George Lucas Educational Foundation
Technology Integration

4 Tech Tools to Explore

June 30, 2016

Woman using a laptop
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In an effort to avoid feeling overwhelmed before school starts, I spend time working on plans for the next school year. It usually involves reading books on pedagogy, revising curriculum, and researching various tools that may make my life easier.  

In the process, I discovered a few gems -- tools that have helped me out during the school. Exploring the following and you'll find that maybe they help you too.

PLANBOARD

Problem:

While my class calendar does have the 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 plan needs.  I can access it from any web browser as well as the iPad app.  It solves all the problems I listed above.  Here's a screen shot of a 'day' view (there’s also week and month view):

You can see the Planboard interface here.

The company that makes it is called Chalk.com and they've put together a playlist of videos for setting it up and working with the features.  All those videos can be found here.  If your school requires you to turn in your lesson plans, there’s a share feature as well.

UPDATE GOOGLE CALENDARS VIA GOOGLE SHEETS

Problem:

In our school, each teacher is required to maintain a class calendar that at least shows dates of any assessments.  Additionally, I wanted each day to include what was due, what our agenda was, and what was for homework.  It took a lot of time to go into calendars.google.com and manual put this information in, even if I was copying pasting a template and changing the appropriate info.  

Solution:

I found a tool called FormMule.  It would allow you to set up a Google Sheet that you could fill in with the appropriate dates and information that you would want on your calendar, and then it would fill the calendar in for you.  What used to take 20 minutes to do now took about 5.

Setting up the Google Sheet appropriately is the most time consuming part, but once it’s ready to go, 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 though so I created a tutorial video on how to get it all set up.  You can view it here.

**(note: the FormMule I use is a script.  It’s not the same as the Google Sheets ‘add-on’ that has the same name)**

MOMENTUM

Problem:

Many days I have an idea in my mind of what I want to get done.  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.  Additionally, I’ve experimented with various checklist apps but there wasn’t one that worked seamlessly into my workflow.

Solution:

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

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.

You can see what it looks like here.

SORTD

Problem:

My inbox often becomes a checklist in and of itself.  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 like 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.  You drag the email to the appropriate list.  My lists are currently ‘to do,’ ‘follow up,’ ‘scheduling stuff,’ and ‘look into.’  You can ‘snooze’ emails, which means you can temporarily archive it and then have it show up at the top of your inbox on a certain date and time.  Super helpful if there’s things that are a couple weeks away but don’t really want to look into them now.  You can even batch several emails together into one checklist point.  That’s helpful if you have several emails all related to one task you need to complete.

See the interface here.

Often I run into tools during the school year and think ‘dang it, I wish I knew about this earlier in the year.’  Hopefully there’s at least one problem that can be solved by the tools shared here.  What tools have you happened upon that have been game changers for you?

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we've preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer's own.

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