Common Sense


Awesome Productivity Tools for Back-to-School

Both students and teachers can benefit inside and outside of school from organizational tools like calendars, presentation templates, and note-taking apps. Whether students are setting goals, receiving homework reminders, using mind maps, or tweaking their schedules, they are sure to be building long-lasting skills. Teachers can also use these tools to curate the best edtech, easily grade student work, and organize lesson plans. We've found some of the best and served 'em up here.

Need help developing norms, routines, and procedures for all this technology? Check out our Teaching Strategies page on Digital Classroom Management.

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Top Picks


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All Around Tools


Interactive whiteboard lets users brainstorm, organize, and collaborate

Bottom line: This versatile, beautiful platform invites collaboration, creation, and presentation and is useful for everything from workflow tasks to creative expression.


Cool, customizable tool turns notebooks into workspaces

Bottom line: With some scaffolding, this could be a great way to capture, organize, and share info without juggling a class site, notebook, to-do list, and more.

Note-Taking Apps and Sites


Writing and publishing tool is an increasingly satisfying option

Bottom line: With useful new book creation features, Pages is a much-improved publishing tool for Apple-oriented classrooms.


Write, draw, scan, and send pages with perpetually reusable notebook

Bottom line: Portable, reusable notebook lets teachers and students write and erase text, virtually forever.


Write, edit, and sync content on the go with flexible note-taking tool

Bottom line: For an app that doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, it's surprisingly versatile and useful for many types of writing and note-taking.

Microsoft OneNote

Note-taking giant built for flexible, collaborative work

Bottom line: A powerful (and free) tool for thinking and organization that's making smart strides in the education space.

Nimbus Note

Comprehensive note keeper offers loads of organizational features

Bottom line: Customized notes sync across devices to enhance productivity and promote a paperless classroom.


Flexible note-taking tool empowers learners of all abilities

Bottom line: An excellent tool that lets students make their notes thorough and useful in the way that best suits their learning styles and abilities.

Notebook - Take Notes, Sync

Curate and organize all kinds of content into customizable notebooks

Bottom line: From the novice to the super-organized student, Notebook's versatility is a rare free find.

Otter Voice Notes

Create transcriptions on the fly with AI audio tool

Bottom line: A powerful transcription tool for folks on a budget -- just be prepared to check your work.

Resources for Gathering and Organizing Ideas


Organize favorite educational links into handy grid

Bottom line: It's a simple, visually clean, and very helpful way to organize online information for you or your students.


Multifaceted interactive whiteboard promotes collaboration

Bottom line: MURAL facilitates lesson presentation and group project collaboration from anywhere by making idea sharing a simple, visual process.


Versatile annotation tool helps users critically connect with content

Bottom line: Kami is an effective way to promote student interaction with texts, authentic documents, and pictures.


Powerful mind mapper aimed at adults, simple enough for older kids

Bottom line: Sophisticated productivity tool enhances learning and organization with simple dashboard and slick workspace.


Simple tool helps teachers and students make lists, get organized

Bottom line: A simple, free way to get organized combining lists, outlines, and notes with some extra nice-to-have features that make this tool a solid option for teachers and students.


Fewer clicks and less clutter equal a new go-to site for citing sources

Bottom line: An intuitive site that takes the stress out of citing sources, but students will still need instruction to tweak auto-generated citations.

Google Drive

Nifty tool to create, collaborate, and sync files across devices

Bottom line: With its wide range of free productivity tools and slick file syncing, it's a level-setting tool.


Cool organization and eportfolio tool; watch out for privacy features

Bottom line: A good tool for its organizational, storage, and digital publishing features.

Office Lens

Capture, annotate, sync, and share across the digital landscape

Bottom line: Sharing options and annotation features support paperless collaboration and instruction, especially for users proficient in other Microsoft apps.

Scheduling and Goal-Setting Tools

Goalbook Toolkit

Set tailored targets with pricey but worth-it kit of tools, strategies

Bottom line: You pay for quality with Goalbook Toolkit, including access to clear, well-crafted learning goals and strategies that allow for far easier differentiation.


Messaging platform offers tight focus on school-to-home connection

Bottom line: Well-designed, highly effective messaging tool delivers on its promise to connect home and school.

Time Timer

Manage and conceptualize time with great visuals, a few bugs

Bottom line: A decent option for visual timer needs, being sufficiently customizable, but there are still a few bugs and room for improvement.


Flexible desktop, mobile assignment tool works best with pro features

Bottom line: A flexible way to collect student assignments and offer written and verbal feedback, especially with the premium features.

Google Calendar

Simple calendars aid communication and keep kids up to date

Bottom line: As a fine replacement for paper-based planners there are some interactive components; the calendars still fill up quickly.

iHomework 2

Keep track of assignments, due dates, and tasks with digital planner

Bottom line: This flexible, easy-to-learn organizational tool will help students get set up for success, though teachers will need to follow up regularly to make sure the information is accurate.


Calendar meets to-do list in versatile multi-platform organization app

Bottom line: Mastering all of the features will take some time, but it's a dynamic app that promotes both individual and team productivity.

myHomework Student Planner

Digital planner makes scheduling easy, if paired with teacher app

Bottom line: If used on a regular basis with teacher guidance and motivation, students can be ready to tackle their complex schedules with ease.

Templates for Presentations


Easy-to-use iPad app aimed at recording whiteboard instruction

Bottom line: While many other whiteboard tools offer endless -- and often overwhelming -- options, this app is usefully refined and could be that "just right" experience for many.


Create, present, and assess with effortless interactive screencasts

Bottom line: This intuitive tool is excellent for recording and responding to screencasts of any length.


Multimedia presentation tool features useful templates and 3D zoom

Bottom line: With its zoom in and out capabilities, Prezi helps teachers and students go beyond traditional slideshows to put important content front and center.


Create eye-catching multimedia timelines for any purpose

Bottom line: Multimedia timelines connect events visually, creating pathways for deeper analysis of any chronological story.

Get tips for using these tools in the classroom

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