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Teacher Spring Cleaning: How to Organize Your Google Drive

Digital organization is tricky! It’s hard to stay organized online.

In today’s blog post, I’m sharing 5 different tips for how to organize your Google Drive.

TIP #1: Use naming conventions

I’ve been guilty of naming files “Math Lesson Plan” or “Multiplication Doc” – and the reality is that neither of those titles are helpful.

If I were to see one of those files in my Google Drive a year from now, I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t know what “Math Lesson Plan” or “Multiplication Doc” actually are until I open up the files. 

For this reason, it’s important to use specific and consistent naming conventions when titling your files. 

When I say “naming conventions,” I basically mean that we can be strategic about the way we name our files by using a system.

The formula that works for me is Unit Number, Lesson Name, and Additional Detail.

For example, I might title one of my files “Unit 1 Multiplication Lesson Plan.”

  • The Unit Number is “1”
  • The Lesson Name is “Multiplication”
  • The Additional Detail is “Lesson Plan”

I might title another file that is a part of this multiplication unit: “Unit 1 Multiplication Day 1 Worksheet.” 

  • The Unit Number is still “1”
  • The Lesson Name is still “Multiplication”
  • The Additional Detail is different: “Day 1 Worksheet”

For a quiz, I could name the file “Unit 1 Multiplication Quiz.” 

Now you’ll see that in these examples, I have 3 different files that are all a part of the same unit and the same lesson; however, they are labeled with different additional details. Because of the naming conventions I’ve used, I can easily tell the difference between these files. 

The key here with this tip is to use consistent naming conventions that make sense to you. The naming convention I proposed above might not work for you – and that’s okay!

Maybe you don’t use units at your school. Maybe you’d rather organize by standard or by beginning, middle, and end of the year. That’s up to you. Use a consistent naming convention that makes sense to you. 

TIP #2: Create folders and sub-folders

I always recommend organizing your Google Drive using folders. It’s the best way to keep track of your files and to stay organized.

Folders are also helpful when you’re trying to find a specific file quickly. If you create folders strategically, you’ll always know which folder a file is stored in.

My recommendation is to spend a few seconds thinking about 4 or 5 main umbrella categories for the types of files in your Google Drive.

For me personally, I have:

  • My teaching files
  • Some personal documents
  • School files that aren’t related to teaching
  • Files for my afterschool enrichment classes 

I would then choose to create a folder for each of these umbrella categories. I’ll call these our “top level folders.” 

My top level folders (as a STEM teacher) might be called:

  • STEM 
  • Personal 
  • School 
  • Enrichment 

If you are a third grade teacher, you might have umbrella categories titled: 

  • Third Grade
  • Personal
  • School
  • Tutoring (if you teach tutoring on the side)

You can even get more specific here for just these top level folders…

I’d recommend adding the school year to your Grade Level or Subject folder.

For example, you might title your folder “STEM 2020-21” or “Third Grade 2020-21.” Adding the school year helps you keep track of what you have taught from year-to-year.

Then, within these umbrella categories, you can also create sub-folders. 

As a third grade teacher, I might have sub-folders for the different subjects I teach like Math, ELA, and Science.

TIP #3: Color code your folders

So many teachers love color coding – I know I do – and Google Drive makes it nice and easy to color code your folders and sub-folders.

To change the color of a folder, you can right click on it (if you’re a PC user) or control click (if you use a Mac), then hover your mouse over “Change Color,” and then select a color.

For your “Third Grade 2020-21” folder, you might choose to select the color red, and then, you’d want to change every sub-folder to red as well. In this example, I would make my Math, ELA, and Science sub-folders all red. 

Some teachers love doing a rainbow theme here – so their umbrella folders are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple respectively. But ultimately that’s up to you!

TIP #4: Reorder your folders using numbers

On the main page of your Drive, you might notice that your folders appear in alpha-numeric order. If that works for you, that’s great!

But for me, I like to have my folders appear in a specific order: an order based on priority. 

As a third grade teacher, there’s a high chance you’re using the folder titled “Third Grade 2020-21” way more than your personal documents folder.

If that’s true, you might want to make sure that your Third Grade folder is at the very top of your Google Drive for easy access.

Since Google Drive follows alphanumeric ordering, you can rename your folders to have numbers at the beginning so that you can sort by priority. 

For example, you can rename your “Third Grade 2020-21” folder to say “01 Third Grade 2020-21.” Now, after you have renamed your folder, it’ll appear at the very top of your Google Drive.

Next, let’s say you’re spending a lot of time on Google Drive for your afterschool enrichment class.

You might want to put the Enrichment folder as the 2nd folder on your list. You can then rename the enrichment folder to say “02 Enrichment.” 

Use numbers at the beginning of the folder names in order to rank your folders based on priority. 

TIP #5: Don’t touch your Shared with Me folder

When I open up the Shared with Me folder on my Google Drive, I’m overwhelmed. There are so many files, so many folders, and none of it is organized.

The problem with the Shared with Me folder is that YOU do not own these files. Someone else owns these files, and they shared them with you.

Because of this, you can’t organize your Shared with Me folder. It’s stuck looking that way.

That being said, you can always add a shortcut to specific shared files or folders to your own Google Drive.

To do this:

  • You will first open up the Shared with Me folder.
  • Then, you will control + click (Mac) or right click (PC) on the file you’d like to create a shortcut for.
  • Click “Add a shortcut,” and then select the shortcut location in your Drive.

Thank you!

What other organizational tips do you have? I’d love to know! You can email me at myedtechclassroom@gmail.com or DM me on Instagram @edtechclass

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