Thing 39: Productivity Tools

Cycle of Productivity from Edudemic

This is a HUGE topic and the lesson contains lots of tools and ideas. Don’t let that overwhelm you. Scan the list of tools and ideas, see if something pops out that intrigues you, then  explore it. Or maybe there are other tools you’ve been eager to delve into and haven’t had the time, do it now!

Hopefully you’ll find a few tools in this lesson that will help you with your workflow or personal productivity and you’ll be able to make using them a habit. But remember  making something a habit takes time and patience!

This is one of those topics that you can easily repeat. Even if you did this topic before, you can do it again! Maybe your productivity routine needs to be tweaked a bit? Or maybe you’re looking for a tool to address something new? There are a lot of tools in this lesson, there’s sure to be something new for you. (Much of the new stuff ends up in the Odds and Ends section at the one. Maybe go there first?)



  • Pick at least 2 tools from the lists below. (Or pick other productivity tools that you’ve been curious about exploring.)
  • Explore how the tools work and check out the help files to see what features are available.
  • For your blog post, share what you picked and how it worked for you.
  • Do you think you’ll continue to use it? How might you use it with your students?


  • Do you already have tools that you’d like to use, but haven’t had time to sit down and decide how best to use them? Take some time this week to evaluate your current processes, what works, what doesn’t and share your thoughts. You could model your post on the Lifehacker posts called How We Work where people share their favorite tools and tips. (Here’s one from Jenny Levine, Director of the LITA division of ALA)


  • Write & publish your blog post.
  • Copy the URL for the post.
  • Return to the lesson page on the CanvasLMS site.
  • Use the SUBMIT ASSIGNMENT button in the CanvasLMS page and paste in your URL.

*Only for students participating in the workshop for PD credit hours through the Canavas LMS system.


Notes, bibliographies & more:

  • Evernote, Microsoft OneNote and Google Keep – These are the big 3 of note taking, store everything kind of tools. Each one has different strengths and weaknesses. But all 3 are meant to help you quickly capture and organize your notes, ideas, web page content and more. Google Keep is the simplest of these, with the fewest options, it’s free and integrated nicely with other Google tools now. Microsoft OneNote and Evernote have more features and flexibility. Both have handy “web clippers” that help you save content from a web page quickly and easily. OneNote is free, Evernote has a limited free option.  (Personally, I’m an Evernote fangirl and pay for the premium service and to be totally transparent, the link above is a referall link.)
  • Nimbus Note – New to me, haven’t tested it yet. What do you think?
  • Zotero – a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. Integrates with your browser, making it easy to use.
  • EasyBib – Generate citations in MLA, APA & Chicago formats for your bibliography. Has a handy add-on for Google Docs.

Automate everything (well almost)

Backup & file storage: We’ve all been there, files get deleted by mistake, the power goes out and work is lost, hard drives fail, panic ensues. Back things up!

  • Dropbox – So handy! Dropbox simply adds a folder to your computer. Drop a file in the folder and it automatically uploads to your account on the Dropbox web site. It also synchronizes with any other computers or mobile devices where you’ve installed Dropbox. Create a public link to a particular file to share it with others. Free account gives you 2 GB of storage, this isn’t enough to back up you’re whole hard drive, but it’s handy storage space. I use it to make sure I have all the files I’ll need for presentations. (Full disclosure! The link to Dropbox is my personal link, if you sign up, I get some extra free storage space. Thank you!)
  • Box – Major competitor to Dropbox. Free account gives you 10GB of storage space. Similar types of features to Dropbox, with one very notable exception. Box lets you collaborate on a document online, at the same time. Dropbox doesn’t do that.
  • Google Drive – If your school is using Google Apps for Education, then you’re probably already using Google Drive. But of course it’s also available to individuals as well. Has lots of sharing and collaboration features.
  • BackBlaze – ($) This service backs up content on your computer and does it continuously, in the background. $50/year. Another popular service is Carbonite.
  • Lookout – Don’t forget to protect your mobile devices. If your device came with backup and security options, use them! If not, consider a 3rd party tool like this one. (I love the “locate and scream” function!)
  • OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive and Box: Which cloud storage service is right for you?

Social Networking & Sharing: How do people manage to post content & updates on multiple social networking sites quickly & easily? They use tools like these!

  • Bufferapp – Handy browser and mobile device add-on for sharing content to your social networks. Schedule posts for the future so they’re spread out over time and seen by more people. Analytics show you how many people have shared your post.
  • HootSuite – Web-based service helps you organize your twitter and Facebook news feeds for more efficient monitoring. And adds a bookmarklet to your browser toolbar to quickly update all your social networks at once. Also simplifies sharing a web page or blog post on twitter, etc. Shortens URL’s of the items you post to your news streams and provides usage stats on those links. And lets you schedule updates for a later time.
  • TweetDeck – Very similar tool, helps you see your social media streams all in one place. Tweetdeck is desktop-based rather than web-based. Recently purchased by Twitter.

Reminders, To do Lists, Handy Shortcuts

  • Workflowy – Keep Workflowy open in a browser tab – add, delete, organize ‘to-do’ items very easily.
  • Wunderlist – manage and share todo lists across multiple devices.
  • IDoneThis – Simple way of keeping track of what you’ve done everyday. You receive an email once a day, you quickly dash off a reply with a list of what you did. And that’s it, you’re done. Keeps a simple calendar for you that you can refer back to and export for safe-keeping.
  • Remember the Milk – Web-based tool, with app available for iPad & Android. Integrates with Google Calendar, Gmail & Twitter.
  • Reminder Fox – Firefox addon to keep you organized.


  • JustRead – Chrome extension for simplifying a web page, strips out ads and junk for less distracted reading.
  • Enjoy Reading – Similar add on for Firefox.
  • Feedly – Scan your favorite news sources and blogs all in one place. Save articles to read later.
  • Flipboard – Another tool for reading favorite news sources and blogs. Save articles to read later. Also share resources by creating a Flipboard magazine.
  • Instapaper – When you run across an article, web page or news story you want to read later, use the “Read it Later” bookmarklet to quickly add it to a list of articles that you can access via your computer or mobile device. Very handy.
  • Pocket – Save web articles to read later. Integrated with lots of other tools like Feedly.
  • 8 Popular Ways to Save Links to Read Later

Odds and Ends

  • Slack – A great mobile and web app for commuicating with teams. Free service to create discussion boards for private conversations with your team members. Leave a comment below to get an invite to play in our CoolTools room.
  • OneTab – Too many open tabs? Add this Chrome extension and save all your open tabs into a simple list. It will speed up your browser!
  • Setting up Multiple email accounts with one gmail account – This is an old trick, but it’s so handy, I can’t leave it out. If you need multiple email addresses to sign students up for online services, this is invaluable.
  • WeTransfer – Send files up to 2gb in size. Free, very easy, no login required.
  • Scrible – Handy for annotating a web page and sharing it with others. Highlight text, write notes on ‘postits’. Here’s an example
  • LastPass – stop trying to remember all your passwords.
  • AirDrop – Share files between iOS devices and Macs wirelessly.
  • SnapDrop – Another handy file sharing tool that works across all kinds of devices on the same wifi network. More info.
  • VideoNotes – This handy service plays a video on the left side of the screen and lets you take notes on right side. Notes are synchronized to the point in the video where you stopped to take the note. Integrates with Google Drive. (Overview article from Mashable)
  • Awesome Screenshot – Handy Google Chrome extension for taking and annotating screencaptures.
  • SafeShareTVViewPure – Enter URL for a video and show the video without distractions (ads, comments, etc.)
  • Google drive voice typing : Handy for students who have trouble writing down their thoughts and ideas.
  • Educreations iPad app – interactive whiteboard and screencasting tool
  • Reflection Generator – Every time you click on that link, you’ll get a different reflection question. Learn more about how to create your own random generator from Tony Vincent.

More Resources

(Disclosure: Some links on this page might be referral links. I never let that influence my recommendations though.)








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