Saving Time as a Media Specialist

Hi Friends, I hope you enjoyed last month’s guest posts on the theme of gratitude. Some of those have continued to trickle in, and I will be sharing them here. However, today’s post is going to bless your socks off. It comes from my friend and Georgia State Media Specialist of the Year, Jennifer Lewis. She is sharing her best ideas for when you are a solo librarian, but even if you’re not, you will get some great tips here. She previously shared this information in my first online conference, The Efficient Teacher. Enjoy, share, comment, and be sure to follow Jennifer on Twitter.

“Hello! My name is Jennifer Lewis, and I am the media specialist at Indian Knoll Elementary School in Canton, Georgia. Being a librarian is the best job in public education! It’s the perfect combination of literature, technology, and of course, kids.

But being a solo librarian is a huge job! My first few years in the media center, I spent twelve or more hours a day working. I realized that if I didn’t find ways to make the job manageable for me, I would burn out quickly. Today I’m going to share with you a few of the tools I use to help me work smarter, not harder!

The first tool that I use is OneNote. I created a OneNote notebook that I call my Media Center Task List. I created a section for each month of the year. Each section has a list of tasks that I need to complete that month. Some of the items are things that I do every month, like “schedule volunteers.” Some are specific to the month, like “order cardstock for end of the year awards.” As I complete the task, I change the color of the words from black to red to mark it done. Or, if it’s something I decided not to do this year but want to keep it on the list for next year, I change the words to purple.

I also have sections for celebrating the Georgia Children’s Book Award nominees, author visits, and the book fair as well as a list of projects that I would love to get to if I ever have any extra time. I have the OneNote app on my phone and iPad. I love the app because I can go over my to do lists while I’m standing in line at the grocery store or waiting to pick up my kids from baseball practice.

Another tool that I use is my Outlook calendar. My media center operates on a mostly flexible schedule, so I don’t see the same class at the same time each week. When I collaborate with a teacher on a lesson, I create an invite on my Outlook calendar. I include the topic of the lesson and any notes about the lesson in the body of the invite and then send it to the teacher so that it’s on her calendar as well.

There are several features that make Outlook my favorite scheduling tool. In Outlook, I can add a link to a Skype meeting, create a repeating event (like a weekly event for my kindergarten classes or a yearly event for my staff members’ birthdays), and search for events that happened in the past, which is helpful for remembering which lessons I have taught in previous years. I can also give access to my calendar to others at my school. I give full calendar access to my administrators and also to my teachers so that they can see when I am available for lessons. In Outlook, I can also create multiple calendars. I have one calendar where I track lessons and school events. And I have a separate calendar for my volunteers.

A lot of my job is helping teachers and students find the best resources to teach standards or for research projects. In the past, I haven’t had a place to house the resources for students to retrieve easily. Destiny Collections is a new component within Destiny Discover, our library catalog. It allows users to collect resources, such as websites, ebooks, documents, images, and physical resources all in one easy-to-access location! We can use Collections to curate resources for our students that correspond with the standards they are learning. It helps streamline their research time. Instead of spending days just looking for the right resources, I can provide the resources and have my students spend their time reading and learning the content.

The first Collection I made was to support a project designed by our fifth grade ELA teacher. The students were researching two historical figures and writing a comparison/contrast of them. I knew Collections was going to be popular when I went into a classroom to deliver a book a few days after introducing it to the fifth graders and saw students using the Collection I made. After that, I continued to develop Collections each time I collaborated with a teacher. Soon teachers were requesting Collections for each unit of study. Collections has saved me so much time because I can create them so quickly, and the resources included are exactly what my teachers and students need.

Another great time saving tool is Flipgrid. This summer, Flipgrid was acquired by Microsoft and now it’s completely free! Flipgrid is a website or app that allows teachers to create “grids” of short discussion questions that students respond to through recorded videos. Each grid is a little message board where teachers pose a question and their students can post 90 second video responses that appear in a tiled “grid” display. Students can also respond to each other. Each grid generates a link (we post the links in our learning management system).

The students in this picture are responding to a discussion question I posted after a lesson on digital citizenship and website privacy policies. We have also used Flipgrid to have students share the books they are reading. If a book is recommended by a classmate, they are more likely to read the book. It’s a great way to get responses from all students. Even students who would never raise their hand to participate in a class discussion love adding their videos to Flipgrid.

Flipgrid saves me time as a media specialist because I can use it as a quick formative assessment tool to inform instruction. Instead of going through a stack of tickets out the door, I can pull up the grid on my laptop, iPad, or phone to view student responses. Working with the classroom teacher, we decide if an individual student or even the majority of the class need reteaching.

Another tool that my students and I love that is a great timesaver for me is Microsoft Forms. I use Microsoft Forms anytime I need to collect responses. For example, I created a Microsoft form for a mock election during the last presidential election. Occasionally, I like to have a quick way to check for comprehension of the books my students read for book club. We use this data to select our reading bowl team. So I create a ten question quiz for each of the books in Forms. During our meetings, I email a link to the quiz to the students who read the book. Microsoft Forms grades the quiz for me and offers instant feedback.

Participating in the Georgia Children’s Book Award voting is one of my favorite things to do every year. I love how having a shared list of books promotes kids discussing books, arguing over their favorites, and it also leads to kids checking out these books and other books by the same author. I announce our voting day early so that teachers and I have plenty of time to read the books to our students. When voting day arrives, they come to the media center and watch a short slideshow to review all of the choices. Then students go to a voting booth. In years past, tallying the results from hundreds of ballots has taken me forever! So this past year, I created a Microsoft Form set up on a laptop for the students to make their choice. The students love this because many of them have seen their parents vote and our set up is similar to that. After students vote, they head over to a Dr. Seuss-themed photo booth where the classroom teacher takes pictures of the students and uploads them to Seesaw. And the students get an “I voted!” sticker just like mom and dad get when they vote. This is easily one of my favorite days of the school year. And the Microsoft form makes the day easy to manage.

If you have any questions about how I have used these technology tools to become a more efficient media specialist, please contact me! My email address is I blog when I can at My Twitter handle is @librarylew and my Instagram user name is @ikesmediacenter.”

10 Teacher Timesavers to Help You Become a More Efficient Teacher Today

In last week’s Facebook Live session, I shared ten ways you might be an inefficient teacher. If you missed that session, watch it here, and remember that you can tune in live each week at 8 PM EST to get even more valuable tips for use technology in your classroom.

Now that you’ve gone back and watched the video (you did, right?), you might feel like you have a problem (or ten of them) but no solution. That was exactly the point. I wanted us to spend time together focusing on your pain points (and mine) as a teacher. Teaching, by nature, is inefficient. That’s because we’re not dealing with machines. We’re dealing with people, and those student-people are usually not mature yet, so the very process of managing a classroom where they are the focus is going to be messy.

It may feel hopeless to you that you will ever spend less time and get more done in your classroom. But you can! In this week’s episode and post, I’m going to share ten solutions to last week’s problems, so here they are:

10 Teacher Timesavers to Help You Become a More Efficient Teacher Today

Problem #1: Too Many Tools

You might have one for grading, one for delivering content, one for student blogging, and one for assessing.

Solution: Though they’re all cool, I’m sure, your life could be simpler if you had one program that hosted content for, delivered content to, and received work from your students. We call such a program an LMS. If you are just getting into LMS world, let me recommend Edmodo. It has a Facebook-like look and has a free version you can use with your students. However, if you want a more robust and even system-wide solution, Canvas is the best program out there. It looks clean, functions well, and I can say with certainty, it will handle just about any classroom task you can throw at it.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Yolanda Payton’s session includes Canvas and will show you how simple it is to drive instruction through an LMS.

Problems #2 and 3: Lack of Purpose, Priorities, and Balance

You spend plenty of time at work, but you wake up out of a stupor at your desk after several unpurposeful hours and haven’t accomplished anything, OR you might be a rockstar at work, but you scream at or neglect your family at home.

Solutions: An efficient teacher knows how to manage her time and balance her life well; she can’t be made just by a certain tool or set of tools. You could be the most efficient teacher in the world and still waste the time that you gained back. Scheduling and prioritizing have to be goals each day. One of my favorite virtual mentors for the prioritized schedule is Angela Watson, and you can read an article she shares on the topic here.

But you don’t have to take my word for it, or even Angela’s… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here.  Kelsea Studebaker’s session will show you the top characteristics of an efficient teacher. If you can become more efficient, you can get your life back!

Problems #4 and 5: The Paper Nightmare and Your Messy Desk

If you’ve heard any of my Facebook Live videos, you’ve heard me talk about how my desk was always a mound of papers waiting to be taken home in a rolling crate and (possibly) graded.

Solutions: Use paperless or less-paper solutions like OneNote Class Notebook to deliver work straight to your students and receive no papers back! Kids don’t even have to remember to put their names on their papers or bring pencils to class. There’s no more messy desk for you, and the students have clean desks too!

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Tammy Dunbar’s session to find out how you can even be more efficient by using OneNote from your phone. Grade and deliver work from anywhere!

Problem #6: Inefficient Hallpass Systems

if you’re like me, you’re always looking around for a scrap sheet of paper or a kid’s often-lost agenda in order to write a hallway pass. Then, when the kid goes somewhere, you forget where he went or how long he’s been gone.

Solve that problem for good! Use a Google or Microsoft Form accessible with a QR code right by your door, and kids can scan to sign out on the way out the door. To combat the additional problem of kids staying gone forever and you forgetting, place a kitchen timer hung with command strips right beside the QR code. Kids push start when they leave, and have it set to beep after five minutes, so that you can track down kids who might be “lost” on the way back.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Missi Love’s session and find out even more tricks you can do with free Google tools.

Problem #7: Struggling to Enforce the Rules

Imagine this: Your class is a zoo. The kids don’t seem to know how to line up, their papers are everywhere, and they are rude every time you have a sub. Maybe you don’t have to imagine very hard, because you are picturing your very own class.

Solution: An efficient teacher makes rules and sets of classroom systems from the very beginning of the year. The more the kids are taught to follow a routine, the more efficient they are in it and the less you pull your hair out. Baldness would be very inefficient 🙂

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Ashley Millar as she shares plenty of tips on efficient behavior management in her session.

Problem #8: Poor Parent Communication

I don’t know about you, but in my classroom, I toggled among many forms of parent communication. From website to those carbon message books you use in offices to paper agendas to emails, it was always a struggle to keep up how I was communicating and how often.

Solution: Use one system to communicate. My favorite is Remind, but maybe you’d prefer to check out Bloomz, recommended by Vicki Davis. Whatever you choose, make it simple for you and the parents. Use one system that allows for two-way communication, and use it all the time.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch

Problem #9: Assigning Student Supplies

Maybe you’re a math teacher, and students borrow a calculator from you every day. The problem is, you never know who took which one, who pried the keys off, and who walked out the door with that expensive pocket computer. Or you’re a teacher with laptops, books, crayons, or anything else kids use regularly. You don’t have a system for signing items out and checking their condition upon return.

Solution: I love the number system for so many reasons and used it often in my class, including when I assigned supplies to kids. Check out this post for more information.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Tanya Marshall’s session and learn several time-saving systems to stay organized, whether online or off.

And finally, this #10 item is keeping you from being efficient, and it’s the elephant in the room: Slow and Stressful Grading

The problem: I think you know it. It’s why you avoid grading (if you’re like me) in favor of any other activity. It’s grading where you learn just how little of what you taught the kids retained and where you just can’t seem to go quickly, no matter how hard you try.

Solution: Embrace digital and manual systems that will let your students evaluate themselves and each other, or allow tech tools to do the grading work for you. Here are a couple posts chock-full of information to help you with either of these concerns:

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Meredith Dobbs wow you with her ideas for using audit-style grading to give good feedback while saving time.


Well, there you have the them, the 10 teacher timesavers to help you become a more efficient teacher today. But what if ten aren’t enough? What if you need 100 more, from all different subject areas? The Efficient Teacher Conference was created with you in mind. I knew what stressed me out as a teacher, and I painstakingly sought out teachers who could give real-life, effective advice to help you become more efficient in the classroom. Won’t you grab your free ticket today? 

With Tech and Twang,



Tech Tuesday #20: Putting Differentiation on Auto-Pilot

Did you ever read a choose-your-own-adventure book? If so, you know that the reader controlled what happened in the story. Differentiation should be the same way. Students who need help should get it, and those who have mastered content should be able to move on. Further, it should not be labor-intensive for teachers to set up such differentiation and try to keep up with which student is on what track. Today, let’s explore innovative uses of OneNote, Microsoft Forms, and Canvas LMS, three tools with features that make differentiation easier and even automatic.

In OneNote, we will:

  • explore the individual and groups distribution features
  • see how you can reward students with badges using those features

In Forms, we will:

  • turn on the branching feature
  • try a sample branched activity

In Canvas, we will:

  • create a module
  • turn on the Mastery Paths feature

Intrigued? Watch the video embedded below, taken from my Tuesday weekly Facebook Live session at 8PM EST, where I discuss all the features in detail and show them in action. Like the page now so you never miss another video!

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink