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Tech Tools to Make Your Life Easier in the Fall

Tech Tools to Make Your Life Easier in the Fall

By Thom Gibson

During the summer months, in an effort to avoid feeling overwhelmed two weeks before school starts, I usually make time each week of the summer to work on plans for next school year. This involves reading books on pedagogy, revising curriculum, and researching various tools that may make my life easier—I’m sure it’s the same for you.

Here are a few of the best tricks and tools I’ve discovered in summers past that have made my life more manageable when back to school comes around.

Planboard: Keep all links, resources and lessons plans in one place.

Problem

While my class calendar does house general plans for the day, sometimes I have links to videos I want to share, notes about who’s coming to office hours, a place to keep a to-do list for my off periods, and a couple reminders about announcements I want to make for each class. A lot of time that information is spread out across emails, various Google Docs, websites, calendars, post-its, etc.

Solution

I use Planboard for all of my lesson-planning needs. I can access it from any web browser in addition to the iPad app and it solves all the problems listed above. Here’s a screen shot of a ‘day’ view (there’s also week and month view):

planboard

You also have access to a playlist of videos for setting up and working with the features, and all those videos can be found here. If your school requires you to turn in lesson plans, there’s a share feature as well.

FormMule: Update Google Calendar with Google Forms 

Problem

In our school, each teacher is required to maintain a class calendar that shows dates of any assessments, at least. In addition to the school request, I like to include what was due, what our agenda was, and what was for homework for each day. Maintaining this took a lot of time: I’d have to go into calendars.google.com and manually enter the information in; even if I was copy-pasting a template and changing the appropriate info, it was tedious.

Solution

I found a tool called FormMule. It allows you to set up a Google Sheet that does the work for you; simply add the appropriate dates and information for your calendar. What used to take 20 minutes, now takes about 5.
Setting up the Google Sheet appropriately is the most time-consuming part, but once it’s done, you’ll be maintaining your class calendar in a fraction of the time. The actual tool is embedded into this Google sheet. There aren’t any instructions, so I created a tutorial video on how to get it all set up, which you can view that here or watch below.

Note: The FormMule I use is a script. It’s not the same as the Google Sheets ‘add-on’ that has the same name. You can access the script with this link.

MOMENTUM: Focus on the most important task(s) of the day 

Problem

Most days of the week, I know what I want to get done. Yet, without realizing it, I often end up working on my less important tasks, leaving my most important task still incomplete by the end of the day. Not to mention, I’ve experimented with various checklist apps and not one had worked seamlessly into my workflow. That is, until I found Momentum.

Solution

Momentum is an add-on for Google Chrome. It turns your ‘new tab’ window into a place where you keep your most important task front and center, and then a smaller checklist off to the side. I love being able to open up a new tab to see my checklist in addition to being forced to think of what my most important task of the day should be in the first place.

momentum

On top of all that, each day there’s a new beautiful photo in the background as well as an inspiring quote at the bottom.

SORTD: Organize your inbox into a proper to-do list

Problem

My inbox often becomes a checklist in and of itself, brimming with messages from people I need to follow up with, things I need to complete, articles I’d like to go back and read, etc. I used Google’s ‘Priority Inbox’ feature for a while and that helped a bit. I also liked Google’s inbox app feature, but unfortunately I can’t use it with my Google Apps For Education email.

Solution

Sortd turns your inbox into various organized lists. Simply drag the email to the appropriate list. My lists are currently “to do,” “follow up,” “scheduling stuff,” and “look into”—see below. You can ‘snooze’ emails, which means you can temporarily archive it until the date and time of your choosing.

sortd

You can even batch several emails together into one checklist point, which is helpful if you have several emails all related to one task.

Often I run into tools during the school year and think ‘dang it, I wish I knew about this earlier in the year.’ Hopefully I can stop that from happening to you with these helpful tools.

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