What did I do without Pinterest?

Everyone in my family collects things. My mom collects Santas — all kinds. My brothers collected baseball cards and Hotwheels. My sister had a zillion Barbies. My middle son (still) collects Legos (and builds with them, as an adult — fascinating). My little one collects bottle caps. And my eldest son collects just about everything, but was an avid rock collector as a child.

I never seemed to be able to sustain a collection. Wah. A couple of months ago, I discovered Pinterest. I had never heard about it until a colleague shared a dessert at work, and she said she found the recipe on Pinterest. So, being nosy, I Googled it to see what it was all about.

I just love it. And now I realize what I really DO collect: ideas.

English: Red Pinterest logo

It’s part of my job –  to collect and share ideas with other teachers. Now I have an amazing place to organize these, as well as recipes I find online, activities for summer homeschool, and other snippets. No more file boxes full of clippings that I’ll never go through. No more magazine clipping extravaganzas – I just look the idea I like up online, “pin it,” then pass the magazine along intact to my eldest son, who reads them then passes them along… etc.


A few days ago, I came across a “pin” of a tool that just made me giggle: a random name generator. It’s free — gotta love that. You simply type in the names of students (up to 100 per class), then click a button to generate a random name from the list. Teachers can project the gadget on the SmartBoard, then click to let the students know which student is to be called on next. It even generates random groupings (you decide how many per group), and prints out a chart with the groups put together, asking you what you want to do with the “extra” students not grouped. It’s so fun, I can’t stand it.

Random Name Generator, @ http://www.superteachertools.com

So here’s the thing: I don’t have a class (well, a class of ONE right now). But I immediately thought of another use for the item: scheduling blog and link upkeep.

If you are a blogger, you know that there are a million things to do to really keep up your blog. Besides posting, you have to update settings on widgets, check your favorite idea sources for new design ideas, read blogs that you follow, and tweak the sidebars. I like to read stats on my various blogs and feeds, to see which articles have more hits than others, and update keywords on posts. I also have a few companies that I love (personally), so I check for affiliate programs for them, since I use their products and talk about them. The problem is, I know that I don’t get to all of them, because I don’t call them to mind. If I simply go through my list, I always get through the top items and don’t get to the bottom ones, which are often the more relevant (and newest) ones. And prioritizing them takes me too long, because I overthink everything. I just need someone to say – “Here is your ‘to-do’ list — go do it!” Here comes the random name generator.

I tried this immediately: I created a “class” that I called “Blog Upkeep,” then entered 100 tasks that I might do to keep my blogs current. I listed all the menu headings and subheadings that I have or want to create, all the blogs I read for ideas, all the badges I want to create, all the reports I want to generate and read, etc. Then I decided that, in the summer, I can probably get 2-3 of each of these done, per day (some take just a moment, some take longer), and then I generated random groupings of 3 tasks, to end up with 34 days worth of tasks. In this way, I don’t forget to do anything. If I don’t finish a grouping, no worries — I’ll just finish it the next day and go to the next group the following day. No one is keeping score. Here’s an example of some groupings my “class list” generated for me (isn’t it cute?):

Some blog upkeep task lists, generated for me by the Random Name Generator

So far, I’ve found this to be a “fairer” way to get to everything, and I look forward to seeing what I get to do each day. I know — geeky. But, that’s me.

This grouping feature would be very helpful for teachers who wanted to create random groups for centers or stations, or a cooperative task that didn’t depend on a student’s skill or knowledge level. It is also a great way to target students for anecdotal data collection, or select the students whose journals you would take home each day.

Homeschoolers and classroom teachers could also use the Random Name Generator to generate the “writing prompt of the day:” as you (the teacher) think of ideas for story starters, you could enter them on your “class list” (name the list, “Prompt of the Day”), then generate the day’s idea each day, keeping it fun for the kids, because they never know what the “computer” is going to tell them to write about.

The Random Name Generator can be found at SuperteacherTools.com. Check out my Pinterest board, “Teaching at its Best,” for other great teaching ideas I find online.

Happy “generating!”

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