Topics covered in this chapter include
  • What are productivity tools?
  • Online documents
  • Dropboxes
  • To-do lists
  • Calendars
  • Note and research management
  • Online bookshelves
  • Educational benefits of productivity tools
  • Improved workflow and efficiency
  • Collaboration, group work, and editing
  • Class resource repositories
  • Document version control and single storage location
  • Access across devices
  • Special considerations for productivity tools
  • Conflicting edits on shared items
  • Backups of online documents
  • Public calendars
  • Copyright

For more detail, read Chapter 18 of Using Social Media in the Classroom. A best practice guide.

Research management tools basics
  • Use various tools to
    • Organise your bookmarks
    • Upload and share documents
    • Manage websites
    • Manage research collections and notes
  • Search research management tools instead of Google to find documents related to your research or study

Research management tools are suitable for
  • Communication and knowledge sharing
  • Information seeking, searching, and consolidation
  • Object sharing
  • Presentation and dissemination of information
  • Storing and managing information

Special considerations
  • See Chapter 18 of Using Social Media in the Classroom for special considerations regarding student and your own use of research management tools, including issues relating to copyright.

Ideas for use with your class and for your research
  • Explore various research management tools with your students. Ask them to consider how they would use the tools for their study or research assignments.
  • Zotero and Mendeley are almost a ‘one-stop shops’ for keeping track of your academic bibiliography and research notes. Use it to add links, keep notes, tag resources, compile bibliographies.
  • There are more ideas for use with your class in Chapter 18 of Using Social Media in the Classroom.

Productivity tools basicsDocuments, slideshows, and spreadsheets
  • Word processing, calendars, to-do lists, dropboxes, and bookshelves on the web
  • No installation required
  • Create and edit documents as if you were using Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint
  • Access from anywhere, no more emailing documents to yourself, or putting documents onto a flash drive
  • Share documents and calendars for group editing or viewing, or keep things private
  • Import your existing documents from Word, Excel, PowerPoint or other applications
  • Create presentations and then share them with the world (or privately)
  • Add audio to create a webinar
  • Embed slideshows on your blog or website
  • Students can create and share presentations on class topics
  • Add a narrative to your presentation

  • Document drop-box and storage
  • Access files from anywhere
  • Collaborate
  • Edit documents and photos online
  • Password protect and ‘unshare’ documents
  • Edit documents and photos online

To-do lists
  • Keep your to-do lists on the web
  • Access from anywhere
  • Set up due-dates
  • Check off items as you complete them

  • Keep your calendar or diary online.
  • Make it public or private by controlling what and how much people can see.
  • Get notifications of events.
  • Various views available: daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
  • Subscribe to other people’s calendars or make your own available for subscription.

Online bookshelves
  • Build reference lists and libraries
  • Share with others
  • Browse others' collections

Productivity tools are suitable for
  • Collaboration
  • Communication and knowledge sharing
  • Information seeking, searching and consolidation
  • Object sharing
  • Presentation and dissemination of information
  • Storing and managing information

Special considerations
  • See Chapter 18 of Using Social Media in the Classroom for special considerations regarding student and your own use of productivity tools, including backups of online documents, public calendars, copyright issues, and dealing with conflicting edits.

Ideas for use with your class

Documents, slideshows, and spreadsheets
  • Use documents for group writing activities
  • Track students’ document development and assess weekly
  • Ask students to build a slideshow collaboratively and then share with the rest of the class during an in-class oral presentation
  • Ask students to set up their Google Docs or Zoho space as an information management task
  • Keep your slideshows and research writing on the web and thus accessible from anywhere with an internet connection
  • Ask students to create and share slideshows on class topics using only images, no text. Get them to give an in-class presentation that goes through each slide and how it relates to the class theme.
  • Get students to build slideshows based on class topics. Ask them to upload their work to a slideshow service, and then have students leave comments on each other’s presentations. You can grade students based on 1) their slideshow, and 2) the quality of their comments. Don’t forget, though, to use an assessment rubric to show how you are grading students.
  • With Slideshare, students can narrate their presentations. Get class members to create and narrate presentations in groups. Ask groups to share and provide feedback between each other.
  • Use slideshows to teach students the principles of good presentation design.
  • Slideshows don’t have to be used only for oral presentations: they can be a powerful tool for visualisation. Ask students to create a slideshow using Flickr images or cartoons they have created themselves. This sort of presentation should be able to stand on its own, without a speaker. See the example below.

  • Use these tools to teach students information management
  • Set up a group account and share files easily between students or research team members

To-do lists
  • Ask students to co-ordinate to-do lists as part of a group project management task.
  • Get individual students to write up a to-do list for the completion of an assignment and then get them to compare with another student. Ask them to give feedback on each other’s task management process.

  • Ask students to share the school or class parts of their calendars within the class. Get them to use their calendar for time management purposes, and ask them to share their calendars with a buddy in the class to keep them on track.
  • Give students access to the class parts of your calendar (but keep your other stuff private, obviously!)
  • NOTE: Warn students to be careful about what information they publish to the wider world: they don’t want dodgy types being able to track their movements. You should only share calendars with people you trust and know personally.

Online bookshelves
  • Ask students to share lists of books they are reading
  • Use an online bookshelf as a class resource repository
  • Ask students to write reviews of class texts

There are more ideas for use with your class in Chapter 18 of Using Social Media in the Classroom.

Further reading
  • Blau, I. and Caspi, A. (2009) What type of collaboration helps? Psychological ownership, perceived learning and outcome quality of collaboration using Google Docs, in Y. Eshet-Alkalai, A. Caspi, S. Eden, N. Geri, and Y. Yair (eds), Proceedings of the Chais Conference on Instructional Technologies Research 2009: Learning in the Technological Era Raana: The Open University of Israel. Retrieved from
  • Encheff, D. (2013) Creating a science e-book with fifth grade students, TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 57(6), pp. 61–72.
  • Flaherty, B. (2013b) Cool apps: productivity at your fingertips, School Business Affairs, 79(4), pp. 18–21.
  • Leshed, G. and Sengers, P. (2011) ‘I lie to myself that i have freedom in my own schedule’: productivity tools and experiences of busyness, in Proceedings of the 2011 Annual Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Retrieved from http://leshed.comm.
  • Lin, Y-T. and Jou, M. (2013) Integrating popular web applications in classroom learning environments and its effects on teaching, student learning motivation and performance, Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 12(2), p. 157–165.
  • Shelley, G. (2013) Sound the bugle for new uses of Google: utilizing the best new tools for collaboration, creativity, and productivity, in R. McBride and M. Searson (eds), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2013 (pp. 4053-4054). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
  • Warschauer, M., Zheng, B., and Park, Y. (2013) New ways of connecting reading and writing, TESOL Quarterly, 47(4), pp. 825–830.
  • Wodarz, N. (2013) Time management in the digital era, School Business Affairs, 79(1), pp. 8–10.