Author: admin

Organize your Google Drive with a Staff Hub

Organize your Google Drive with a Staff Hub

H/T to Brent Coley for introducing me to this awesome idea! You can check out Brent’s info about his online staff handbook by clicking here.

If you are not a search Google Drive search wizard it can be hard to quickly find important documents. On this page you will learn how you can create a Google Doc that acts as a hub to other documents. This simple tool has transformed the way my teachers access important information in our Google Drive.

Why You Should Use A Hub

1. Many workers spend as much as 20% of their work week looking for internal information that they need to accomplish tasks, whether that’s digging through folders of documents or tracking down a colleague to answer their questions. (source)

2. Think of this doc as a table of contents for your staff. You do not have to include every bit of information like you would a handbook. You just need to link to important docs.

3. Using a Google Doc ensures that your staff always has the current version. No need to publish before staff can see changes!

4. Google Docs are mobile friendly. Most of us do not carry our laptops all day long. We do however have our phones.

5. Categorizing your documents makes it easy to find information.

Examples of Google Doc Hubs

How to make a Google Doc Hub

Before You Start

1. Create a list of documents that you want your staff/students/parents to have access to. If you are struggling with creating this list think about the documents that your staff/students/parents request the most.

2. Organize your documents into different categories. You can organize your docs by departments, type, point person, or any other way that will help your staff quickly find the information.

Creating the Google Doc from Scratch

1. Create a new Google Doc by clicking here.

2. Insert a table. The number of categories you have will determine how many rows and columns you need. I would recommend not making more than three columns. If you make more than three columns the document may become hard to read on a phone.

3. Label each column with a category name.

4. Under each category name create a list of documents. You may want use bullet points to keep everything visually organized.

5. Link the documents in your list to the correct Google Doc. Make sure to double-check sharing settings!

6. If you want to make your hub more visually appealing you can add a logo, change the background color of the page/table, or use multiple fonts etc. Keep in mind that this does not need to be a visually complex document. It is all about making sure that people can quickly find information!

Free Templates You Can Use

If you do not want to start from scratch I have created several templates that you can use. To use a template click on the links below. You will then be forced to make a copy.

3 Column Template with Primary Documents Section

3 Column Template

3×3 Table Template with Primary Documents Section

3×3 Table Template

10 Quick Suggestions

1. Brand your hub! Come up with a fun name so people immediately know what you are talking about when you talk about it. This can be done by the person creating the hub or by polling the staff.

2. Don’t be afraid to say “That’s on the hub.” When you first implement this idea you need to give people a reason to check out the hub. Forcing them to go to the hub to retrieve information will expose them to the larger hub.

3. Make sure that you make your document view only for a majority of the staff. This will prevent information from accidentally disappearing.

4. Give editing access to key people. I gave editing access to my administrative peers, the office manager, and our assistants. You do not want to have to manage this all on your own.

5. Use Incognito mode in Chrome or another account to test all of your links prior to sharing the document.

6. Take suggestions for documents to add. Also, look for trends. If multiple are requesting something then add it!

7. Use this concept for other groups that you work with! If you need help organizing documents in Google Drive create a hub!

8. Use red colored text to identify any updates or new information. A staff member of mine suggested that we do this so viewers of the hub could quickly and easily identify any new or updated information.

9. Create a customized short link and/or a QR code to access the hub. The Google Docs URL is too long to ask someone to type in. allows you to create custom short links.

10. Remember the hub is also for you. Make use of it and let people know you are using it! Modeling is a great way to get buy-in.

Easy and Cheap Digital Signage

Easy and Cheap Digital Signage

Today I wanted to share a very easy way to set up digital signage at your school. I first learned about this while listening to an episode of the Check This Out Podcast. In the podcast, the cohost Brian Briggs shared how he used a Tv, Chromecast, and Google Home to set up digital signage in all of his schools.

I really like this method of digital signage because of the low price point, ease of set up, and the fact that we can collaboratively manage what goes on the screen. So far I have set it up at two of my campuses. While one campus has not utilized it fully, the other loves it and is constantly updating

What can you use this for?

Before we get into the technical info I wanted to share some ideas for how to use this form of digital signage. Below are a few ways that my schools are currently using their digital signage:

  • Share photos of what is happening on campus in real-time. Since this method uses the Google Photos app pictures can be sent to the Tv seconds after they are taken.
  • Share a slide show of announcements for the week.
  • Share a copy of the flyers that have been sent home.
  • Spotlight big events.
  • Spotlight teachers.
  • Spotlight the bright spots on campus.
  • Use to promote the school’s initiatives

The Technical Info

Step 1

Download the Google Home App (iOS /Android). You will need this app to set up your Chromecast.

Step 2

Follow these steps to connect your Chromecast to your network.

Step 3

Create an album in Google Photos specifically for the Chromecast

Step 4

Open up the Google Home app that you used to set up your Chromecast. On the home screen tap on the Chromecast’s icon and then click on the gear to access the device settings.

Step 5

Scroll down the settings until you see Ambient Mode. Click on Ambient Mode.

Step 6

Select Google Photos as your photo source.

Step 7

Select the photo album that you created in step 3 as your source.

Step 8

Upload photos to the photo album using Google Photos.

Step 9

Use the Google Photos app on your phone or computer to manage the photo album. You can also share the album with anyone who you want to add photos.

Quick Notes

Below are some quick things to keep in mind when uploading pictures:

  • The larger the photos the better. If a photo has a low resolution it will not show up on the screen.
  • Landscape photos are best. I have found that this sometimes does not play nice with photos that were shot in portrait mode.
  • If you are going to upload pictures of Google Slides I have found that the dimensions below work best. If your slides are too small they will not show up on the screen.
Managing Phone Notifications

Managing Phone Notifications

Over the past few months, you may have noticed that a lot of my posts have focused on different ways that you can use technology to save time and work more productively. As a father of two little kids, my time has quickly become one area of my life that I protect. Making sure I am around for their activities and to see them grow up is something that I feel is super important for both them and my wife and me.

Today I wanted to share some thoughts about an area that I still struggle with but feel like I am getting better at.

A few years ago I read Nir Eyal’s book Hooked. The book is about how to positively build habit-building products. In the book, Eyal shares that in order to build a habit-building product you need to have some sort of internal or external triggers.

One of the worst external triggers we face is the dreaded phone notification. Something like a push notification or red dot can be extremely distracting and take us out of our current situation. I know myself I have found myself stop mid-conversation with someone to check my phone because I got a notification.

A few years ago I went through all of my notifications and tried to cut out the ones that I felt were not really needed. One of the first to go was email notifications, then Facebook (ultimately I purged the entire app from my phone), and then anything else I felt was causing me to get distracted. While this helped a lot I still had a hard time sometimes choosing which notifications to turn off.

A few months ago Nir Eyal published a new book about being indistractable. Since I enjoyed Hooked so much I had to pick this book up. In the book Eyal shares about how to master your internal triggers, make time for important work, and how to hack back external triggers.

In the introduction to the section on hacking back external triggers Eyal shares a great test, you can use to determine if you should mute a notification.

Is the trigger serving me or am I serving it?

Indistractable by Nir Eyal

If you are not sure if you should turn off a notification ask yourself is the trigger serving you or are you serving it? In the book Eyal points out that not all notifications are bad. Notifications that remind us about healthy habits (Apple Watch’s stand notification, meditation reminders, food logs, etc.) can be super helpful for building good habits or staying on track to meeting a goal. Notifications about what a celebrity recently did or who liked your picture are distractions and keep you from meeting your goals.

A notification is a great tool. When used correctly they can inform us about important things. When used incorrectly they can become distractions that keep us from meeting our goals. If you are looking for more ideas on how to regain your focus I highly suggest checking out Indistractable.