Tuesday, November 17, 2015


NPR has been airing a special about specialists' tools, and it got me thinking about the tools that I use to do my job. Having only one hand has led me to value some tools over others. So, here's my list:

Tools for Organizing
iDoceo - iDoceo is an iPad app for teachers. I tried a couple of organizational teacher apps when I first started using my iPad and this one is by far the best. It has many features that I don't use because my school requires that I use their (horrific and unwieldy) grading system and software, but having used the gradebook functions to track classes, I can vouch for its well thought out design.

The features that I do use are the calendar (integrated with my iCal), the gradebook for tracking anecdotal notes and data that isn't worth putting in the computer grade book, and the lesson planning interface.

 I really love the lesson planner. It's just a simple layout (day, week, month) that I use the same way other teachers use their plan book, but fancier. I can take a picture of the white board and attach it to that day's plans. I can use the "bump" feature to move a day's lessons to the next period for that class, or indeed back in time if need be. I can save resources or not, take a picture of that day's seating plan, etc. Each class has a separate plan view, gradebook, notes section, seating chart, and more. Also, all your data backs up easily to most of the major platforms, although it is not an automatic sync.

My only complaint is that the initial set up of the calendar is clunky and not very intuitive. I also haven't found an easy way to input my weekly duties so they show up on the "day" view of the planner, but that seems pretty minor. I can't imagine planning on paper any more.

Dropbox- how did I ever live without Dropbox? Everything goes in my Dropbox these days, and I love that I can have my most used folders on my desktop at my fingertips.

Evernote- I am using Evernote more and more, for organizing web resources, lesson ideas, reflections, to do lists (since writing is still so hard), and just about everything else. For my personal life, I still prefer the interface of AwesomeNote, but being able to go from platform to platform with Evernote is incredibly important for me at school.

Symbaloo- while th iPad app is terrible, the web version of the bookmark organizer is pretty great. It's easy to use, easy to save, and the visual lay out makes it easy to navigate. It's where I save all those great ideas that I want to come back to but aren't necessarily applicable to my lessons. I also like being able to share my "mixes" easily.

Tools for teaching
Every day, there are three things (other than my lesson plan on my iPad) that I need to have within easy reach:
NO LIDS!  (Perfect for the one-handed trying to write with the non-dominant hand)

Retractable white board markers- they come in three colors (blue, black, and red), they don't have caps to manipulate with one hand or put back on the wrong colored marker, and they last for ever. Seriously, for writing in two colors on the board TPRS-style, they help me so much. Best impulse purchase of last year.

Laser pointer- Many TPRS teachers believe that a physical pointer help you clarify and slow down. I don't disagree. But I am short and many of my posters are way beyond my reach. And I try my best to point slooowly.

Remote for the smartboard- I learned that I actually can not teach my class without this silly little device. (Someone borrowed mine...it was a rough morning until they 'fessed up.) It allows me to "freeze" the image I project on the smartboard while I take roll on my computer, find something else to project, or even check my email without displaying it in front of the class.

For the Class
Smartboard + appleTV + speakers - the smartboard is basically a really nice projector. The software is a pain and I can do twice as much with my iPad AND with the appleTV, I am not chained to a certain spot in the room. My iPad can double as a document camera (with some fussing, I admit), and I can run a slideshow while sitting on the floor with the kids. Again, having only one hand to work with, these things become increasingly important.

Whiteboards, inexpensive dry-erase markers, and pieces of old t-shirts-student whiteboards are like instant engagement tools, and I can think of a million ways to use them.

Scrap Paper Bins- I hate using paper.  I hate how much paper we use so I decided to use as much recycled paper as possible.  Our daily starters (para empezar) are almost always done on quarter-sheets of scrap paper I take from the staff copy room.  Since I rarely collect the work, they just go right back into the recycle bin...but now having been used at least twice.

The "Multi-shot" function on the copier + recycled paper- Another way I save paper is by reducing everything that I hand out to half size (if it makes sense) and then printing it on recycled paper.  Most fancy copiers do this very easily, and since almost everything gets glued in our notebooks anyway, it works out fine to have the aper copied on both sides.

So... there are my Most Important Tools, excluding my coffee mug and bicycle, which are so important I didn't even think of them because, well, I'm never without them.  (My wrist injury is the exception to this rule...3 months off the bike and counting.)  

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