Essential tools for 2014

Teaching has always involved a steep learning curve and last year was no exception. I became a Leading Teacher, stepped away from my own classroom and into those of other teachers who I was responsible for mentoring and coaching. It was a great year – hectic and demanding but rewarding in new ways. I haven’t done it on my own. I’ve been lucky to have a supportive leadership team and fantastic, enthusiastic and dedicated teachers who I coach which have all made it easier.

I’ve also found myself relying on some tools that have made it easier to organise myself, my time and the myriad of resources that I draw on to do my job. So, rather than a reflective post, I want to share those tools with you. Most of them aren’t new but last year was the first time I’d really found the purpose for using them and did so effectively. So, in no particular order, here they are:

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Evernote – It definitely wasn’t my first year of using Evernote however I did use it differently. Previously, I’d used it for assessment in my classroom whereas last year it became my main repository of information, helped greatly by its searching capabilities. For 2014, I’m intending to use more of the sharing options to collaborate with those I work with. Definitely a powerful tool. Check it out for yourself – Bec Spink blogs regularly about fabulous ways to use it; Doug Belshaw has also recently given another perspective, just so you’re aware of the other side of the user spectrum.

goodreads_logo_140-5b3e47356388131c1699f0baca28a234  Goodreads – This website allows you to add books that you’ve read or want to read, categorise them and share those lists with others. More importantly, it connects you with others so that you can check out their lists and find new material for your own. Of particular value is the associated app for your mobile device which allows you to scan barcodes of books to add to your list. I started using this throughout the copious amounts of PD I did last year where new books would be recommended – I now have a long ‘To read’ list of books to go to when I have a spare moment. It also has been helpful to categorise books I find useful in my teaching and share them with colleagues. If you want to see my profile and check out my books, visit Goodreads.

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 12.26.55 PM  Things – I’m a list person. I’ve always made copious amounts of lists although aren’t so good at using them or crossing things off, just constantly adding to them. I use Things on my iPad and on my Mac (all synced through the cloud) to help me keep track, to keep the things I need in my face and those I don’t need to worry about yet out of it. It does cost a bit initially but I’ve found it to be invaluable in helping me monitor and get through the multitude of little steps required to keep all the projects I’m responsible for ticking along.

Google drive – I’ve used it to store things for a long time but, in 2013, we rolled out Google apps to staff at our school and started to use it as a more powerful collaboration tool. We now have shared documents and folders with a lot more professional interaction occurring as a result. Next step – encouraging more use with students so that they can get the benefits of collaboration through this powerful tool as well.

What I love about all of these tools is that the more I learn about them, the more useful they become. Here’s to being more organised in 2014 – bring it on!

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