Educators! How are you using tech to plan, organize and run your classes?

I’m fairly new to teaching after spending my career in the corporate world. I’m really interested in how other professors and teachers are using tech to plan, organize and run courses.

( @RosemaryOrchard - Not sure if this is the right category for this topic…)


Currently I was a substitute teacher and temporary assigned teacher. This is dependent on your school though Google Apps for Education is great! I’ll be overhauling my systems myself. Currently working with DevonThink which has helped. I wrote lesson plans in Planbook (there’s other apps as well). My Apple Watch is great for timers and not having students yell “why can’t I use my phone if your using yours?”. As a Mac and Apple Guy, I’m hoping to be hired somewhere where I can bring my own device (BYOD) as I’m much more efficient on a Mac.

@KevinR, I’d be more than happy to share my experiences as an educational technologist in the appropriate forum for this topic. i’m sure there are plenty of other MPU listeners who would also love to share their experiences as well. Please feel free to message me directly if you’d like.


OmniOutliner. I have an outline with high-level year and monthly objectives for each class. The outline I use daily has columns for each class where I can jot down the main objective for the day, but I use the main (topic) column for some step-by-step lesson notes if I need. I have other outlines too, like for books we read, notes on the children and potential activities.

I teach nursery-aged children (2-6) so I have lots of music, a lot of which comes from Apple Music (the toggle in settings to ignore tracks played on this device is a godsend).

In the past I used iDoceo, which has so many great features and customisations, but I wanted to keep my data somewhere a little more open and easy searchable.


Also The Classroom Nerd is a good resource too


Here are a few things I use on a daily basis as an elementary school educator…

  • as my… well… plan book. It allows me to organize my lessons, add standards, share with administrators/parents/students. It is available on the web and via an iOS app. Although it is not free (~$10 per year), it is worth every penny.

  • Notability app to display notes on a smart board. In general, it is a good idea to use something like this to save your notes in case you want to refer to them at a later date or simply print them out for a student that was absent.

  • iTunes, yes iTunes. I like to play soothing music at times when my class is working in groups. This also reminds them that if they cannot hear the music, they may be speaking too loudly. I also buy Movies or TV shows that I can use to supplement the topic we are discussing. Bill Nye the Science Guy, anyone?

These are just a few of the things I use. I am eager to hear what other educators out there use in their classes.


Wondershare video to download videos from YouTube

Explain Everything for iPad and to record quick Khan Academy like videos on my iPad

GoodNotes for handwritten notes/student evaluations

Grammarly, to double check those important emails to fellow faculty or deans

I have a form I have students fill out for letters of rec. I’ll probably move this to google forms.

Screw flow to record class lectures (rarely do this)

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Here are a couple of tools I’ve built:

Scrivener syllabus template


I use iThoughts for planning (Mac) and as a presentation tool in my classroom (iPad). Works really well!

I’m writing up my thoughts on this at length - and hopefully will be able to share more soon, but a quick shout out to Gradescope for greatly streamlining the process of grading pen-and-paper exams and assignments - saved a ton of time and kept me organized with a rather large class last term!

Welcome to the profession! I just wanted to jump in and echo the previous votes for Planbook. For a very long time I wanted to have a digital way of jotting down my plans. I tried lots of options (some were designed as planning apps and others were attempts to shoehorn planning into other software-think Google Docs, Apple Notes, etc.) but nothing worked for me. I came across Planbook about a year and a half ago and for some reason it just clicked with me. I happily paid for the subscription and left paper planners behind. I have found as a band director and music teacher that most administrators seem to think I don’t do “real” planning. I love the fact that I can easily share my entire year’s worth of plans with them at evaluation time. That has been a real hit with my evaluator. Another bonus is that it is available across all of my devices. I do most of my planning on my Mac but I have the app on my iPad and iPhone as well.


Shameless plug, but as @Jonathan_Davis mentioned (thanks!), I have a website and podcast called The Class Nerd where I share all about what I’m doing in the classroom tech wise. I hope it’s useful to any and all here.


I do a lot of stuff in GoodNotes, both planning and delivering lessons. GoodNotes presentation mode is great! I’ll even sometimes create slides in Keynote, export them as PDFs, import to GoodNotes and deliver from there on my iPad Pro over AirPlay to Apple TV. That way I get to use the better markup tools to illustrate things in class, and I can even export the marked up document as a PDF to send to students if we did something really interesting or valuable “on the board”.

Sometimes classes I teach involve individual one-on-one meetings with me. To schedule those, I make a Google Sheet publicly editable and allow the students to sign up for a time. It’s easier and fairer to everyone when I have multiple sections to release everything at once.

For some classes, I have put the whole class in a Slack team for communicating with me. (You may want to turn off certain features if you do this, depending on the class and the students.) This allows me to communicate quickly with everyone, they can DM me, and they can collaborate in groups.


I’ve had such good luck using Slack with my students. It’s been great in all cases, but has especially changed dynamics for the better in online courses. I create a new channel for each class. One of mine from last fall is still active. Since when does that happen?


I completed my student teaching last Fall and got a lot of mileage managing my lesson plans in OmniOutliner. I’ve started using Day One seriously, and I wish I was using it while I was substitute teaching.

Otherwise, optimizing my notes and GTD solution have been incredibly important so far (I teach band and general music, and there’s a lot of prep for our Fall musical that needs to get done before the school year). Same goes for taking some friction out of email (Airmail works well for me, but it’s not for everyone).

@anneperez Can you expand a bit on how using Slack to communicate with students is better than other available methods (e.g., CMS messaging, email, discussions on CMS). In my mind, it is useful for creating specific channels for things (e.g., Exam 1 or Final Paper) and that all on the channel have access to all the information. That said, I worry that will large college courses, I may get inundated with messages more so than I would with other more traditional methods.

The way I use it is creating a channel for each class – when I’m teaching the same one a second time I delete the old Slack channel and create a new one with same name / number to clear out my former students.

How we use it is different for each class. The channel that’s still active is one from a class I taught on food in literature and culture. One of the assignments for the course was to post at least two food selfies a week. Once they got into it they were commenting on each other’s pictures, which was the outcome I hoped for. In more straight up literature or film course, I have them either live tweet their watching of the film or put up at least 3 comments or replies to someone else’s comments about the reading.

I used to teach using Twitter quite a bit, but it’s become such a fraught environment, especially for students of color that I think of the Slack channels as public / private spaces.

I don’t get notifications every time someone posts – I have mine set to only notify me when someone @s me or sends me a private message. I let them know in advance that I only check Slack a few times a day, but encourage them to ask their questions in the open channel and then give a few extra credit points to students who answer other students correctly before I can.

Our LMS is Blackboard and it’s terrible. The students hate how clunky the forums are and don’t engage with each other very much using them. As one of my students commented, the philosophy Bb uses seems to be “why use click when you can do eight?” Using Slack seems to energize them and they get into communicating with each other rather than just with me. I think they especially like how good Slack is, as opposed to Bb, on their devices. They like to do things on their phones :sunglasses:.

Edit to add: Bonni Stachowiak (think she’s been a guest on MPU) with the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast has had a few discussions on using Twitter and Slack in teaching. It’s a great weekly podcast (and I’d think so even if I hadn’t been a guest!)


Do you have a handout or slides to intro students to Slack that you could share? I thought about it a few years ago for a grad seminar but decided against it.

Anything beats BB. I had a p/t job supporting faculty BB users in 2000-2001 while writing my diss., & It’s remarkable how little they’ve bothered to update in nearly 20 years.

The thing my students usually struggle with at first is the idea that the Slack team is independent of the rest of Slackdom. They’re thinking of the account as a universal thing like Instagram. One they understand that “Each Slack is an island” things are pretty smooth. I have plugins for event reminders (my music students have to attend certain concerts) and the like.

When students are stressing about degree capstone recitals, it’s nice for them to have a more immediate and less formal way to contact me than email.

Side note: I’m changing jobs from a Canvas school to a Blackboard school, and I’m really dreading it.

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Sorry. I don’t have a handout although that’s a good idea.

I made a screencast for them showing them how go from the emailed invitation to logging onto “Perez’s Classroom” and how to find our channel if it doesn’t put them in there automatically. I tell them there are Slack apps available for their devices and that each of them work a little differently. In the face-to-face classes I try and help if they bring their devices in. Generally I only have one or two students who need my help.