Teaching students how to keep track of their online assignments.

Teaching students how to keep track of their online assignments.

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Teaching students how to keep track of their online assignments.

You just finished having an exciting conversation with your students in the tenth grade. You are looking forward to reading the written reflections that you were given as homework because they provided brilliant ideas. However, the following day, when you log into Google Classroom to grade their work, you discover that nearly half of your students have not submitted the assignment. The document was only even opened by two-thirds of them.

Sound familiar?

In the digital world, so many students who are engaged in real-world learning activities struggle to complete assignments. When students leave our classrooms, digital work is frequently out of sight and out of mind. In today’s tech-focused society, teachers and parents may wonder if staying organized is even possible.

In today’s classroom, 1-to-1 devices are permanent fixtures.

Students spent a significant portion of their instructional time using a device before the Covid-19 pandemic forced most schools to adopt a virtual teaching model. Middle school students spent 47% of their time using a device, while high school students spent 68% of their time using a device, according to a 2019 Arlington Public Schools study. According to the study’s findings, devices are frequently utilized for “reference and research,” “presentations and projects,” “feedback and assessment,” and so on.

Teaching students how to keep track of their online assignments.

90 percent of students had access to a one-to-one device for school by the return to in-person learning, indicating that technology will continue to be used in the classroom and workplace.

The key is teaching digital organization skills.

Students may still have difficulty organizing their assignments and completing them from start to finish despite having access to numerous digital organization tools like myHomework, Evernote, Google Keep, and Coggle, to name a few. We frequently ask students to quickly and seamlessly transition from hard-copy to digital work, such as writing a reflection in Google Docs and uploading it to a learning management system (LMS), and we frequently assume that students can transfer organizational skills from the real world to the digital world.

The human brain can perceive digital files, but unlike binders, notebooks, and folders, they are not tangible. Additionally, despite the fact that an LMS may facilitate students’ access to information, it does not organize data or prioritize tasks. Even if students have already perfected these actions in the analog world, these actions are extremely demanding cognitive skills that can be taught and practiced in the digital world.

For a world that is focused on technology, educators can prioritize direct, strategic instruction of organizational and other executive functioning skills.

Make your classroom resources more efficient.

The back-end organization of your classroom resources is the first step in assisting students with digital work organization. Choose one LMS and three to four instructional resources, working with your department, grade level, or district, and stick with them throughout the year. You could, for instance, use PearDeck, Google Calendar, and EdPuzzle as instructional resources while selecting Google Classroom as your LMS.

A revolving door of programs is difficult for students to manage and can result in app fatigue, despite the temptation to adopt new and exciting technology as it develops.

By color-coding folders and files in their chosen LMS, posting log-in instructions in easily accessible locations, and providing a landing page in their LMS with all of the links to digital resources, teachers can further simplify their classroom resources.


Next, teachers must establish routines for organizing digital assignments that are simple and observable.

In my classroom, a living table of contents document is one routine I’ve developed. For each unit, I create and print a blank table of contents, which students place in their binders. After that, I project the table of contents at the beginning of each class, which includes the most recent assignments for the day. When students get settled in, they fill in these new items on their hard copies. Online assignments that won’t be in their binders are marked with an “S” (for us, that stands for Schoology) to indicate that they are in our LMS. Each assignment is numbered.

Entering homework assignments into Google Calendar or agenda books together at the conclusion of each class is another predictable routine. Although prompting students to write down their homework may appear elementary, even more mature students appreciate the routine’s predictability and consistency because it reduces anxiety (hurrying to write it down before the teacher moves on) and frees up brain space for creative thinking, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

Consider whether students could replicate your system in your absence if you are unsure whether your current routine is clear and predictable. Your routine may need to be more consistently implemented if students are unable to complete it on their own, or it may need to be more clearly articulated (such as being posted somewhere in the classroom).


Teachers can demonstrate organizational skills to students in a manner that is analogous to the process by which academic skills are acquired. Think about creating opportunities to demonstrate strategies like how to share calendar events with peers and parents, how to save documents, and how to sync information across devices.

By providing students with “think-alouds” for task initiation, task prioritization, and time management, you can also assist them in becoming more familiar with organizational strategies. Consider involving normal language for reminding and provoking. You could say something like, “Now that I’m ready to start, I’m going to open up Schoology, Google, and a Word document and close out of other tabs” at the beginning of each new assignment.

Students are able to identify, replicate, and utilize tools for executive functioning skills more quickly when language is provided for them because executive functioning skills are not innate. These skills can be prioritized to improve student outcomes and prepare students for a world that is increasingly centered on technology.

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