Monday, June 9, 2014

10 Must-Have Tools for the Busy Teacher

This year was uniquely challenging for me. I had my biggest class ever (28 students) , and I was co-teaching all day with teachers and paras from the special ed department--also a first. Meanwhile, I started working on my PhD, and my toddler constantly kept me busy. My plate has never been so full!

If you're a teacher who often feels pulled in every direction, then this list is for you. These are my top 10 tools for juggling it all. Hopefully you'll find some to use as well!


1. Nozbe



Nozbe is the ultimate task list manager. You can organize by projects -- school, work, home, etc., create recurring tasks, and so much more. I can access it from any device, add attachments, and email stuff to my to-do list. I started out with the free version, and I quickly upgraded to the paid version. At $96/year, the paid version has a hefty price tag, but this app was SO much better than any other task manager I'd tried, and it's been worth every penny. If you're someone who has lots of projects going at once, this app is worth exploring.


2. Evernote


This is my brain online. All of my coursework and notes are in Evernote, and all of my anecdotal records and student work samples are in here as well. I was able to use the free version for many years, and then once my husband and I decided to go digital with all of our financial documents, etc., I upgraded to the premium version. At $35/year, it's pretty affordable.


3. Dropbox


 I don't think I could function without Dropbox. I switch between so many devices between work, home, and school each day, but Dropbox allows me to keep track of everything. All of my lesson plans, TpT purchases, readings for class, and more are in my Dropbox account. I'm still living off of the free space, but I'm getting the daily reminders that my Dropbox is nearly full. Might need to upgrade that soon, too. Premium accounts offer 100 GB of storage for $99/year.

4. GoodReader


 I've used this app a lot with my students, but I'm finding it to be totally clutch for my grad school stuff, too. I'm doing tons of research for my courses and scoping out dissertation ideas, and GoodReader allows me to annotate all of the PDF's I'm amassing. I've created a folder on Dropbox for all of the articles I've gathered, and I can sync that folder to GoodReader so I can read it all on my iPad. I can also send it back to Evernote when I finish. One of my dear friends told me that I'd have laundry baskets full of research cluttering my house while I worked on my PhD, but not so...It's all electronic!


5. GoogleCalendar

I have a variety of calendars on Google -- class schedules, deadlines, school events, etc. Some of these I share with my husband so we can both be aware of each other's events. Other calendars I share with my students and their parents so they can be aware of upcoming events and tests. I like that all of my calendars are color-coded so I know which calendar I'm looking at, and I can select/de-select different calendars to narrow my focus if I'm looking for something in particular.


6. YouCanBook.Me

This free site allows me to share portions of my calendar with parents so they can schedule parent-teacher conferences. I choose the days they can see, set the times they can schedule, and manage the maximum time blocks they can reserve. They don't get to see any of the events on my calendar, just whether I'm available or not. If they reserve a time slot, it will automatically add it to my calendar and send me an email. It's eliminated the back-and-forth process of conference scheduling and allowed me to manage my time better.


7. Planbook.com

Since I was co-teaching this year, I needed to find a way to share my plans easily from week to week. I tested out Planbook in August, and I loved it. I like that you can extend or bump lessons, attach files, and customize the fields that appear. It's a great resource that's keeping me much more organized. You can get a free trial of it before paying the $12 for an annual subscription.

8. Typinator

This is a tool that's new to me, but Typinator is a text expander tool. There are several pieces of text that I find myself typing or copying/pasting over and over. Typinator allows me to create typing shortcuts for all of those. For example, if I want to type my blog address as a hyperlink when I comment on someone's blog, I can simply type "~bl" and it will place the text there for me. I also use it for standard replies to emails such as when parents email me to say their child will be absent. I can type "~abs" and it will write: "Thanks for letting me know about the absence. I hope your child is feeling better soon! Today's assignments will be posted on our class website, and let me know if there's anything else you need." Four key strokes = all of that. I find typing way faster than using the mouse, so this is a time saver that quickly adds up. It's only available for Macs, and it's priced in Euros (converts to around $36 US), but I use it all the time.

9. GoodReads


Distinct from GoodReader, GoodReads is an online community surrounding books. It allows me to keep track of the books I'm reading and which books I want to read next. As I'm starting my dissertation research, I'm constantly finding book titles that I want to check out. Similarly, there are lots of teaching books and children's books that I want to investigate someday, and GoodReads helps me organize all of that. Best of all, I can use its scanning feature to scan barcodes when I'm browsing in the bookstore.

10. Edmodo

I used Edmodo a lot for collecting student work and grading tests/quizzes this year. It managed all of the submissions and kept the work organized for me so I could be more efficient with tracking these things. It also allowed me to create assignments, give and grade quizzes, communicate with students and parents, and so much more. This is a great free learning management system that was a centerpiece of my classroom this year.


With the exception of Typinator, which is only on my computers, all of these apps are cloud-based or mobile-friendly so I can get to them from any device. When I'm shifting between my iPhone, iPad, laptop, and desktop, that's critical. I may be busy, but I can get to my projects anytime, anywhere, and I'm not hauling around tons of materials everywhere I go. These tools boost efficiency and minimize life clutter.

What are some tools you're using this year to help with productivity? I'd love to hear more recommendations in the comments.


This post contained some affiliate links meaning that if you click on the link and purchase the app, a small part of your subscription cost will go to me instead of entirely to the company. I'm only recommending products that I highly use and pay for myself, however, and I hope you'll find value in these resources as well. 

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