As we settle into this school year, it’s important to create efficient and effective habits to help guide your teaching. Technology offers educators the ability to simplify classroom tasks, communicate with faculty and staff, students, and parents, measure and track student progress, and manage personal and professional schedules. All these functions of tech can help you get organized and ensure the school year runs smoothly––regardless of whether your school is in-person, virtual, or on a hybrid schedule.
Here are ten steps to get organized with technology:
1. Categorize your to-do lists to separate personal tasks from professional ones.
Whether you’re using the built-in “reminders” app on your phone or one with more features like Todoist, almost all digital to-do list apps allow the user to create multiple, color-coded lists for different categories of tasks. This can help you keep track of all the facets of your life in one place, minimizing the possibility of forgetting important tasks. For instance, a teacher who is also a parent may have lists for their classroom, personal or household tasks, things to do for their kids, a grocery list, and more. Some apps even allow for collaborative to-do lists, which can be helpful for working on projects with colleagues or planning school events.
2. Plan your schedule on a cloud-based calendar.
Even if you prefer an old-school handwritten calendar to keep track of your lessons and upcoming events and appointments, it can also be beneficial to record these things on a digital calendar as well. Using a cloud-based calendar such as the one on Apple devices or your Google calendar available through any Google account allows you to always access your schedule if you have access to a personal device. This way, when you inevitably forget your handwritten calendar on a Friday afternoon, you’ll still be able to prepare for any upcoming dates or events happening during the weekend!
3. Communicate with students and families.
Technology is key to communicating with students and their families about assignments, student progress and challenges, and important dates and events. Some districts offer these communication tools through partnerships with platforms like ParentSquare, and making sure to take advantage of these valuable services can help organize your communications and greatly minimize the labor required to contact students and their families.
4. Sort digital files into clear and simple folders.
As an educator, you likely have a plethora of digital files and documents downloaded on your computer, but sometimes it can be hard to find the ones you need when you need them. By putting just a little bit more time into creating clear and simply organized folders at the beginning of the school year, you can save yourself tons of time that you used to spend digging through random, unlabeled folders on your desktop. Try organizing digital files by class period, lesson, or even by week, if you prefer to have things extra organized.
5. Schedule a weekly or daily “inbox zero” habit.
We all know what it’s like to look at the ever-increasing number of unread emails in our inbox and feel overwhelmed and unable to respond to them all. Plus, an overflowing inbox makes it more likely that important emails will get drowned out by spam, causing you to miss critical information. To avoid this, try to schedule a regular “inbox zero” habit, where you spend an hour each week or 15 minutes each day clearing out and deleting spam, responding to critical emails, and putting important email conversations in archive folders so your daily inbox is easier to manage.
6. Connect with other educators for support and to share best practices.
No one understands your struggles like other educators and connecting with those who share similar experiences can be encouraging and improve your mental health. Many teachers find support from others through Twitter, Reddit, or through one of the many professional organizations centered around teachers and edtech. These platforms also provide connections for teachers looking to discover new teaching methods and share best practices with one another.
7. Brainstorm new lesson plans.
Whether learning standards have changed or you’re looking for more engaging and effective ways to teach your current standards, there are many digital resources for discovering and brainstorming new lesson plans. A wide range of sites offer a space for teachers to share lesson plans and find free lessons and resources to use in their own classrooms. If you prefer to start from scratch or piece multiple lesson plan ideas together, a mind-mapping tool like MindMeister or MindNode can offer a flexible space to organize and plan out ideas and activities and ensure you’re covering all required standards.
8. Share helpful resources with students and families.
At some point during the school year, most students and their families will come to you for help finding tools and resources to support student learning and wellbeing. You can make things easier for them and save yourself tons of time by compiling all your top resources for tutoring, mental health support, study tools, book lists, and more in a single place on your website, blog, or classroom page. By keeping everything organized in one place, you can easily send the same one link to students and parents asking for help.
9. Help students review material and study for assessments.
There are many apps and tools available to help students with practice, review, and studying online. Whether students are studying for the SAT or looking to practice their foreign language skills, these apps can help them succeed in almost every subject. Better yet, teachers can create quizzes and informal assessments on sites like Quizlet to send to students after classroom lessons to help them better learn the content from the start.
10. Set and track personal goals.
Goal-setting is an important part of building a growth mindset and is beneficial for teachers both personally and professionally. Whether you’re just interested in a simple habit tracker or looking for a more comprehensive goal-setting and tracking app, there are tons to choose from for free or for a small subscription fee. These apps make it easy to keep up with small goals, celebrate goals you have reached, and not lose sight of more long-term goals––both in your personal life and in your career.
No matter what your goals are as a teacher, you can get organized with technology and improve your teaching efficiency this year. Technology tools can greatly benefit your life both professionally and personally, simplifying your daily tasks and helping you effectively address your needs and the needs of your students and their families.