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


Yes, I always have to stress that we’re in a private space too.

Sorry to hear about your switch. Bb is as bad as people say. I’ve used Canvas, Moodle, and Brightspace. They all have quirks. Canvas was my favorite. Bb my least. It doesn’t fit the way I teach very well and the interface produces pages that look like bad 1990s websites. :frowning:


We should start a Bb emotional support thread …


One solution I’ve found with BB is to use - it’s a scriptable browser made for automating UI testing. I’ve set up a couple workflows for adding slides and other repeat tasks and it cuts it from 6-8 clicks to 1 or 2. By scraping the page it knows whether I’ve logged in and if not, it pauses while I enter my password. I’ll post a screen capture when I’m back at my Mac.

Also the BB iOS app was much better the last time I used it. Unlike the main site it wasn’t designed in 1995.


I use Trello for high level planning. Here’s a link to my Agile Project Management course: Agile Board

We use Canvas as the Learning Management System. After 5 years, I’m comfortable with Canvas and feel that it supports my course adequately. However, I rarely use their iOS apps, finding that the web experience on my Mac is still far superior.

I use Liquid Planner (link) to plan my time. I’m a project manager by trade so using a dedicated app like Liquid Planner is second nature. The magic sauce is the way LP does ranged estimation, which helps prevent me from overloading my personal schedule in any given week.

Google Apps plays a big part in the course. I use it with my TA for detailed weekly planning, and my students use it for collaboration on class projects.


My school is thankfully not using Bb

But I am stuck on WinDOHs (at least this year)


Oof. If my new place puts a Windows box on my desk, I’ll be bringing my MacBook Pro to set on top of it.


FYI, Canvas did some pretty significant updates to both the Canvas Student and Teacher apps a couple of months ago. Teacher even has support for Apple Pencil markup. The writing isn’t as good as PDF Expert or GoodNotes, but it’s good enough and a lot more convenient than exporting and reimporting.


Can you expand on your GTD solution?

Coming from undergrad we were told to write really detailed and elaborate lesson plan and unit plans. To what extent do you do this?


Everyone will have a different solution for GTD that works best for them.

I personally keep track of basically everything in OmniFocus. The way I can use projects, perspectives, and availability (by deferring or using sequential projects) to show me only salient information allows me to log everything in there. While I’m not a GTD purist, I do find it very beneficial to write down basically everything, whether that’s going into OF or into a note later or it’s going to sit in Drafts until I know what to do with it. This works really well for allowing me to feel like I’m not forgetting anything.


Great question! The longer I teach (I start year 20 this year) the less I create elaborate plans. I remember going through that process during my student teaching and having my cooperating teacher tell me that I would not ever do that stuff once I started teaching. And he was partly correct. I had to find a method that worked for me and the students in my care. This takes some time and it is a personal thing. I have known effective teachers who wrote short objective-only plans and I’ve known effective teachers who wrote multiple page lesson plans. I have not, however, known an effective teacher who didn’t plan at all. Because I teach so many different classes my planning varies by class type and the experience I have with that particular class. Back when I taught general music I would teach the same lesson multiple times a week. After a few years of this I had a pretty good idea of what I needed to do so my planning became less structured and was more of a general roadmap for the unit. And speaking of units, several years ago our department created fairly elaborate curriculum maps which plot out units and objectives for most of our classes. This was a difficult process but it has paid off many times over. For instance, I will be teaching a section of music history next semester. I will use the map for the outline of the class and then construct my lessons to cover the concepts the map tells me my students need to master. Since I have taught music history at least 15 years I have many materials that support those objectives. My planning on a day-to-day basis will mostly be refreshing my memory on specifics and preparing my materials for the day. In my district our evaluation system requires that we show “evidence of planning” and doesn’t spell out specific formats. Not all districts are this way.


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.


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.


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.

Education Files and Lesson Plans... How do you Store?

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.