10 Tech Recipes For a Stress-Free Teacher Life

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photo credit: chrisjohnbeckett Candid portrait, London via photopin (license)
photo credit: chrisjohnbeckett Candid portrait, London via photopin (license)

10 Tech Recipes For a Stress-Free Teacher Life

by Antonio Tooley

Today’s teachers have their work cut out for them because not only are they fighting for the attention of students whose attention spans are getting increasingly shorter, but they also have to grade papers, create lesson plans, check homework, and keep track of how their students are progressing.

If this isn’t enough, teachers still need time for their own personal lives. Sounds like an impossible job, and it often is. But, as a teacher, you can make your life a lot easier — stress-free even — by making modern technology such as IFTTT work for you. All you need are the right recipes.

What in the World is IFTTT?

IFTTT is an automation tool which allows you to assume better control of your apps, online services, and smart devices. IFTTT stand for “If This Then That”.

Basically, you can create a sequence of automatic actions which are triggered by other actions. For example, if you run a WordPress blog, you can use IFTTT to send out an email to the person who has left a comment on your blog.

In IFTTT lingo, the comment is a “trigger”, while the email is an “action”, and “channels” are WordPress and Gmail, for example. These sequences which you create are called “recipes”.

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If that sounds too complicated for you, IFTTT has gone one more step and created applets, which allow you to do complex actions using a single button. For instance, if you are traveling, you can use one of the “Do” applets to post your current location to Facebook.

Kate Johnston, who works as an essay tutor over at EduGeeksClub, explains how using IFTTT has helped their business:

Managing dozens of tutors and countless projects is no longer a problem, because IFTTT keeps track of everything, and notifies everyone promptly. It’s safe to say that our services are better because of it.”

10 IFTTT recipes you can use as a teacher to improve your professional and personal life

1. Save Screenshots to a Separate iOS Album

One of the best ways to make your studying materials as effective as possible is to use screenshots which explain certain steps. While that is fairly easy to do, you will soon find out that organizing them is a nightmare, just because there will be so many of them.

Fortunately, thanks to this IFTTT applet, you can save your screenshots to separate iOS albums with a single click or a tap of a button.

2. Rain Tomorrow? Get a Mobile Notification

It’s raining and you’ve forgotten to bring an umbrella. It happens to everyone, but you can put an end to it is thanks to an IFTTT applet which sends a notification to your smartphone based on the weather report for tomorrow.

Aside from keeping you dry, this applet can also come in handy if you are planning to take your students to a local museum, or for a tour which includes your local landmarks.

3. Automatically Create New Reminders on Your iPhone for Emails You Star in Gmail

iOS Reminders is a very useful app, and coupled with the right IFTTT applet or recipe, it can be even better. For example, this IFTTT applet can create a new reminder for each new email you star in Gmail, which means you will never fail to read an important piece of information or respond to an urgent email, which is something that can happen all too often.

4. Get an Email Whenever the U.S. President Signs a Bill into Law

Modern technology is changing the educational landscape every day, and countries and governments need to keep up, whether they like it or not.

As a consequence, there is a new bill that gets signed into law every so often, and as a teacher, you can stay up to date with this IFTTT recipe. This goes double if you are a government teacher.

5. Automatically Mute Your Android Device during Meetings Scheduled on Your Google Calendar

Another useful IFTTT applet which works together with your Android device and Google Calendar. What it does is automatically mute your phone every time a scheduled event or task comes up inside your calendar.

You no longer have to worry about your smartphone or any other Android device interrupting your class, PTA meeting, or your presentation at a teaching conference.

6. Create a New Wunderlist Task Every Time I Label an Email as “Wunderlist”

Wunderlist is a great app for creating tasks and to-do lists. You can make the most of it with this IFTTT recipe by sending an email to Wunderlist, which will then automatically create a task. All you have to do is enter a label for your email so that Wunderlist can use it to create a new task list. It will create a new task based on the first line in the email. Of course, you can change and edit the task in Wunderlist at a later time.

7. Feeds

Using a feed service, you will be able to receive updates about your favorite websites and blogs you rely on in class. Plus, you can choose whether to receive updates in your inbox, as notifications, or as saved items inside your Pocket app. For instance, this screenshot shows how we’ve created an applet that monitors new podcasts on Hack Learning, and saves them to our Pocket.

ifttt-feed Hack Learning
Turn “On” the Podcast

8. Photos

There are tons of things you can do with these IFTTT photo applets for iOS. For example, every time you take a photo with your iPhone or iPad, you can organize them into albums, post them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to show followers what your classes look like, as well as your WordPress page where you leave study materials for your students. And you can do this for your personal life, as well.

9. Google Drive

Here you will find plenty of Google Drive-related applets and recipes. This one, for example, will automatically back up those files to Google Drive which are labeled “drive” inside your Gmail. That way, you will always have your lesson plans, study materials, images, and tests saved, no matter what happens.

10. Gmail

Another service that really comes to life with IFTTT is Gmail. As explained in the previous examples, you can automatically back up your files and attachments to Google Drive. You can do the same with Gmail and Dropbox.

Additionally, you can sync your starred emails with Evernote or add them as tasks inside a Todoist project for your class. For instance, you can label the email you get from your students, and they will all be categorized and saved in one place so that you never lose track of them.

IFTTT is an incredibly useful tool, and it can become even more powerful if you use it for educational purposes. Not only will you save a ton of time, but also you will be able to improve integration of modern technology inside the classroom.

What are your favorite If-This-Then-That recipes? Please share yours in the comments below.

Antonio Tooley is a hopeless optimist who enjoys basking in the world’s brightest colors. He loves biking to distant places and occasionally he gets lost. When not doing that he’s blogging and teaching ESL. He will be happy to meet you on Facebook and Twitter.

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A version of this post first appeared at HackLearning.org

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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