Google has a Calendar tool that is very handy. I have used it to plan my classes in the past and then embedded the calendar on a page in my website that students could view at any time. There are pros and cons to using this calendar.
First, I really appreciate that you can create calendars for multiple reasons and purposes. For instance, I have one that’s only for birthdays, and whenever I add a birthday, I add it to the birthday calendar. I have created a calendar for every course that I teach, my extra-curricular activities, my personal appointments and events, general school activities, my kids’ activities, and even my fitness activities. When you are on your Google Calendar page, which you access using your Google username and password, you can select or deselect your individual calendars. If you only want to see your three classes, the rest of the calendars can be deselected. Likewise, if you only want to see your personal appointments and events, you may select only the calendars that relate to your personal life.
Next, there are settings for each of your calendars. Each calendar is assigned to a colour which you can change for your purposes; however, no two calendars can be assigned the exact same colour. You can manipulate the share settings to keep the calendar private, to share with particular individuals, or to make it visible to the world. As well, if you want to embed the calendar on your website, there is embed code that can be inserted on your site. Once the calendar is on your website, you continue to make updates while signed into Google calendar; you cannot update the calendar that is embedded on your website. It is simply on display wherever you’ve embedded the code. The calendar you display will default to monthly, but it is possible to change the settings so that it displays in the weekly or daily format. I prefer the monthly format, and the viewers can change the way of displaying once they are on the web page displaying the calendar.
Finally, it really is an attractive calendar to display on your website. It has a professional appearance.
The first con is the inability to embed more than one individual calendar on a web page of choice. Now you can display more than one calendar on a page, but one will follow the other. You cannot display the information from more than one class on one calendar. I’m not sure that doing so is the best idea anyway because the students may get confused about which work is theirs even though they are colour coded.
The second negative aspect is the add new or updating interface because it is a slow process. Each event has to be entered individually and requires that you redirect to a page where you choose all your settings. I find the interface quirky as well in terms of the ‘smart’ functions as usually these functions slowed me down. I have found that using a template calendar on Google Docs that could be published to a PDF and uploaded to a website as an attachment is much more time effective. Entering the information on the spreadsheet style calendar is faster and more visually appealing because you are never redirecting to another page to choose settings. I have used a template from the Google Docs templates for the last two years, but when I checked recently, there wasn’t one created for the next school year. I created one myself following the model that I have learned, and I am going to upload my Google Docs spreadsheet school year calendar to the templates. In the past, I have benefited from the templates that other people have uploaded and made available to others, so this is a way I can share with others as well.
Using the Google Docs template has one downside. Even though I plan carefully my entire semester using backward planning, because of disruptions to the schedule or needing more time than expected for a particular activity, changes are sometimes necessary. Making changes to the Googe Calendar is less time consuming than making changes to the Google Docs template calendar. If you’ve already spent the extra time creating it, it’s easy to drag and drop the changes while logged into Google Calendar. When I’ve created my calendar in Google Docs, I usually just have the students update their calendars in their binders and don’t worry about changing the one that’s posted online.
Because the updating was time consuming, I didn’t use the Google Calendar last year. It’s really a matter of choice, because it has a visually appealing final product but it takes more time.
Interested in sharing my Google Docs Calendar that I made for the 2010-11 school year? Contact me and I will share the calendar with you. A Google account is needed. You will be able to save a copy to edit for your district/board’s scheduling differences. I may be able to send you an xls file by email that you can edit upon opening. Note that knowledge of Excel text functions is needed to manipulate the calendar. (The only more complicated function used is the wrap text feature.)