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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.
Creating Better Calendar Invites

Creating Better Calendar Invites

I recently gave a presentation at the Arcadia Innovation Summit on how school administrators can use G Suite to communicate better and increase their productivity. Below is one of the ideas that I shared for increasing communication before a meeting. Enjoy!


Have you ever received a calendar invite like the one on the below? If so chances are you were not 100% clear about what the meeting was about. You know that the meeting is about the Math Curriculum but what about it? Are we thinking about replacing it? Are we looking to possibly modify it? Also where are we meeting? Do we have an agenda? Is there anything that I need to do prior to the meeting?

Now let’s check out this calendar invite. The meeting has the same title but the invite now includes more information. Remember that over communication is good communication.


When creating a meeting invite with Google Calendar you will want to make sure you include:

  • The meeting location. If you use common meeting spaces at your school talk with your G Suite administrator about setting up a calendar for a shared space (instructions for setting this up). Setting this up will help avoid double booking of rooms.
  • A brief description as to why you are meeting. No one should enter the meeting without knowing the purpose of the meeting.
  • Your desired outcomes for the meeting. Your desired outcomes are what you hope to accomplish by the end of the meeting.
  • If necessary any prework that needs to get done beforehand to ensure a productive meeting. This is not necessary but it can be helpful if you are limited on time to meet.

For more ideas on how to run effective meetings check out Momentum by Mamie Kanfer Stewart and Tai Tsao.

The Inbox Escape Plan – Setting Your Inbox Type

The Inbox Escape Plan – Setting Your Inbox Type

Gmail defaults to show all of your messages in one area of your inbox. While this is great for getting an overall view of your inbox it can cause stress by showing you too much information. Let’s be honest when it’s time to tackle our inbox we just need to get to the point and we have no time to look at extra emails.

That is where inbox types come in. Changing your inbox type changes how Gmail displays your email. Today I want to share with you share my favorite inbox type and how you can set it up in your own Gmail account.

My Favorite Inbox Type

This is pretty nerdy to admit but I do have a favorite way to organize my inbox. I am a big fan of the Unread First set up in Gmail. When you choose this inbox type your emails are split into two sections, unread and everything else. I really like this set up because…..

  • I can visually hide my everything else section so the emails are out of sight out of mind.
  • Being able to only see my unread messages helps me not feel as anxious about the number of emails I have.
  • Only seeing my unread messages allows me to quickly find any email that still requires action from me.
  • Having two sections makes it easy to categorize my email. It is either read or unread. No need to over complicate things.

I think overall I really like Unread first because it helps de-clutter my email. Below are screenshots of the default Gmail inbox and the same inbox set up with Unread First as it’s inbox type.

The Default Gmail inbox
The same Gmail inbox set up as the Unread First inbox type.
All of the read messages were automatically moved to the Everything Else section.

How to Change Your Inbox Type to Unread First

You can change your inbox type by clicking on the gear in the top right hand corner of your gmail. This will bring up a drop down menu. Click on settings.

This will open up your email settings. Click on Inbox on the top menu.

Click on the drop down menu next to Inbox type and then select your inbox type.

OPTIONAL: If you want you can edit how many items appear in each section, hide the section when it is empty, or completely remove the section by clicking on the options dropdown next to the different sections.

Make sure you hit save changes before going back to your inbox!

Again I know this seems really dorky to have a favorite inbox type but I have found myself way less stressed out after changing my inbox type. If you are looking for more ideas on how to tackle your inbox make sure to check out my presentation The Inbox Escape Plan by clicking here.