Let’s face it. As teachers, we juggle an exhausting schedule of parent conferences, administrative tasks, and specialized student needs. We take work home evenings and weekends and are often forced to choose between family and job. It seems like we are always allocating a finite quantity of time to meet seemingly infinite needs. Like so many of the teachers I know, I want to be more organized, work more efficiently, complete tasks faster, and prioritize needs. So I look for tools that energize my teaching by making the rest of my life simpler.
I love these three apps, because they meet all of the qualifications on my wish list:
• They save time.
• They make access from digital devices easy
• They are simple to use and perform flawlessly, even when my mind is somewhere else—like on the child across the room or the admin peeking in my door!
Flipgrid is a freemium discussion app where teachers (or even students) post a discussion topic via video, and students respond with a short video. The post may include a recording, an attachment, decorations, or any number of other tools to share their knowledge.
Responses show up in a grid format that’s easy to view and fun to read for both students and teachers.
How It Helps
This app is a wonderful method of differentiating for varied student needs. Here are just a few ways to use it in your class:
Ask questions about reading material or the lesson plan as a formative assessment to measure student understanding of the topic.
• Let students pose questions about material that classmates can answer—a back-channel approach to learning.
• Have students share a quick video about themselves at the start of a new school year.
• Extend a classroom discussion so all students can offer their ideas, even the shy ones.
• Brainstorm on a topic to collect a lot of ideas before drawing a conclusion.
The free IFTTT app allows users to automate webbased functions for a huge variety of tasks, using what IFTTT calls “recipes”—an if-then statement that causes something to happen if something else happens first: If this happens then that happens. It may sound a bit geeky, but IFTTT is intuitive, friendly, and will quickly become one of your favorite time-saving, life-organizing, classroom management apps.
How It Helps
I polled my teacher friends and trolled Twitter to find out the most popular ways educators use IFTTT.
And the winning recipes are:
• IF I post a photo on Instagram THEN share it on Twitter.
• IF it’s going to snow tomorrow THEN text me.
• IF I am near home THEN turn on my house lights.
• IF I can’t find my phone THEN find it for me.
• IF I have homework THEN remind me to complete it.
• IF my iPad (laptop, phone) battery is low THEN remind me to recharge it.
• IF I’m in class THEN mute my phone (or iPad).
• IF I cross a certain intersection THEN tell my mom (spouse, dad) that I’m on my way.
• IF a student sends homework via email THEN automatically file it in the right place.
But the most popular use of all is to teach coding. Students learn to apply if-then statements (and conditional formatting) to the real world, not just math class. Without knowing they are doing so, they learn sequencing, problem-solving, and editing. If one of your goals is to create lifelong learners, IFTTT should be a must-have app for you.
One of the easiest to use and most popular screen casting programs in classrooms, the freemium (free with paid extras) Screencast-o-matic helps you create instructional videos from your computer screen. Its free version is available online, requires no registration, and records for up to 15 minutes. The free version also offers more options for saving as well as the ability to store videos on Screencast-o-matic’s server.
How It Helps
Educators love screencasting for themselves and students. Here are some favorite uses:
• Record procedures and answer common questions.
• Give students audio-visual feedback.
• Record lessons that students can access anytime, anywhere.
• Make a video to help the substitute teacher.
• Provide video evidence of class activities in a flipped classroom.
• Create a live recording during a class activity or a student presentation.
• Share student-created content as part of homework or a class activity.
• Provide training videos for both faculty and students.
• Offer a fun, unique approach to digital storytelling.
These three apps will organize, maximize, and prioritize your day with nominal effort and no extra time on your part (well, you do have to download them). Do you have favorites that have made a difference in your daily schedule? Tell me about them at my Twitter handle below.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K–18 technology for 30 years. You can follow her on Twitter @AskaTechTeacher.