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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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.


Organize digital content with full-featured web clipper and notebook

Bottom line: Students and teachers can learn to better manage their digital lives via this comprehensive organizational tool.

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 for collaboratively editing and syncing files across devices

Bottom line: Google Drive is a smart choice for budget-conscious schools, with its free productivity tools and file syncing.


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.


Teachers' text reminders keep students -- and parents -- up to speed

Bottom line: Well-designed, highly effective messaging tool has the potential to keep students and families connected with their schools.

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


Enliven lessons and presentations with easy-to-use whiteboard tool

Bottom line: An easy, functional way to create presentations on the fly.

Explain Everything Whiteboard

Powerhouse tool for creating stellar multimedia presentations

Bottom line: Teachers and students can make dynamic presentations that involve different types of media in this innovative, fun app.


Create, present, and assess with effortless screencasting

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

Prezi Next

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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