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

Good stuff @bandman that’s awesome! Thanks for the detail, I’m looking forward to striking a balance as well.

Do any educators use DevonThink to store stuff and organize for teaching? I’m starting to get into it but unsure to what extent it fits into using it for teaching.

I stand by my comment here:

I think you’re much better off with a consistent file naming system and folder structure, and tagging and using smart folders for reference content.

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I agree. I’ve poured a fair number of files into DEVONthink To Go over the past couple years. Its search has helped me a couple times but mostly the app has just got in my way. (Perhaps it’s better on macOS.) I’ve never used it as more than a Finder replacement on iOS and I’ll soon be moving everything out of it and to iCloud Drive.

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On the Mac it’s rather useful

Let me explain how I do this.

the file system looks like this:

– 14sprg-intro
– 15sprg-intro
– 17win-intro
etc. etc.

i.e. every course has an identifier (saved as a TE snippet) that is also used in the filename for every file created for that course.

every syllabus is named identifier syllabus days of the week e.g. 15win-intro syllabus - mwf.pdf

So now I can create a smart folder which will have e.g. every intro syllabus I’ve used on a MWF schedule, as a starting point for planning the next iteration of the course. All the material stays where it belongs and doesn’t need to be magically refiled based on some program’s assessment of where it should be.

Likewise with slides - every class’s slides get a name like 15win-intro 7.3.key where 7.3 is week 7 class 3. I then have smart folders by course and week so I can instantly pull up all the slides I used at a given point in the course (this works better with intro courses where content is less variable from one year to the next). I also add tags based on the content so I can pull up all the slides related to a topic.

Same for lesson plans, assignments, handouts, etc.


My high school is a Chromebook school, so much happens in Google docs, etc. for sharing and collaboration.

If you’re a math or chemistry teacher, I highly recommend MathType for setting up equations and formulas. It is more intuitive than LaTex. A new group out of Spain took over the code and updated it for Microsoft Word 2016 for Mac. It should work with Pages, Keynote, etc. but have not tried them yet. It also works on Windows, and they have a beta out for Google docs! (They’ve also gone to a subscription model but it is reasonably priced for as much I use it. Hopefully your department chair will cover it for you.)

I wish Apple would update Grapher. It has not been updated in decades.

I used to write detailed lesson plans, now I have created a Keynote for each lesson that guides me and the students through what I need to cover, plus they can access it any time.
We also make extensive use of YouTube, with channels like Veritasium and Sixty Symbols explaining Physics in engaging ways.

I created a pretty elaborate multiple choice homework system that gives feedback and marks work. Building it in Google, with the data in Sheets, allows very powerful ways to collect and use the data using formulae and scripts. This lets us see who is falling behind, which questions are causing the most difficulties etc. Google sheets and the scripting is very, very powerful for a shared document system.

Similarly, I wrote a script that allows us to give individual, focused feedback to students after a written test identifying which topics and skills they struggled with. Again, in Sheets so this data links with everything else.

I now use my own app for keeping track of some assignments and class lists, but the key student data is available in a Google Sheet since it can pull in data from many locations (plus we can allow students to see their data from the sheet without duplication).

As a hobbyist programmer I tend to try things like iDoceo and Flubaroo, then take it my own direction. I’m happy to expand on what I do and how I made my choices if anyone’s interested.

I’ve been teaching an undergraduate entertainment law class each summer (but one) since 1996. This year I’m experimenting with a “flipped” classroom.

I prepare a “lecture” in Keynote and record an audio track to accompany the slides. I try to make the slides secondary so that if students want to listen while they work out they aren’t missing anything. I then export the Keynote presentation to a movie file and upload it to YouTube. Students are (supposed) to watch the presentation before class, and then we “do homework” in the class by working through the analysis of a number of fact scenarios.

Of course, the bogey in the system is getting people to actually watch the vids before class. I am using “code words” sprinkled at random throughout the presentations that they have to submit, but that’s not much of a guarantee since one student can watch it and share the code words with classmates. The thing I like about YouTube is I can see how many views a presentation has had and have an idea whether people are actually prepared for class or not. Since this is a six-week summer session course, I don’t like wasting my time if only a handful have prepared for class.

The university uses the Sakai system for course management, but I have to admit I don’t like it. I can’t put my finger on why I don’t like it. Just doesn’t seem very pleasant. I do like giving exams in Sakai, though. Having multiple choice questions graded automatically saves a lot of time in reviewing and scoring exams. (Which is something I need to do this evening.)

Since I don’t like Sakai for putting the course materials together for the students to access, I just use a simple page to deliver everything up.


I like this system a lot.

Getting my students to watch video screencasts is a challenge for me too. On one level I understand – I hate watching and hearing myself in them. =8-0

One thing I’ve done that has worked is to offer some small extra credit projects that I only give directions for through the videos. Once my students hear from someone else that they missed something they see as important (though really the small amount of points makes no difference in most students’ grades) they start making sure to watch all the way through. I reinforce this by doing it again every few weeks.

Something else that helped was having the technology support office on campus caption each video. It’s done for disabled student accessibility and is great for a lot of students. There’s something about them being able to read the words I’m saying as they watch that some students say helps them focus better.

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I too make videos for my students and I think the key is shorter is better! I obviously do not know how long your videos are, but hopefully, they don’t reflect a whole lecture. (I’m sure we’ll wade into educational philosophies here soon lol). I try and keep it 10 minutes or less. You could cover many topics in one lecture, so just break it down into separate videos. We have such short attention spans (hello 6-second vine videos) that a whole recorded lecture is torturous.

I also think of @MacSparky’s draft videos. He could cover all of those in one long lecture, but it’s broken down into bite-sized chunks. Create a playlist with your class videos and then let kids go through what they want to, trust that they will (a huge part of a flipped classroom) and make it interesting.

This isn’t directed specifically at you @anneperez, just happened to be the comment that spurred my interest. Also, good call on the captions! They can be done for so cheap (or free in your case (yay higher ed)).


@Jeremy :slight_smile: You’re so right about video length. I’ve never done them full lecture length, but confess they have been up to 20 minutes. I’m trying to keep them under 15 but your comments make me think I should break them up more. A friend of mine says her trick is having her face on the screen part of the time, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do that… yet.

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I was education for a short time. I am an engineer. I spent 17 years with the US space program, switched to education, teaching chemistry, physics, and engineering, for 3 years, before coming back to engineering. However, I am still very involved with STEM initiatives in the community and my own children’s schooling. :slight_smile:

Your planning will come down to your school, district, and/or state requirements. I taught 2 years in a private school in Texas. My lessons plans were turned in weekly, but they were in a very brief table format. the administrator just wanted known the general direction of the week in case parents called, or students had missed class. However, I taught in a public school for a year in Tennessee. While the school didn’t require the lesson plans to be turned in on a regular basis, you were required by the state to turn in a detailed lesson plans on the day you had a surprise evaluation. I used Excel and/or Word for the lesson plans.

The private school I taught in used the Google Education Suite for its backbone, but used WhippleHill (now BlackBaud) as the LMS. (As an aside the only LMS worse than WhippleHill is Blackboard.) I therefore used the Google suite quite a bit. I also used iWork quite a bit since the students and teachers all had MacBook Airs issued to them, thank goodness!

My students loved Kahoot! for fun quiz games for unit reviews and final exam preparation. They loved the competitive nature of the site/program, and it got pretty heated sometimes. :slight_smile:

I used to create tests and quizzes. It allows you to create multiple choice, short answer, true/false questions, which is nice. What I like about Quizizz the most is the ability to randomize both the question order and the answer order (with multiple choice questions.) This was very handy since my students sat pretty close together at their computer workstations (public school). It was harder to copy one another even in the close quarters.

Have you tried a service like for your video assignments? It might be perfect for what you are trying to do. Using a video from YouTube or other video hosting sites you can embed questions that pop up and pause the video until the student answers the question. They can’t fast forward past the questions. You then get a report of the student answers as well as a list of their time viewing the video. Although this doesn’t allow for background listening it does make it impossible for students to skip out on the watching of the assigned video without your knowledge. I haven’t spent a great deal of time with the service but I recall that you can create all sorts of questions such as multiple choice and short answer.


This sounds like an interesting idea. Thanks!

Interesting file structure, I’ll have to look into something of the sort. @GraemeS what’s the script for focused individual feedback? I like that too you can use the data to see what students struggled with, data can be hard to use properly and I’d imagine you’ve made it simple.

I’ll see if I can share it during the week.
We have a spreadsheet with questions numbers and marks. For each section of a question we attribute the topic and a skill (eg recall, calculation etc).
We then enter each student’s marks in the table.

The useful part is a second tab that has a template for what we want to feedback to students. The script simply cycles through the students and saves rhe tab as a pdf, which is what we give to students.

Linking everything together is just done by including student emails in every list (they are unique) and Google’s wonderful ImportRange and Filter formulae (or by script).

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I’d imagine for instance in a math class this could be done too by which content standard or skill set they might be having trouble with. Even as a former history teacher and soon to be SPED teacher this would be useful as well.

Here’s a link to our Question Level Analysis spreadsheet. Feel free to use or adapt it if you want, but obviously I can’t offer much support and if you do improve it, let me know.
The front tab tries to walk you through the steps necessary, and it has a link to an instructional video on Youtube.

Oh, and it requires permissions to manage your files in Google Drive to do its stuff; it doesn’t touch any files except itself and creating a folder it can then put pdfs in, but as with all files you get online, treat it with caution and I’m not liable.

Lastly, a hack I have implemented yet: Resizing a blank column on the report tab to be wide will shrink the sheet down for printing as it uses ‘fit to width’. This allows for longer tables.