Thing 21: Productivity Tools


Cycle of Productivity from EdudemicLast year we ended the workshop with the broad topic of Productivity Tools, this year we’re putting at the beginning. ‘Cuz who doesn’t want to get things done more easily and efficiently? And have more time for other stuff? Hopefully you’ll find a few tools in this lesson that will help you with your workflow or personal produtivity and over the course of the next few months you’ll be able to make a habit of using those tools consistently. Making something a habit takes time and patience!

This is one of those topics that you can easily repeat. So even if you did this topic last year, 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.

This is also a great opportunity to try something new with your students. They need to learn organization and productivity skills too. Some ideas include:


There’s a long list of tools below and there are many more terrific ones that I haven’t included. You obviously don’t have time to learn them all! BASIC ACTIVITY:

  • Pick at least 2 tools from the list 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 Thing 21 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 a great routine for keeping organized and on track? Share your strategies with us! We can all use some great new ideas. There’s a great Lifehacker series called How We Work that shares other people’s tools and tips. Write your own!
  • 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 and share your thoughts.

LOG YOUR LESSON: Don’t forget to log your blog post when you’re done!  When you finish this lesson by fill out the log form. You’ll need the URL of your first blog post to complete the form.


Notes, bibliographies & more: These are two core tools that are great places to store “stuff.” Zotero is very research oriented. Evernote is a place to store any sort of information regardless of format.

  • Evernote – Organize and remember everything. Select text & photos on a web page and add it to Evernote. Evernote remembers where you took the text from. Use it to write notes during meetings, store ideas for projects, email photos from your phone and more. Organize your notes into topical folders, add tags to describe the content and aid indexing. Synchronizes across multiple computers and mobile devices. Your notes are always with you. Share folders of notes with others (eg: Archive of lessons from CoolTools). (Introduction to Evernote)
  • 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. Works with the Firefox browser, though there are ways to work with other browsers as well. Introductory Tour for Zotero.

Automate everything (well almost)

  • ifttt – If This Then That – A magic tool that simply takes care of repetitive tasks for you. For example: let it monitor Amazon’s feed of free books and send you an email when there’s a new one. Or if you see a photo on flickr that catches your eye, fave it and ifttt can send it to your Evernote account for you to check out later. When I post something to delicious, ifttt also posts it to my diigo account, which keeps my bookmarks safely stored in two places. There are thousands of ideas for using ifttt. Spend a few minutes exploring their tools and recipes to see how useful this can be. Some interesting ‘recipes’ in this article: Top Ten IFTTT Recipes for Librarians

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. Public folders let you share files 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 it’s also available with 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!)

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 post 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

  • 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.

Bookmarking, Sharing

  • diigo – Another very popular bookmarking tool that has many added features, including groups to pool resources and note-taking options.
  • delicious – Delicious stores a list of your favorite websites online so you can access them from anywhere. AVOS bought delicious from Yahoo in 2011. It seems to still be going strong.
  • Evernote – Not specifically a bookmarking tool, but it can serve that purpose. If you’re already using Evernote as a note-taking tool, make sure you add the WebClipper to your browser so you can save web pages too.


  • Clearly – This tool is a one of my personal favorites. I hate pages with tons of ads. Clearly strips out all the advertising clutter so you can view pages without distraction. It installs a handy button on your toolbar and all you do is click the button to reformat the page. Highlight text on the page and Clearly sends the document and your highlights to your Evernote account. This tool is amazing!
  • Readability – Similar to Clearly, strips out the junk on a web page and makes it easier to read.
  • 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.

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
  • Murally – An interactive whiteboard of sorts. Add content, move it around, rearrange, collaborate, create presentations. View the tour to get a quick idea of how it works. My test Murally.
  • LastPass – stop trying to remember all your passwords.
  • AirDrop – Share files between iOS devices and Macs wirelessy.
  • 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)

More Resources


3 thoughts on “Thing 21: Productivity Tools

  1. How can you add pictures to your Dropbox account and move pictures into the Carousel feature of Dropbox? Also, I could not get the “stacking” feature of Delicious to appear to help sort my bookmarked websites. Thank you

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