teaching professional people english
I’m sure I’m not the only person this has happened to – you’re drifting off to dream land late at night. The door is locked, clothes for tomorrow ironed, you bought milk and cornflakes earlier ….. and then you have a horrible thought. Did I back up my hard drive? Did I save those notes? Where did I put those reports….. and you’re off for a night of insomnia, even though nothing has in fact happened. The mere idea that one day, maybe, just maybe, something might happen can be enough to send an otherwise sane person into a tailspin. Go figure. (Actually, don’t. That seems to be the problem right there.)
Objectively of course, disasters happen, and responsible people take steps to anticipate them where possible. But on balance there has to be a better way of doing that than me fretting in the wee small hours that I haven’t up/down/off loaded some computer file from one computer thingy onto another computer thingy. In fact, when I started looking into this a while back I was frankly amazed at all the great gizmos out there – free gizmos, of course. On this blog they always are. I am now reasonably confident that even if my laptop falls for a cup of coffee in a big way, life will be able to continue as normal … just about.
Let’s face it, without these we are up the proverbial creek. The technical solutions you opt for will depend largely on how you feel about sharing yours. Personally I highly, totally recommend using a blog. When I started this one I was looking to share ideas with colleagues in a more time-efficient manner than chatting by the photocopier – and I was about to launch a desperate job-seeking campaign because I was supposed to be moving house. That situation has receded for the moment, but the blog is staying because it is the most convenient mobile filing cabinet ever. Anything I store here can be accessed from any internet-connected computer anywhere. Even if I forget my stuff at home, I have it with me. Trust me. Go to the WordPress front page and sign up. It’s free, and if I can do it, you can do it.
If you’re looking to keep photocopiable documents where you can access them easily, I would suggest using ‘dropbox‘. Again, free to download and use, dropbox allows you to store documents simultaneously on your computer and ‘in the cloud’ (ie in dropbox’s computers ….somewhere over the rainbow) Dropbox has an added twist, in that documents saved there as ‘public’ can be accessed by anyone to whom you give access details. If you are a language school, you may wish to take note of this and upload your pro-forma, tests, and so-on today. If a mere teacher like myself, you can always scan them and pop them there for yourself, saving on the bother of having to call at the office to pick such things up. Filling them in is enough like work to be getting on with …
Otherwise, your e-mail package probably provides a similar service already – or you could use google documents. I’m off google at the moment. I have a distinct dislike of adverts being posted on my computer which are clearly the result of their servers reading my e-mails.
In the past this has been the bane of my life – carting files around, forgetting them, updating them after I’d forgotten what I’d done or where I’d been …. nowadays I cart the laptop around instead, and have my entire working life in it. Every last bit of it just about. So you can understand my being interested in clever ways to back it all up. Having tried several solutions, I can recommend two with no hesitation.
Evernote – Evernote is utterly brilliant. It is like a streamlined wordprocessing programme with photo, audio, and video note capabilities thrown in. The best aspect, however, is that it backs up every single keystroke without you needing to ask it to, and saves the last version of everything, no matter what. Short of a ‘Goldeneye’ scenario, you simply cannot lose or forget anything … your notes are in your computer, in the cloud, and possibly synchronised with your mobile devices if you go in for that kind of thing. I have come to rely on Evernote to safeguard my professionalism and allow me to sleep at night. If necessary I would pay for the service, although so far there is no danger of my exceeding my allocation of memory space. I’ll not bore you with the technical details of everything it can do … but the possibilities for creating teaching materials are an added bonus that many of us will be keen to exploit.
Workflowy – Workflowy is a much simpler application which will only work if you are connected to the internet (as far as I can tell…. you should check) It is probably not suited to the heavy-duty use to which I put evernote, but it has a pleasing simplicity about it which I find soothing. Basically you start with a blank sheet to which you add headings. Anything you write under these headings can be hidden or shown – just like the menus and toolbars in office software. I dream of drafting an essay with workflowy …. or planning a really fabulous project. Depending on how you organise your notes it may just be what you want. Especially if you don’t like complicated interfaces.
There is an additional point to all of this – the ease with which you can send lesson notes to colleagues. Anything which makes that easier has to be a good thing, right? And they won’t have to struggle with your handwriting : )
Uh, yes, all fine and good as long as you use it … To be frank, I have found keeping notes on the computer to be much less stressful than scribbling away on paper. This is probably because there is less pressure to be neat – that and the possibility of amending things at will. As a result, I have become much better at keeping these things up to date … and I spend less time crawling around in cupboards looking for pesky files.
There is a potential problem in that most employers I’ve had have routinely required paperwork to be handed in on printed sheets. In theory. Whilst I don’t want to be rebellious, I have found that most companies are just grateful to get some proper admin back from you at some point, even if they won’t admit it outright. For those wishing to innovate, presentation is probably key. What I would suggest is to pick a busy time. Telephone your superior and explain that for reasons of logistics, the paperwork hasn’t happened … in paper form. Rather than turning it in late, you’d like to try something experimental….. explain that you can zap the whole shebang to his/her inbox in a jiffy, and suggest they print it and file it …. and stress that if this proves to be a problem you can revisit the question when things have calmed down. It’s not guaranteed to work, but it usually does.