New apps are being continuously developed to help you organize your life, increase your productivity and supposedly save you time. There are so many apps it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, but here are five that I think are most helpful, with video previews to show you how they work. Only one is limited to your teaching – the others cross over into other areas of your life.
If you don’t already have some kind of cloud storage, stop right now. Cloud storage not only backs up your cell phone/desktop files, but can be accessed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Dropbox has long been the standard bearer for cloud storage – it has a simple interface and is easy to use, but there are a ton of other options – Apple has ICloud, Adobe has Creative Cloud, Microsoft has OneDrive. For me, Google Drive is the stand out deal because it allows up to 15GB of storage for FREE. That’s in addition to the FREE photo storage you get with Google Photos.
Cloud storage is not just about safe-guarding your documents, although it will only take one computer blip to make you realize that you did the right thing by backing everything up. It also allows you to access your documents anywhere. So you can be poolside and pull up your lesson plans, update them, upload to the cloud and they are on your desktop at school. You can share documents with selected people, including parents, and collaborate with coworkers over a document. Because I need step-by-step directions, I have included a video below that I think will be of benefit:
Formerly Remind 101, this app just keeps getting better and better. It allows you to send real-time messages to parents and students without using your own phone number. You can message a whole group, a sub-group or an individual. Administrators can use it to communicate with staff and subsets of faculty members. You can send photos and files (great for that parent you are waiting on for a field-trip confirmation slip) and I pretty much guarantee that parents take more notice of a text message than they do that long newsletter you poured your heart and soul into. Even better, this app can now translate your message into 85 languages! It is absolutely my favorite teacher communication tool. And it is free! Check it out here.
Pocket is an app for managing articles and videos that you find on the go on the web. Similar to Pinterest, it lets you store what you have found for future reference but Pocket comes into its own in that you can be offline to access the articles (but not videos). I love this app for the times I come across articles that I know will be useful but don’t want to have to email or text to myself – where I know I will forget them. This way I can put it in my Pocket, add a tag and forget about it. Later when I search the tag in Pocket, in this case STEM, all the things I have discovered will come up.
I have a love/hate relationship with the calendar on my phone. I love being able to share it with my husband. But I want to combine it with my reminders app. Any.do sells itself as the ultimate app for getting things done. It takes all your calendars and lists, including Alexa, google and reminders and puts them all into one place. In the classroom you can set alarms so that you know when Janey has to leave for ESL, what time Mr. D is coming to work with Gavin, and when to send your small RTI group to the library. Plus it will add your Alexa shopping list so that you don’t forget to pick up cat food on the way home. All in one place. Heaven.
So Evernote has never really been my thing but this app has got me reviewing the situation. I am happy pinning and using Pocket, although the one feature I did like in Evernote was the ability to take a photo of whatever and add it to my files. For instance, I could take a photo of a recipe in a magazine and add it to my recipes file on Evernote. Scannable by Evernote takes that to a whole new level, and I can really see a future for this app in the classroom, especially as we try to go paper free. Use this along with Remind to send a photo scanned image of a permission slip (because there is always a parent who has misplaced it, or a kid that claims you never gave them one). Scannable takes the photo of a permission slip, cleans it up so it looks like a scan and allows you to save it to your photos. No more scrabbling around for the one last field trip form you know you have somewhere. If you have an Evernote account, Scannable will save the scanned forms into folders you have created. So instead of carrying around a list of student contact information when you are on a field trip, you can scan each student information data card and save all that info to your phone in a matter of minutes. When a new child starts, scan their data form and add to your file. How easy is that? Scan all your important documents at the beginning of the year, and have them in one place to send to a parent when a new student begins.
Hopefully you will find that one or all of these apps are going to be useful going forward. Each one does need a little time to play around with in order to get comfortable using, but ultimately each one will save you time and help you to keep organized. Good luck!