Sunday, August 24, 2008

Free Personal Organization Tools

In my five years of teaching high school freshmen (I teach juniors and seniors now) the most common theme of the conversations I had with students and parents struggling in their transition to high school was personal organization. I'm not revealing a secret by saying that a common reason why students struggle to adjust to high school is that for many students it is the first time that they really have to manage the due dates of their assignments and commitments.

In the past a common "solution" would be to have the student carry an assignment notebook which he or she would show to his or her teacher and his or her parents. No longer is that only solution. Today's students and parents have a myriad of free online tools to track assignment due dates and other academically significant dates.

Two easy-to-use online calendars are Google Calendar and Zoho Planner. Both of these tools allow users to share and collaborate on the creation of a calendar. One way to use Google Calendar and Zoho Planner is to have students and parents share a calendar. The student can enter his or her assignment due dates and then his or her parents can check the calendar. For teachers there is another option. Teachers can create and publish a calendar that parents can check online for assignment due dates.

Remember the Milk and Reqall are free personal organization tools that work online and with mobile phones. Many high school students are carrying cell phones with them so capitalize on that and talk to parents and students about using a cell phone to get organized. Both services give users the option to have reminders emailed or text messaged to them. Using either Remember the Milk or Reqall students can add assignment due dates to their to-do lists via text, email, or directly on their account homepage. A word of caution, while these services are free students could incur a lot of charges from text and data communication on their mobile phones so be sure to discuss these options with parents before having students use the text/ data tools.

Here is a short video introduction to Reqall.

Finally, 43 Things is an interesting way to track goals and achievements. 43 Things is not a personal organizer, it's really a goal tracker. The service is simple, users enter a list of things that they want to accomplish and other users can "cheer" them on until the goal is reached. 43 Things might be an interesting way for parents to cheer and encourage students to complete long-term assignments or other goals like making an athletics teams or completing an independent study.

Do you have a favorite personal organization tool that students and teachers should know about? If so, please leave a comment.