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.

Continue reading

Top Picks


PrintPrint list

Note-Taking Apps and Sites


Impressive word processor and publisher with great sharing features

Bottom line: Impressive word processor makes layout and publishing a breeze, with easy file conversion and advanced features. And it's free for newer iOS devices.


Impressive organizational tool has limitless uses

Bottom line: This free information-management tool can help kids become tech-savvy and learn to better organize their digital lives.

Microsoft OneNote

Mobile version of a note-taking giant, now built for flexible, collaborative work

Bottom line: Inelegant compared to some competitors, OneNote is a powerful (and free) tool for thinking and organization, and a no-brainer if you're in an Office 365 school.


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.

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 message boards help kids collaborate

Bottom line: MURAL can encourage individual team members to contribute to a project by making idea sharing and presentation a simple, visual process.


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.


Cool organization and eportfolio tool; watch out for privacy features

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

Google Drive

Nifty tool for collaboratively editing docs and syncing files across devices or online

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

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 give students -- and parents -- a reason to check their phones

Bottom line: Well-designed, widespread messaging tool can keep students and families connected with their schools -- provided they have access.

Time Timer

Easily conceptualize, manage, and visualize time

Bottom line: Goes above and beyond standard timers to include handy customization and visual cues.


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.

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.

My Study Life

Organizational tool makes managing complex schedules a cinch

Bottom line: If they can make it a habit, students will love staying on top of assignments and test dates with this handy, pocket-sized "personal assistant."

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.


Create eye-catching multimedia timelines for any purpose

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

Explain Everything Classic

Classic version of dynamic presentation tool still excites

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

Prezi Classic

Stylish presentation creator with a unique 3D zooming effect

Bottom line: An elegant, flexible alternative to other online slide software tools, but it requires some finesse to make the effective use of the features and infinite canvas.

Get tips for using these tools in the classroom

See related resources