I work with college students and especially those who are very new to college. While the college experience is a stage where students need to explore and learn, there are tools that can help them along the way, tools that were not handy to previous generations. Likewise for educators, there are tools that make our daily tasks more manageable and that can certainly make us more efficient. Do you think there always was a Blackboard site where to check your students' progress? Of course not. Here are five tools you should consider adding to your toolbox (in case you haven't yet) because they will make your life easier.
I use this both for work and school. Even though I now have a premium account, I started with a free account and lasted long enough for me to do just the basics, jot down important notes that I wanted to save for later. A good feature once you upgrade to a premium account is that you can download notebooks and have them available offline which comes handy when you don't like joining any Wi-Fi available or simply like to go offline while still have access to all of your notes. The main reason why Evernote is helpful is because you can access it via the web, on your phone, or tablet and it syncs all of your information across devices (this is available with a free account). If I have an idea for a blog, want to brainstorm before I meet a faculty member, or simply want to annotate something on the go, Evernote is always my app to go. Click here for more information.
This has become more and more useful to me in the last few semesters at work. I particularly use spreadsheets where I collect my students' information when I have to prepare reports at the end of the semester. For example, Squarespace allows me to create a form that links to my Google Drive account creating and organizing all the data into a spreadsheet. Also, I prepare my lesson plan that I upload to Google Drive and that I can easily share with my students so that they know what's coming up in the class. For starters, Google Drive offers 15 GB of storage, which can be upgraded and get more space with a monthly fee. For more information, click here.
This is one service I discovered months ago but have been recently using a lot. It allows you to gather information from the web and organize it in such a way that you can get back to it and share it anytime you want. There are many services out there with this purpose, but I have found Dragdis to be easy and helpful in my daily browsing experience. I have the plugin installed in my default browser both at work and home so that anytime I come across a site, article, youtube video, or even a quote, I simply drag it to one side of the screen and put it under the category I want. For instance, I have a folder where I gather all resources I find useful for my students. In order for you to enjoy this service, you have to install the plugin, but you can also go to any computer and login to the website so that you have all of your links. Check out in the video below how this works.
Attendance is essential and keeping track of it, even more. I use this app on my iPad during class and it has proven to be very useful. What I like is that I can go one step beyond and also add assignments I can keep track of for each student. At the end, you also have the ability to email yourself a report, email the student with his or her attendance and assignments completed, or even connect the app to your Dropbox and have the files available to you whenever you need them. It took me a while to figure out how to load my rosters into to the app but it is a doable task. You have to make sure that your rosters are on .csv format and load them to dropbox so that you can easily upload them to the app. Even though this is a great tool to use, there is one drawback, there is no syncing data across devices available. That is, if you use the app on your iPad and iPhone, you won't have the same data in both devices at the same time.
Annotating images was never so easy until I started using this tool. I particularly like how I can share and embed the images I annotate into my website so that I can have all the content for my students in one place. All you need to do is create an account and start creating. There is also an option to create an Education Account which allows you to utilize resources that are tailored to your classroom experience. Here is one example of how I use for my students to help them create a good ePortfolio. You will also find an opportunity to network as there is a follow option to connect with others and get more ideas. One feature that I will utilizing soon is how to create groups where students can collaborate and share their work. While the different features may not all fit your specific activity, ThingLink is certainly a great tool to add to your educator toolbox.
What about other resources? Do you have any that would like to share? Feel free to share your ideas and thoughts in the comments below.
I am an ePortfolio instructor working in New York City. I am also a student in the MA program in educational psychology at Hunter College. In my current position, I instruct students how to develop and build their ePortfolio to showcase their academic skills. I also collaborate in professional development seminars with faculty members from various departments on building the curriculum to teach the first year seminar experience. Read more about me.