Tech and Higher Ed

I have been a public school teacher and principal for nearly 40 years and since retiring from the principalship a year ago (and loving the consulting life), I will now be a full-time member of the education faculty at Keene State College in Keene, NH. I have many years of experience as an adjunct professor, but this is my first foray into full-time higher ed.

It’s a broad question, but I’d love some banter on the forum about higher ed and tech in the Apple/Mac world. I’ve been an Apple user since my Apple IIe in 1984. You higher ed types out there – what tech is working for you?




There are several academics and researchers out here on MPU who will no doubt wish to chime in. There are many engaged conversations on the forum on file storage (Finder, DevonTHINK, Eaglefiler); note-taking (Apple Notes, Obsidian, Roam, Bear, etc); long form writing apps (Scrivener, Ulysses, Word, etc); and reference managers (Zotero, Mendeley, etc); and the comms, planning, and scheduling apps for emailing, calendaring, and tasks. Depending on your teaching and public speaking needs, there’s presentation software (PP, Keynote). As a social scientist you might have some need for databases or other bespoke apps? I can’t think of much more than the above that keeps HE going – do you have more particular apps or tech needs?

I am a keen Keynote user. But I rarely get the chance to run presentations off my own MBP, and as with a big keynote talk I delivered last week, I bring all my slides as a PDF (ran on the inevitable Windows machine installed in every lecture theatre in the world). I couldn’t do without my Kensington remote to move slides along so I can be on my feet and not stuck behind a lectern.

Depending on the size of your school or HE institution (in my case, a university) you are almost certainly going to be locked into the ecosystem of their choice. In my case, it’s Microsoft, after my uni moved away from the Google software that worked marvellously well for everybody. So often, working in HE on a Mac brings the challenges/joys/frustrations of working as well as can be within the confines of a central IT system, while crafting a bespoke workflow using some of the more boutique applications so beloved on MPU.

Good luck in your new post :smiley:

Welcome to higher ed! Here are some things that work for me.


I connect my MacBook Pro to the projectors via HDMI and to my iPad (Pro 11in M2) connected by USB cable. I set the screen mirroring to use the iPad as a second display from the MBP and as a mirror to the projector. I can control presentations from the iPad while walking around the front of the lecture room.


I use Curio to develop lecture slides and Kanban-style tracking sheets for course administration.

I use Mountain Duck to connect to Google Drive and other cloud storage.

I use PDFExpert (on my iPad) to grade electronic submissions.

I use Camtasia to develop lecture tutorials.



I don’t think I could trust myself to walk around talking while tethered to my MBP with a cable! I’ve tried controlling the Keynote presentation from the iPad remotely, but since I often present in university premises the Wifi doesn’t always recognise a device as being on the same network. So I am back to PDFs for that reason mostly – so I can at least retain the layout and fonts of Keynote (export to PP does work and has improved, but almost always skewers my finer design decisions – such as they are :slight_smile:

I have a long, hi-quality, USB-C/thunderbolt cable. I can attest to the improvement in connection quality compared to doing mirroring through WiFi. I don’t stray far into the room. I find the ability to stand next to the screen and/or go closer to the class seats during my presentations as being well worth the extra caution needed to avoid tugging on the cable in the wrong way.


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I have most of the apps mentioned here but use Papers as my research articles manager. Have had it for years. All annotations and markings sync everywhere. I’m also lucky enough to work in a Mac environment.

My critical apps as a social science researcher:
Bookends for refs/annotation
Devonthink for storage/smart retrieval (indexing Bookends)
Scrivener for big writing project (otherwise iawriter)
Obsidian for long-term notetaking
Drafts for back of the napkin work
GoodNotes for back of the napkin work with a pencil
MindNode for mapping things out (although Canvas in Obsidian taking over)
Keynote and sometimes Teleprompter for presentations/recordings
Scanner Pro for scanning
Things for keeping track of…things


I’m an iPad-first person. I have a Mac Mini that I use on occasion (we’re a Google campus and some of Google’s services are…not great on iPad), but the iPad clicks with my brain better, so I’ve set up workflows with apps that feel to me (for the most part) like first-class iPad citizens:

  • Zotero for citation management
  • Bear 2.0 for note-taking and writing first drafts
  • Keep It for storing PDFs of sources
  • Mindnode for mind-mapping
  • PDF Viewer and Highlights for annotating PDFs and extracting highlighted text
  • Things for task maagement
  • Google Slides for in-class presentations — I found Google Slides as a service to be perfectly passable and in some ways advantageous, but it’s not a great iPad app and so I’m considering switching to Keynote for the upcoming academic year
  • Shortcuts as the glue that holds all these apps and services together
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The one essential tool for all my writing activities and very much wish I had had at my fingertips when doing my three degrees during my career as a computing scientist is Scrivener. Although I did flirt with emacs, DocBook, and DSSSL before switching from Linux to Apple Macs. In the transition I layed with LyX but it is nothing compared to the flexibity of Scrivener. Useful that there is an iOS/iPadOS version of Scrivener that I can use to make notes with when away from my study.

A tool I used on my most recent degree was biblographic search tools whether this was the university’s onsite access to major database services, latter as an independent researcher, Google Scholar (and academic publishers websites), Amazon’s Look Inside feature or domain specifc bibligraphic collections (that most recent degree was not in computing science).

Everything else is secondary to locating relevant references and writing papers.

When I worked as a sign language interpreter supporting Deaf students in Higher Education having access to the VLE and from it access to lecture notes/presentation hous/days before I sat down in the lecture room was a godsend.

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Love this thread, @wcarozza. Thanks for starting it!

Depending on your school/department/faculty/collaborators/students, you may be constrained into certain systems and need to “Power User” your way through and around them. For example, everyone I work with uses Google Drive, so I’m sort of Google Docs/Slides/Sheets Power User (just doesn’t have the same ring to it) and I use those tools for almost everything (writing, presenting, teaching). When it comes to IRB-protected data, I switch to OneDrive. I also use Outlook and Chrome (:scream:).

Some of my indispensable tools for teaching in particular:

Good luck with your next chapter!

KSC, (my alma mater, and where my father was a faculty member) is very much Windows dominant, though they do try to support Macs. The campus has a site license for Microsoft Office 365 with Outlook. The CMS for instruction is Canvas, with Banner for Admin.

I use a Mac in my office and then an iPad Pro as I bounce between classrooms and meetings. So I’m not exactly “an iPad-first person” like @Carl, but I do need parity between the iPad and the Mac for most but not all workflows. (I actually use two iPads in the classroom: one for me to work on; one connected to a projector for the students. I do a home screen per-course, and it’s all Shortcut widgets.)

  • Some of what’s already been mentioned in this discussion I find essential: DEVONthink for back-end file management (PDFs….), Bear 2 for PKM, MindNode for brainstorming, Ulysses for writing, Drafts for quick capture, Shortcuts for making my iPads efficient and effective in the classroom.
  • I like Keynote, but I’ve more or less switched to iA Presenter as it’s easy to really quickly put together a presentation as a heavy markdown user. This is a Mac only piece of software, however.

A few things I don’t see mentioned:

  • Various Google tools have become the default for collaboration at my university. I’ve also found Trello to be a good tool for collaboration with colleagues (on committees, for example) who are somewhat averse to trying new software/tech and/or aren’t Mac-oriented.
  • Craft usually has some kind of free for educators and students offer that pops up in July or August and continues until around September. (Or “free for 5 years” here.) I use it for its share-to-the web features.
  • I rely heavily on OmniFocus, Omni Automation and templating. I have a template for teaching a course that has a good 200 tasks in it. I run the Templates for OmniFocus automation, punch in a couple of dates, and most of predictable tasks for a course/semester are added. I refine and review this each semester, but this is powerful and useful.
  • Fantastical, with its calendar sets, meeting (i.e., office hours) sign up tools, and find-the-best-time-for-a-meeting features is also excellent. Also, Agenda for meeting notes. I know notes/apps for notes are discussed a lot on this forum, but I can say “different apps for different kinds of notes” is an approach that seems to work for me.
  • I wish I could rely on iCloud Drive to make those files I set aside on my Mac for classroom accessibility on my iPads, but I’ve found it to be, well, unreliable in that regard, so I’ve been using Dropbox to keep everything connected.

After 30+ years as higher-ed faculty, I would offer a few more prosaic suggestions. I don’t think you said if you will be teaching seat-based or online courses.

You will be answering the same email multiple times, so build a library of frequently used statements. I prefer the FOSS Espanso, but the MPU hosts prefer TextExpander.

You’ll probably be using an LMS like Moodle, Blackboard, or Canvas. All of them require too many clicks and keystrokes for simple tasks. Keyboard Maestro will pay for itself many times over in the time you spend managing your courses.

+1 on @DrJJWMac 's recommendation of Camtasia, but it’s a bit pricey if you have to pay out of pocket. Your school may have a site license. A lot of folks in this forum recommend Screenflow–it’s a little easier on the wallet.

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Check with your university/college/school/department to see what you have access to. The odds are you’ll have access to something useful not listed here.

Depending on your LMS (I’m looking at you D2L Brightspace), you might find something like Adobe Dreamweaver helpful. I’ve found having a code editor that I can copy HTML to and from Canvas to be helpful.

Along similar lines, I would recommend a text editor of your choosing to compose discussion responses. I think we’ve all lost discussion posts to an LMS before…

A number of universities are moving away or reducing their usage of Google – my own included. Google has changed its pricing model to the point it can be prohibitive.

What type of research data are you collecting?

Camtasia’s great if you have access to it! In recent years, it’s reached parity with the Windows version. You can use Camtasia to create videos quizzes that you can add to an LMS as a SCORM package. Of course, SCORM support varies between different LMSs.

If you don’t have access to Camtasia, Loom’s an option. Though, I’d see what solution your uni has. It’ll most likely be Kaltura Capture or Panopto. I don’t think there’s very many Techsmith Relay installs out there… I can’t speak for Panopto, but I’ve found Kaltura Capture iffy. The newer version work better though.

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Google Docs: Because all my students are used to using Google Docs, I use Google Docs for some docs. Like the lab manual for my research team (I’m in Psych). I also use Google Docs for my students’ status updates, where they keep notes of their research projects/thesis progress and decisions we’ve made; I also ask them to include key dates like conference deadlines and IRB deadlines (kind of like a lab journal). It helps me keep track of all my grad students’ projects.

Keyboard maestro - If I want to write a quick email… I can do that from anywhere using my keyboard shortcut (control, option, command + M). I also use it instead of text expander to paste the response I send for students who ask me for a letter of rec (e.g. I need this, and that, plus send me the dates for each program). I also use KM to open links to my grad students’ status update Google Docs (if I type specific text, it pulls up a screen that lets me choose to open a specific grad student’s Status Updates or all the Status Update links in different tabs). Sometimes Things 3 closes, and I always want it running. So I have Keyboard Maestro check that Things 3 is running. If not, it launches it. I use the AI for little things like that.

Grammarly - I am a typo machine. So, it helps me with typos in emails and writing I want to spend less time on.

Drafts - I treat this like my notepad. I need to learn to make better use of this app. It’s so powerful, but I just use it as a place to easily capture text quickly. It syncs so quickly across all my devices.

Paste - It allows me access to my clipboard across all my devices. If I remember copying something a few days ago, I can search my clipboard and likely find it.

Apple Shortcuts - I have an automated shortcut that texts me my schedule for the next day. I have an automation that runs every Thurs that tells students to submit their status updates.

Basecamp - For project organization and communication. I don’t do emails for communication in my lab or on any of my research projects. It’s all on basecamp chat or DMs. I also use BC to assign tasks and have my grad students use it with their students. This is free to educators (send them an email).

Fantastical - The different calendar sets are essential for staying organized. I tried going a year with the stock calendar app… never again.

Padlet - I have students do a quick intro activity on Padlet (tell me about yourself, what’s your career goal, share a photo of yourself)

Polleveverywhere - I use this for exit tickets. I ask them if they understand the material and have any questions. I address a question or two following the lecture. This was very helpful when I started as a professor, and one student would say, “No one understands what’s going on.” This would trigger my imposter syndrome. When I started doing exit tickets, I’d check students’ responses when I would get this kind of remark, and it helped me realize whether the confusion was widespread (often it was that one student; maybe they were trying to save face).

I would definitely recommend Feedback Fruits for creating interactive videos and homework activities. We use Blackboard and it fully integrates and lets you create videos with questions and automatic feedback for students.

I also find day-to-day that TextExpander is excellent to use with my team. We are constantly sharing snippets and forms and this makes communication from all our directors coherent as we use the same shared templates.

For appointments, I find Fantastical is essential. I use the proposals system many times a day and it saves a lot of time.

Another tool I couldn’t live without is AirTable. From an issue-tracking system to student surveys - it is an indispensable tool that I use every day.

Finally, I also find iCloud unreliable and we all use Dropbox for sharing anything in my department. I have over 2TB in my account, so it gets a lof of use!

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