You know that oft-used iceberg metaphor? The one where we only see a fraction of an iceberg, and most of it's hidden beneath the water? I think it applies to teaching. Much of the work of teaching isn't actually teaching, it's managing: prep and planning, grading, PD, parent conferences, and beyond. Few teachers would say this work is their favorite part of the job.
One of the biggest headaches is managing workflow -- handing out, collecting, and returning work can be inefficient and a big time suck. Students forget their work, or an assignment gets lost in the shuffle. And, of course, there's all the wasted paper.
There's gotta be a better way, right? Thankfully there's a growing category of productivity apps and websites that aim to solve these workflow problems. Below I've collected three great, free options for going paperless and for better handling student work.
Price: Free (Pro version is $11.99/month)
Platforms: iOS and Web
Showbie has been around for a while now, and it's a favorite of many teachers due to its super-slick design and full feature set. It's an all-in-one solution for assigning and grading student work. And while it's well-suited to iPad classrooms, students and teachers' work syncs to the web, too, so you can use any device. There's support for student portfolios, notifications, integration of third parties such as Google Drive and Dropbox, and a variety of ways to turn in and grade work from pictures to videos to voice memos. Some of the best features -- such as the text tool -- will cost you, but given how much use you could potentially get out of Showbie, it might just be worth it.
Price: Free ("Pro" version is $7.99/month)
Platforms: Android, iPad
The big selling point for Handouts is its ease of use. It might not be as flexible as something like Showbie, but it picks one thing –- assigning and grading worksheets –- and does that well. Given its simplicity and the focus on using pen tools and images to complete and grade work, we thought it'd be a nice fit in the lower grades where students will particularly benefit from a lack of distractions. It'd also be a good option if you're just looking to dip your toe into the world of paperless workflow and don't want to get too overwhelmed. For teachers looking for a broader set of options for annotation, though, it might feel limiting.
Classkick is a bit different from Showbie and Handouts because it blends going paperless with formative assessment. Teachers send out assignments to students and can monitor students as they work. There are a lot of options for completing assignments and giving feedback including adding images, drawing, inputting text, and adding Web links; students and teachers share all these tools for creation, opening up possibilities beyond traditional worksheets. One especially unique feature lets student raise their hands in-app, signaling to teachers they need extra help or even to ask other students for help. This emphasis on real-time feedback, from both teachers and peers, is a welcome modification to the typical "hand out, return, grade, return" cycle that's cumbersome and time-consuming.
Those are only three options, but there are many more out there. I'd love to know your favorites, so feel free to leave a comment!