10 Free Apps and Tools for Starting Out (and Staying) Organized
Choose from among these options—all free!—to develop a system for staying on top of student work, lesson plans, and resource ideas.
The start of a new school year is a great time to reflect on what’s really working for you and what isn’t quite cutting it. When it comes to staying organized, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s all about finding a system that works for you and picking apps or tools that you will actually use. There isn’t a tool that will work perfectly for everyone—you may love a particular feature of one tool but use another that colleagues prefer to connect and collaborate with them.
As you sort through the following free tools, don’t try them all at the same time. Pick one or two, use them for a month, and then reflect on how well they’re helping you stay organized. You may choose to add a website or app to your tool belt as you explore another resource, or you may decide to scrap it and try something new.
Pinterest (iOS, Android, web browser)
Many teachers use Pinterest to find and organize ideas for their classroom. It’s become a go-to search engine when you want inspiration for lesson plans, activities, anchor charts, and more. It’s important to stay organized by grouping pins on boards, which makes it easy to find them later.
Participate (web browser)
Participate has a Collections tool that lets you search for resources and add your own to curated lists. For example, you might want to organize resources for a new unit on the solar system. You can create a Collection, add links to resources like a YouTube video or website, and upload files like a PDF of an article you want to share with students. In addition to keeping your own favorites organized, you can search within Participate to add resources vetted by other educators and invite your colleagues to collaborate on a Collection with you.
Paper53 (iOS; upgrades available at a cost)
Do you make sketches and write notes during brainstorming sessions, professional development workshops, or faculty meetings? You may want to try out Paper53 to keep them organized. This iPad app is perfect for taking notes and drawing pictures, and it lets users create notebooks to organize their thinking.
Voxer (iOS, Android, web browser)
With this walkie-talkie app, you can connect with your personal learning network (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 at different schools. This app can help you keep correspondence organized and easy to scroll through when you’re catching up on new messages.
Google Classroom (iOS, Android, web browser)
If you’re using Google Classroom this year, there are lots of ways to stay organized. I shared some of my takeaways from reading Hacking Google for Education earlier this year. You can add tags on different assignments to make it easy to locate resources you’ve shared with students, or create templates for different activities and share them with students.
Seesaw (iOS, Android, web browser)
Keeping student work organized and easily sharing creations with families can be a challenge. I’m a big fan of Seesaw and how easy it is for students to snap a picture of their work, record their voice talking about their accomplishments, and share their creations with their teacher and families.
Pocket (iOS, Android, web browser; upgrades available at a cost)
With this app and website, you can bookmark articles to keep them organized for easy reference. You can add tags so your articles are easy to locate or revisit. My in-box and Twitter feed are full of things that I want to check out but don’t have time to read immediately, so I save them in Pocket.
Twitter Lists (iOS, Android, web browser)
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, a favorite news organization, and someone you met or heard speak at a conference.
30/30 (iOS; upgrades available at a cost)
This task manager for iOS is perfect for teachers with a long to-do list. Whether that list is totally professional or a mix of personal and work items, the app lets you assign color-coded icons to different tasks. 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 for not getting caught up in the more exciting ones when you still have a long list of things to do.
State Standards (iOS, Android)
The Common Core State Standards app by MasteryConnect lets you view the standards offline 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.