see this toolbar in your Google Drive.
8. Personalize your notes
Color can help you to easily and visually separate notes. You can also add images as headers to personalize your notes even further!
You can use Canva’s Google + header template to create your own or you can download the ones I created for free by following this link:
Finding tools to help organize our new normal is a small thing we can do to keep a healthy division between our work and school lives when they are happening in one place.
You can create a time, a place and a note for all of the different aspects of your music teacher life. Moving your notes and lists on line also has a few other benefits!
Notes created within the Google Keep app or website are searchable and won’t get lost like the paper you have been using. It also allows for the seamless saving of lessons, ideas, tweets, blogs and other things you have found and you love from all the extra time you have been spending on the internet.
These relaxed days at home will go away. The challenges we are facing now will give way to new challenges soon. Our new normal will not be new for long. And hopefully, Google Keep will help to set yourself up for a better normal when it does.
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About the writer
Katherine (Katie) Miller holds a Bachelor of Music in Education degree from Otterbein University (Westerville, OH) and a Masters of Educational Leadership from Antioch McGregor Midwest (Yellow Springs, OH). She has 15 years of professional musical experience as a music educator and performer.
She is currently employed by the School District of Waukesha in Waukesha, WI, where she teaches K-5 General Music and serves as a district model tech classroom. She was recognized in 2018 as a WPT Education Innovator by Wisconsin Public Television Education team.
Looking for More Resources for Music Teachers?
Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.
I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.
I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.
If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.