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10 Free Apps and Tools for Starting Out (and Staying) Organized

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The start of a new school year is a great time to think back and reflect about what's really worked for you and what isn't quite cutting it. When it comes to staying organized, there is no one-size-fits-all. It's really all about finding the system that works for you, picking apps or tools that you will actually use, and remembering that there are lots of options to choose from as you figure out the best fit.

As you sort through the following list, don't consider trying out all of these items at the same time. Pick one or two, put them into practice for a month, and then reflect on if and how well they're helping you stay organized. You may choose to add that website or app to your tool belt as you explore another resource, or you may decide to scrap that tool and try something completely new. As you read about the following apps and web tools, imagine how they might help you stay organized in the new year.

Pinterest (iOS, Android, Web Browser - Free)

More and more teachers are using Pinterest to find and organize ideas for their classroom. It’s becoming a go-to search engine when you want inspiration for lesson plans, activities, charts, and more. If you’re starting the year searching and pinning on Pinterest, it’s important to stay organized. One thing that I’ve done this summer to help me stay organized has been dividing my pins into boards and adding covers to make the boards stand out. Organizing your pins into boards is a great way to organize your favorites into different categories.

Voxer: (iOS, Android, Web Browser - Free)

At conferences across the country, I’ve heard teachers talking about how they use Voxer. With this walkie-talkie app, you can connect with your PLN or colleagues to quickly share information. Some educators use Voxer to check in with mentors, mentees, or fellow teachers that they’re coaching. Others use it to connect with like-minded teachers working at different schools. This app can help you keep correspondence organized and easy to scroll through when you’re catching up on new messages.

30/30 (iOS - Free, upgrades available)

This super-useful task manager is perfect for teachers with a long to-do list. Whether that list is totally professional or a mix of personal and work items, this app lets you assign color-coded icons to different tasks. All you have to do is open the app, assign how much time you want to spend on a particular item, and the countdown clock will start. It's great for staying focused on less exciting tasks and not getting caught up in those too-exciting projects when you still have a long list of things to do.

Google Docs (iOS, Android, Web Browser - Free)

Google Docs are high on my list of favorite tools for staying organized. You can work from a Chromebook, MacBook, iPhone, or tablet, and all of your documents will stay up to date. Not only is this tool great for collaborating (which can be hard to schedule in real time), but it also gives you the flexibility to work from lots of different devices and stay on task no matter what's thrown at you. You can access Google Docs from a web browser or a dedicated app like the ones revamped last year for iOS devices. Additionally, it gives you the option to create and share folders, making it easy to find that document you're seeking.

Pocket (iOS, Android, Web Browser - Free, upgrades available)

I've shared reasons why Pocket is great for keeping track of your personal learning network (PLN). With this app and website, you can also bookmark different articles to keep them organized for easy reference. You can add tags so that your articles are easy to locate or revisit. My inbox and Twitter feed are full of things that I don't usually have time to "drop everything and read," even though I can't wait to check them out. When I finally get that free minute, I can use a mobile device or web browser to access the whole list of articles.

Twitter Lists (iOS, Android, Web Browser - Free)

Staying on top of your Twitter feed can be a challenge for connected educators. Create lists within your Twitter account to group people who share common interests or who are part of an organization. (For example, I have a Twitter list full of fellow Apple Distinguished Educators.) You might decide to create a list of favorite education Twitter feeds that includes Edutopia's Twitter account.

State Standards (iOS, Android, Amazon - Free)

Carrying around a binder full of photocopies or flipping through pages to find exactly what you're looking for can be frustrating and time consuming. The Common Core State Standards app by MasteryConnect lets you view the standards offline right there on your mobile device. You can type in keywords and search through the standards or just tap on your screen to jump between different grades or areas of study. If you're not using the Common Core, MasteryConnect also has apps that connect to standards in different states.

And a Few More. . .

  • ClassTag: This family communication tool makes it easy to organize parent-teacher conferences and stay in touch throughout the school year.
  • Dropbox: This cloud sharing service integrates with lots of different apps, helping your files stay organized.
  • ClassDojo: This classroom management favorite can help you organize student information and messages with families.

What's missing from this list? Add your favorite apps and web tools in the comments, or share a tip for staying organized this year!

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leonxing's picture

Wow, you guys have put forward many useful apps.

I recently also came across Maxthon's browser where they incorporate a quite powerful noting taking and content collecting feature: Infobox. Other than allowing you to make notes, you can also select and save pictures, texts and content on any webpage. I tried it and it was quite satisfying. They also had mobile app that lets you sync all your notes and collected essays, articles or so. I have been using it to sync and read my notes and files for my classes. I think it's pretty useful to have for us and students. Especially if on the go.

It's similar to evernote but I saw on their website that they offer 2GB free monthly note. This is really bigger than Evernote.

I think I will keep trying it. And I will let you know more about how it works on me.

Another great app that would be great for back-to-school is wunderlist. I use it to keep track of my tasks and to-dos. It's really helpful.

Leesa Johnson's picture
Leesa Johnson
Leesa Johnson is a Marketing Manager at Select My Tutor

Thank you for all of the information on the many useful apps. it's useful to have for us & educators.The most important thing for organising schedule is some kind of notes or application which will be always. There are sufficient of these apps, but I believe that Motivate - Personal Assistant - Android Apps on Google Play is one of the best. Awesome app for you has to twitter. It gives you multiple options for example- Twitter, Dropbox,Pinterest.

Lisa A. Anderson's picture

Many of the technologies above are about communication with students, colleagues, and parents. It is great that it is getting easier and easier to share ideas and expectations with those around us.

Tam Nguyen-Le's picture

I've tried a few of the free apps already such as Pinterest, Dropbox, and Google Drive. I look forward to trying some of the other suggested apps on a regular basis. I suggest iCal because it can be used together with Google Calendar and other web-based calendars to manage multiple schedules. Students, parents, and teachers can sync their school calendar with their personal calendars.

(1)
JenniferHartley's picture

Wow, these are all great suggestions! As a 5th grade teacher, that is trying to incorporate more technology into my classroom, it can be quite overwhelming. There are so many choices out there when it comes to apps and it's hard to know where to even begin. I have really loved using Google Drive. It's so important to me to be able to work from different devices and be able to access my documents from just about anywhere. Google Drive gives me that capability. I really am interested in checking out 30/30 and Evermote. Anything that helps to keep me organized and on track both professionally and personally sounds like a win-win. Another app that I have found extremely useful is Remind. It's very convenient to be able to send out mass reminders to parents when important events or deadlines are approaching. Thanks for all the great tips!

Lyric's picture

I am currently in a technology class while trying to get my bachelors in elementary education. I read this article and it really helped calm some of my frees of becoming a teacher. I often worry how i will keep my class room organized. Between making lesson plans, keeping the classroom running smoothly and on time, making sure i keep up with standards, and most importantly having children learn something it can all be a bit overwhelming. I am glad to know there are apps and programs out there to help keep your life organized. I also like that i am familiar with some of these programs already.

Lucky's picture

All of these suggestions can be useful and economical. It saves time and I buy the States Standard app it seem very proactive for being prompt. The Google docs is also efficient and I am curious as other apps by commentators are revealed.

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