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It’s About Time

Simplex clockFrom when the first bell rings to start the school day we all have too much to do, but there’s not much more you can do to squeeze 60 minutes of solid work into every hour. Or is there? The following programs take different approaches to making every minute in the classroom count by scheduling and prioritizing the day’s tasks and events.

None of the four programs that follow are made specifically for school use, but are flexible enough to be adapted. In fact, they are just as useful for students as for teachers and a school’s administration –- maybe more.

You can’t be in two places at once, but any of these programs can make you more efficient at school and hopefully a better prepared educator. Regardless of whether you use a iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac, Chromebook or Android, there’s something here to make every minute count.


30 30 gestureThe 30/30 app can efficiently plan your day down to the minute and stuff more into the day without ever leaving your phone’s screen. That's because it runs on an iPhone and lets you do more with gestures than any other program does.

For instance, rather than digging through nested menus, if you want to delete an item, just swipe to the right or shake the phone to undo something. A two-finger tap moves the current task to the top of the list.

The big difference with 30/30 is that the interface is like no other app. To set up an item, like a reading period, type in its name (like “independent reading”), how long it will last and what icon you want it to show when time is up. The main screen always shows what the current task is and how much time is left.

To get the most out of 30/30 you need to buy in to its philosophy of 30 minutes of uninterrupted work is about all anyone – teacher, student or staff – can efficiently put up with. It’s a little looser than that because events and activities can be set to any length up to an hour, so it’s perfect for setting up classroom periods.


2doGot a Mac, iPhone or Android, but are always late for classes, meetings and parent conferences? 2Do can help with a rigid schedule that tells you what you should be doing. Utterly conventional in its look and feel, the system is both local and online with the ability to synchronize your schedule and too-do lists with Dropbox, CalDAV and iCloud as well as Toodledo.

It’s quick and easy to add items and you can create a task directly from an email, like a parent meeting. The program’s lists are deep and you can organize them into groups as projects, perfect for long term tasks like curriculum development or field trips. The best part is that 2Do is part nosey parent with the ability to continue to nag you until a task is finished.

Mac users can always have the moment’s pressing business in their faces with the included Widget that places items in a right pull out list. If you can’t always have your computer by your side, 2Do can print its lists the way they look on-screen. Unlike some of the others here, 2Do is not free, with Mac programs costing $50 and those for Android or iOS devices, $10 and $15. There is a three-week trial, but nothing for PCs.

Google Suite Calendar

G suite calendarIt may not have the features and slick widgets of the others, but Google’s Calendar integrates well with email. For good or bad, Calendar is part of the Google ecosystem that bases everything off of a Gmail email account.

In addition to showing your daily schedule, Calendar can set up events from Hangouts and see if infrastructure items –- like projector carts or the computer lab -– are available. Best of all, Calendar lets you coordinate calendars of others and search for free time when you have a must-finish task. You can move your present calendar from iCal, Outlook or Exchange directly and publish your calendar online so your students know when they can contact you.

It works with anything that can run any of the most popular browsers and unlike some other Google products G Suite and the Calendar isn’t free and you can’t just buy the Calendar portion. The entire suite costs $5 a month with a business email account that has your school’s name or district as its domain. You also get unlimited video and voice calls as well as 25GB of storage space. If you move up it to the next level, $10 gets you a terabyte of storage space, advanced controls and a way to retain and archive every email ever written.


WunderlistFinally, as more schools switch to inexpensive and rugged Chromebooks, the software is catching up. Wunderlist can help squeeze in an entire day without you raising a sweat. It’s three pane interface has the most pressing items front and center with details of any item on the right and your main categories on the left.

Best of all, Wunderlist actually works on just about any platform out there because there are versions of PCs, Macs, iOS, Android, Chromebooks as well as Windows Phones and Apple’s Watch. There’s one more: an online version does everything through a browser window. The basic app is free, but the Pro version costs $5 a month and allows you unlimited file sizes, break down large items into sub tasks and have the ability to assign some of them to others.


Paper Plus

Wacom babooSeeking to bridge the gap between actual ink on paper and digital bits stored in the cloud, Wacom’s Bamboo Slate and Folio (photo, left) pads not only let you scribble and draw with a real pen on actual paper, but the system saves what’s written for transfer to a computer. It all starts with Wacom’s Bamboo Slate (notepad) and Folio (letter-size) pads on which you can write anything from class notes and maps to geometry figures. The Bamboo pen saves it all and lets you send it to the company’s iOS or Android Inkspace app for editing and sharing. It all works with Evernote and One Note with Wacom’s free Basic subscription provides 5GB of online storage. The $3 a month Plus service adds workflow and 50GB of online storage. The pen and pad sets cost between $130 and $200.


Freebee Friday: Collaborate with iWork

Iwork cloudThe latest version of Apple’s iWork lets kids, teachers and even parents work on a single document at the same time. It’s a big step towards catching up with Microsoft and Google software that makes it easy to invite people to work with you. For example, one student can insert a lab’s data chart, while a fellow student pops in images from the experiment and a third kid types the procedures and analysis sections. Everything is live and multiple students can edit anything they want to on the fly. It works with iWork software on iPads and Macs as well as those who use iWork for iCloud. Best of all, the new capabilities are free and should be available as an upgrade soon.


Two-Way Classroom Street

ClassflowThe essence of ClassFlow is that teachers can not only nose around and pick the classroom activities, lesson plans and assessments that suit them, but they can also contribute to this online warehouse of curriculum. The marketplace is new but there’s already a slew of lessons, quizzes, presentations and ActivInspire flipcharts. Everything is rated by grade and carries a star rating. It’s free to join, but you’ll need to pay for those items you purchase


Freebee Friday: Back to School Images

Back-to-school-graphic_23-2147487097Making kids feel welcome after a long summer break isn’t easy and a slew of back-to-school posters can help. Freepik has a good selection of thousands of samples of school art, including back to school posters for classes, hallways and libraries. They’re free if you credit the artist but you can fully license the collection for $10 a month.



The Myth of Running on Everything

MythwareGetting a classroom management package that runs on every platform used at school can seem like something dreamed up by Sisyphus, but Mythware (formerly Nanjing Universal Networks) can work just as well on Windows and iPads as Macs, Androids and Linux systems. That said, the Windows software is the most extensive with the ability to not only monitor and control individual student systems, but broadcast audio and video or create quiz question. Administrators can also set USB thumb drive policies as well as remotely start any system or close any app that’s running. You can try it out for a month with the ability to connect with up to 5 student systems.



Freebee Friday: The Truth About Cyberbullying

Caller smartNeed some answers about cyberbullying and how to prevent it at your school? CallerSmart has a nice site that is chock full of facts, definitions, interpretations of current laws and current surveys to help get a handle on cyberbullying. The best part is an extensive section about how to stop cyberbullies in their digital tracks, which can be the start of a district- or school-wide program to put an end to it.

Flip the School

FlipgirdFlipgrid makes a classroom discussion as easy as ask a question (or five) and wait for the videoed responses to flow in. The software works on iOS and Android systems and lets the teacher (or a student) start the discussion with a provocative typed question or just a video. The key is that rather than a one-to-one relationship, everyone in the group can see everyone’s video and comment on them, opening a face-to-face-to-face discussion. It costs $65 per teacher and nothing for students.



Time’s Up

Time timerEvery classroom has to squeeze a lot of activities into the school day before the final bell rings and the best way to do it is to set a timer for each. Time Timers has a variety of physical and software timers that all have a red disk that gets smaller as – well – time marches on. There are wristwatches and handheld timers that range from $30 to $80 as well as apps for iOS, Android and PCs





iPad Goes to School

TabPilot-Screen-LayoutsApple added a slew of new educationally-oriented features to the iPad’s iOS operating system with version 9.3, but it may take some time to figure them out and work them into a school’s routine. Not the case with TabPilot, which can work with things like Apple’s School Manager. The top new items range from customizing screen layouts and locking lost or stolen pads to blacklisting undesirable apps and sharing the devices among students and teachers. It’s Mobile Device Management scheme lets you use Apple’s Classroom App to manage and document the class.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.